There have been a number of important losses in the beer world over the past year, but I was particularly saddened to learn of Michael Jackson’s death this week. It’s probably not much of an overstatement to say that without his pioneering work in print, television, and online, the beer revolution that occurred at the end of the last century would not have happened. It was Michael who toured the world, hunting out great beers and educating us about the numerous styles and flavours to be found in the corners of every country. Writers and travellers have followed in his footsteps, some gaining a reputation for their knowledge of particular countries or styles. But none of us would have known to make the effort had Michael not led us there first.
I still have my Dad’s 1982 copy of Michael’s Pocket Guide to Beer – the bible as I was growing up, along with a number of his other books. Of course, no self-respecting beer lovers bookshelf would be complete without his Great Beers of BelgiumĀ and New World Guide to Beer. But it’s a simple piece of paper that holds pride of place to me. I was fortunate enough to hear Michael speak and meet him on a few occasions at the Great British Beer Festival. The first was on 7 August 1998 when he gave us a fantastic tutored tasting on Lambics. Following the talk I (sadly) asked him to sign my tasting notes, telling him that his books were an inspiration as I was growing up. So he signed it, “To Justin – stay inspired!” His inspiration led me to live in several countries, hunting my own favourite beers and finally brewing some that I hope inspire others. I am particularly sad that I was never able to host him at the brewery.
I wonder what beer Michael ordered first when he arrived at the great pub upstairs. As a fellow beer lover I encourage you to raise a glass of your favourite beer in honour of the man who brought the world of beer to all of us.