Saturday, April 05, 2014

Pic(k) of the Week: Me and Mr. Jackson

Me and Mr. Jackson (1995)

In 1995, British beer and whisky journalist Michael Jackson —known as The Beer Hunter— had plans to write a book on the burgeoning American microbrewery movement.

In March of that year, he would begin his research tour, flying into BWI Airport, just outside of Baltimore, Maryland. Jackson's first stop was the nearby Oxford Brewing Company —Maryland's original microbrewery— in Linthicum, Maryland. In the photo above, Jackson (on the left) is taking notes on the brewery's beers, as described by the then-brewery manager, me. (Note the date stamp on the photo: it was one day after Mr. Jackson's 53rd birthday.)

Jackson's 'chauffeur' that day was Jim Dorsch, a freelance beer writer, who is now the editor/publisher of American Brewer Magazine. The three of us would go on to visit the Baltimore Brewing Company, Brimstone Brewing, the Wharf Rat Pub, and Sisson's brewpub. Of those, only the Wharf Rat, now known as the Pratt Street Alehouse, continues on today. [I recounted the day's adventures: here.]

Wags would call the whirlwind American visit, "Michael Jackson: The Iron Liver Tour", and, Jackson, a prolific writer, would never write that book. He observed that there were far too many American microbreweries opening far too quickly to chronicle them comprehensively. (Back then, he and we didn't readily refer to them as 'craft' breweries.)

Jackson would continue to write books —and pieces for numerous periodicals— on beer in America, in Belgium (where he was officially recognized for his efforts), at his 'local' in London, and around the world. He wrote on whisk(e)y. He became a much sought-after lecturer on these things.

Jackson died in 2007 of complications due to Parkinson's Disease. He left behind an unsurpassed oeuvre of witty and erudite reporting, singlehandedly establishing the concept of beer styles: geographical, historical, and modern. His book, "The World Guide to Beer," first published in 1977, remains a sine qua non.
"Do you ever drink wine?" people ask me, as though beer were a poison rather than a playground. A day may pass when I do not drink wine, but never a week. Whatever is argued about other pleasures, it is not necessary to be monogamous in the choice of drink. Beer is by far the more extensively consumed, but less adequately honored. In a small way, I want to help put right that injustice."
—Michael Jackson

Jackson's 72nd birthday would have been celebrated on 27 March of this year.

  • Michael Jackson and Real collaborated to create The Beer Hunter website in 1998, and continued to update it until Jackson died in 2007. It incorporates many articles from Jackson's archives.
  • Jackson's seminal The Beer Hunter —a 1993 series for Discovery Channel television— has been posted to YouTube in its entirety: here.
  • In March 2013, filmmaker J.R. Richards produced a documentary on Jackson entitled Beer Hunter: The Movie.
  • The Oxford Brewing Company was Maryland's first post-Prohibition microbrewery. It opened in 1988, in Glen Burnie, Maryland, as the British Brewing Company, operated by Craig Stuart-Paul, a British entrepreneur, and Steve Parkes, a degreed British brewer. Since then, Parkes has had a successful career at other breweries in the U.S., and is the owner and chief instructor of the American Brewers Guild, a training school for the next generation of American 'craft' brewers. Oxford Brewing would close in 1998.
  • Pic(k) of the Week: one in a weekly series of personal photos, often posted on Saturdays, and often, but not always, with a good fermentable as a subject.
  • Commercial reproduction requires explicit permission, as per Creative Commons.

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