Thursday, August 30, 2012

When to be quiet: another beer, and a life lesson from Michael Jackson.

From Dave and Diane Alexander, past owners of the Brickskeller and current proprietors of RFD, in Washington, D.C.

Today marks the 5th anniversary of the passing of one of the world of beer's greatest friends, The Beer Hunter, Michael Jackson.

Michael was a dear friend of Diane and mine. I hosted well over 30 events with him [at the Brickskeller and later, at RFD, both in Washington, D.C.] from the early 1980s up to his passing, including hosting his 60th birthday party. He was a great friend, and is sadly missed.

Dave Alexander pours Below Decks

He was without question an unparalleled beverage writer. He taught the world of beverage writers how to write about beer, elevated beer to (and I believe actually past) the status of wine and was personally responsible for the creation and re-creation of numerous beer styles including but certainly not limited to one that had vanished form the brewing world and returned only upon his insistence with the brewers of Samuel Smith: Oatmeal Stout.

Michael fondly lives on in the memories of all who knew him as well as in the writings of all who write about beer, whether they realize it or not. Any time you read a piece about a beer that is written in a respectful thoughtful, insightful, perceptive, precise, and spot-on accurate manner, with a sharply developed sense of humor and clever wit of a Beatles lyric, you were just touched by Michael.

Michael Jackson at R.F.D. (04)

In a world of "no crap on tap" and other left-handed, insulting, condescending remarks directed at beers with lower flavor profiles by the 'lift your pinkie' faddish set, I asked him why he was never obviously critical of a beer whose flavor profile he did not care for. If he did not care for a beer, but had to write about it, he simply and respectfully stated its flavor profile and ingredients.

Probably the most dismissing comment I ever heard him make about a beer was at one of my tastings after Red Dog came out. He said, "Well, it's not red, but it certainly is a ...", and allowed the audience to complete the thought.

He told me the reason he was never insulting to a beer he did not care for, aside from the fact that that type of behavior was not any part of his makeup, was that these large breweries employee many people. He said he could not live with himself if he thought a casually dismissive remark he made about a beer resulted in lowered sales and, thus, a reduction of staff at that brewery, that might take a job away from someone who needed it.

What a guy.

The world could certainly use a whole lot more men like Michael Jackson. So, please raise a glass, today, to one of the very very best. God speed to you, Michael Jackson. We all miss you greatly.

  • Mr. Alexander's comments were originally posted on DC Beer, a list serve of beer enthusiasts in the greater Washington, D.C. area.
  • Beer Hunter: The Movie, a film about Michael Jackson is planned for a March 2013 release.
  • More about Michael Jackson: here.

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