Better And Better

If you don't draw yours, I won't draw mine.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Michael Jackson-- the only one that matters-- is dead.

I met Michael Jackson, AKA "The Beer Hunter," in Austin at a home brew competition I had entered, and it was like getting to shake the hand of a rock star*. This man had single-handedly brought beer from back cabinet, and put it on the counter for inspection, study, and praise. His writings and studies and categorization was responsible for the microbrewery craze of the 1990s.



Michael Jackson was a heavily-bearded, curly-haired British man with a quiet laugh and a background in journalism. He said that he had for years found that he and other newsmen would gather at day's end, discussing beers of all kinds, their peculiarities, and where to find and try new ones. Yet when he approached editors and publishers (often those same newspapermen with whom he would have long discussions with about beers), he was always told that "people aren't interested in reading about beer." He finally did a book on pubs, in which he managed to sneak a little beer lore in, and from there managed to get a book on beer, and then another, and then another. He then started a BBC television series, and writing monthly columns in numerous publications about it.

Then he set to writing about Scotch.
Most of what I know about single-malt Scotches, I learned from Michael Jackson. He wrote some fine books on single-malts, and I own a couple. My old roommate Bill Hall and I would occasionally buy a new bottle of single malt (though Bill was by far the more avid collector; he had several dozen different representatives in his collection), and we would play "Name that Scotch," with one of us choosing a bottle from Bill's collection and pouring a secret dram into a clear glass for the other, while the drinker sat with a copy of Jackson's book on single malts, and would try to determine what exactly he was drinking. As there are 7 discrete styles, scores of labels, and hundreds of bottling, this isn't an easy game to play, but it certainly is a fun one to practice.

Jackson was, of course, cursed with a name that was made more famous by a pop star with questionable proclivities. He had a good sense of humor about it, and said that, while he couldn't dance, he did possess a good singing voice and a glove.

As someone who managed to convey to the world that good beer is every bit as worthy as any wine every made, he did the world a service. He brought dignity to the common man's pint, and taught pinky-pointing sherry-sippers that there was finery to be found in malt.

He died this past week at 65. He'd been living with Parkinson's for his last decade.
Rest in peace, Beer Hunter.
_ _ _

* The third place ribbon that I received for a fruit ale (a peach cream ale) was just icing on the cake. I got him to autograph one of his books.

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12 Comments:

At Tuesday, September 04, 2007 5:54:00 PM, Blogger Hammer said...

He was one of the best. I discovered belgian and trappist ales from his writings.

His work is unequaled. I'm making a toast to him as soon as I find a suitable beer to do it with.

 
At Tuesday, September 04, 2007 8:03:00 PM, Anonymous JPG said...

Matt, is he the same one who wrote the book on premium Bourbon and American whiskeys, wherein they are treated similar to the special Scotches?

I treasure the copy --and the bottle that accompanied it -- but can't lay hands on it at this moment.

 
At Tuesday, September 04, 2007 9:30:00 PM, Anonymous Stingray said...

This falls squarely into the category of "now how the hell did I miss *that*?"

I've been enamored with single malts since shortly after I was legal to drink them, but being wary of turning into a wine-snob variant, I didn't spend much effort looking into "formal" reviews and guides. Asking others with a peat-tooth "Well, what do you like?" and whatever my wallet would bear was about the extent of my research. The rather limited selections at the liquor stores in driving range don't help, and LabRat has similar inclinations towards beer.

Thank you kindly for bringing these tomes up, we're ordering copies first thing in the morning. :)

 
At Tuesday, September 04, 2007 11:08:00 PM, Blogger phlegmfatale said...

Ah, bless him for spreading the good word.

There's nothing like a single malt scotches - they have such a distinct character. Whenever I taste Tallisker, I can smell the peat on Skye. I wouldn't mind holing up in a hut there in a blustery winter with a cask of that stuff. *yum*

 
At Wednesday, September 05, 2007 5:56:00 AM, Blogger Matt G said...

Dang, Phlegmy! Talisker? That's a BIG scotch! It is the premium winter scotch, what with its peppery bite.

I knew a girl once who liked a sip of Lagavulin pretty much every other day. I love scotch, but that's too much sctotch for me, that often.

My favorite malt, from lots of testing, tends to be MacAllen 18 year old.

 
At Wednesday, September 05, 2007 6:23:00 AM, Blogger Matt G said...

JPG-- don't think that was by MJ.

 
At Wednesday, September 05, 2007 11:57:00 AM, Blogger DBA Dude said...

Never met him myself but from all that I read he was a very approachable guy.

Expanded my knowledge of beers by a huge degree.

Malts on the other hand, I grew up in the Spey Valley so picked up the knowledge there.

For me it is either Glengarclas 25 year old or Cragganmore 12 year old if I am on a budget.

 
At Wednesday, September 05, 2007 1:49:00 PM, Anonymous Stingray said...

Eh, could do worse than Tallisker. My mom is most partial to Laphroaig. I'm all for some smoky notes, but *damn*.

Me, I'll take a nice 14 year old bottle of Oban for preference.

 
At Wednesday, September 05, 2007 5:10:00 PM, Blogger Matt G said...

Yeah, Laphroaig'll make you feel like you had a smoked peat suppository. BIG malt. Huge.

 
At Thursday, September 06, 2007 12:50:00 AM, Blogger mdmnm said...

Laphroig is nice once in a while, but, well, dang. Oban for me, most times. If not, Balvenie Double Wood is nice when I want something a bit more sweet. I kind of wish I'd never tried good single malt, it can be an expensive habit and there are just so many good bottles out there. I hope MJ gets to enjoy a good dram or a nice pint in his next incarnation.

 
At Thursday, September 06, 2007 5:23:00 PM, Blogger phlegmfatale said...

Oddly enough, I came back by to mention that I'm also quite fond of Laphroaig.

Yup, single malts for me. The blends just have too much inner noise - I like a strong flavor I can hang my hat on.

By the way, I DID visit the Talisker (oops - misspelt that earlier!) Distillery when I was on Skye some years back. Glorious.

 
At Wednesday, December 15, 2010 11:33:00 PM, Blogger Matt G said...

And now you are my friend, Phlegmmy, and it makes it all the cooler that you like the Big Malts.

 

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