Tim Hampson's Beer Blog

The quest for the perfect beer

Three year’s ago, the beer world lost its most influential and passionate advocate – Michael Jackson – the Beer Hunter.

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Michael Jackson - the Beer Hunter

It is hard to believe that it is three years since the death of the world’s greatest beer writer, Michael Jackson. Known as the Beer Hunter, he almost singlehandedly transformed the world of beer, bringing it out of brewers’ tasting rooms into people’s front rooms.

Who would have thought that a train ride from Amsterdam to the Roman Catholic south of the Netherlands would forever change the world of beer, beer writing and brewing? It was 1969 and Michael Jackson a tyro journalist, who had trained on the Huddersfield Examiner and worked in London and Edinburgh, was enjoying his first foreign posting. The sixties were in full swing, and Michael revelled in the city’s sex, rock and roll and jazz cafes with beer and whiskey his drugs of choice. As John Lennon and Yoko Ono enjoyed a bed in the Amsterdam Hilton, Jackson decided to travel to the southern Dutch border to write an article on the uninhibited enjoyment he had been told took place at the region’s pre-lent carnivals.

Jackson throughout his life soon tired of uniformity and he was bored with drinking the city’s ubiquitous Pils beers. He wanted to experience the wider range of beers a friend had said was available. And in an unnamed town, where revellers danced to the sounds of the Beatles, a man in a John Lennon mask handed him a chalice with a darker beer. It was a Trappist beer from Belgium, and in a gulp his life changed. Beer was suddenly much more than an alcoholic liquid in a glass. The following day he travelled to Belgium for the first time – sampling the marvels of De Konnick, Westmalle Dubbel and Tripel and an unidentified Gueuze. John Barleycorn had grabbed his heart and soul. And as the beer flowed, so did the words. He dedicated more than 30 years to discovering, recording and then sharing the world’s finest beers and whiskeys in his many books, articles and TV programmes. It was a journey that took him from Alaska to Patagonia and on to Sri Lanka.

He developed a classification system for the world’s classic beers styles and in doing so created consumer interest that saved many beers from extinction. His writing set the standard for beer enthusiasts and brewers alike. He wrote in depth about different brewing techniques, ingredients, flavour profiles, cultural differences, and food parings.

His writing style was wonderfully erudite and bubbled with humanity and humour. His knowledge of beer was unsurpassable. His genius was to be able to write simply and beautifully about beer and the lives of the people who created them. He was an inspiration to hundreds of brewers worldwide. Jackson knew he would never be as famous as Michael Jackson, the rock star, and that was reflected in his many talks. “Hello, my name is Michael Jackson. No, not that Michael Jackson, but I am on a world tour. My tour is in pursuit of exceptional beer. That’s why they call me the Beer Hunter.”

Michael Jackson, Beer Hunter, was born on March 27 1942. He died on August 30 2007.

So what are your memories of Michael, I’d love to know?

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Written by timhampson

August 30, 2010 at 4:04 pm

3 Responses

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  1. Thank you..really informative!!

    freesoft

    August 31, 2010 at 4:44 am

  2. Thanks for reading it. He was a brilliant writer.

    timhampson

    September 2, 2010 at 7:03 pm

  3. In the 1980s, I had the privilege of having Michael Jackson as a passenger in my Austin Maestro, taking him to a CAMRA branch meeting at the Claremont, a Holts pub in Moss Side. Amazingly, the car’s wheels were still all present at the end of the evening. A great bloke, sadly missed.

    Curmudgeon

    November 29, 2010 at 12:05 am


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