WORLD-OBITS-L ArchivesArchiver > WORLD-OBITS > 2007-09 > 1188753517
From: "Peter McCrae" <>
Subject: [WORLD-OBITS] JACKSON: Michael Jackson aug.2007
Date: Sun, 2 Sep 2007 18:18:37 +0100
Last Updated: 1:56am BST 01/09/2007
The Telegraph .co.uk
Michael Jackson, who died on Thursday aged 65, was a pioneering, and perhaps
the most widely-known, writer on beer; he latterly gained equal acclaim for
his work on malt whisky.
Jackson came to widespread attention through his television series The Beer
Hunter, which was originally produced for Channel 4 and shown in 1990. It
became a great hit in America and was eventually sold to more than a dozen
countries. In the course of its six episodes, Jackson made trips to examine
brewing methods in California, the Netherlands, Belgium (on the beers of
which he was particularly lyrical), Germany and the Czech Republic.
He had begun his mission earlier, with the World Guide to Beer (1977, and in
a new edition in 1988), which was credited with introducing Belgian beer to
many foreign markets - notably the United States. Indeed, Jackson became a
cult figure in America, and was regarded by many as having been instrumental
in the growth of microbreweries in the country.
Michael Jackson was born on March 27 1942 in Yorkshire. His grandfather,
Chaim, had emigrated from Kaunas in Lithuania and settled in Leeds - the
fare was cheaper than that to New York. Michael's father Sam had intended a
career as "a minor criminal", but was serving in the Army when he met a
Gentile girl at a local dance hall. Though he tried to dodge his
responsibilities when she became pregnant, he became a devoted father after
his son was born, and settled down to work as a truck driver.
The family lived at first above a fish and chip shop, and memories of food
and drink were amongst Jackson's earliest: he had a strong recollection of
the borscht which his father kept in an old Tizer bottle and which had, in
addition to beetroot, "flavours that I would now remember as being earthy,
tannic, acidic, lemony and peppery".
In his own view a pale-faced, gloomy and Slavic-featured child, Jackson was
much influenced by his grandmother's cooking; her habit of keeping chickens
in the cellar and brewing her own Lithuanian mead were certainly in keeping
with the small-scale production which he was later to champion.
He went to King James Grammar School at Almondbury, before proceeding to his
first job as a trainee on the Huddersfield Examiner. Jackson was a diligent
reporter with an elliptical and sentimental writing style which was
By the time he progressed to Fleet Street (he later contributed regularly to
most newspapers, particularly The Independent and The Observer), he had
already made a sideline of writing about beer, at a time when wine writing
had become a regular feature of the weekend supplements, but few troubled to
consider the merits of the brewers' craft.
In 1976 he published a guide to the English pub, and the next year the first
edition of his guide to beer. Thereafter he became a full-time evangelist
for real ales and small-scale brewing, and produced numerous guides to the
beers of the world and to the cuisine which best suited each. Among his
titles, The Great Beers of Belgium (originally 1991) went into five
editions, while his total sales exceeded three million. He was published in
18 languages, from Estonian to Japanese.
In 1984 he provided, for The Sunday Telegraph's magazine, one of the first
accounts of the few English rural pubs which continued to brew their own
beer, and of the small breweries (such as the Firkin chain in London) which
had sprung up in emulation of them.
"There are still people who evince surprise when they discover that the beer
at the Three Tuns is made by the brothers Jack and Robert Wood, who keep the
pub, as if such a procedure were an improvised substitute for the real
thing," Jackson wrote, before setting the reader straight: "In fact, it is
the real thing."
It was an attitude he spread successfully through the nascent microbrewing
movement in America, where one cartoon depicted him being offered a can of
Miller Lite by the Devil, while surrounded by flames, with the caption
"Michael Jackson in Hell".
He took the opportunity to trade on his more famous namesake, declaring at
his lectures (he often drew crowds of more than 1,000): "My name's Michael
Jackson. No, not that one, but I am on a world tour." That was no
exaggeration: he went to examine beer wherever it was made, and to encourage
it where it was not: he was especially fond of Finland and of Scotland,
where his other great enthusiasm, malt whisky, led him to write, first,
Scotland and Its Whiskies (2001) and The Malt Whisky Companion, the world's
bestselling book on the subject, now in its fifth edition. In 2005 he
published the Whisky Encyclopedie in Dutch; translations into half a dozen
other languages are currently underway.
Jackson received numerous awards, including five Glenfiddich awards for
drinks writing, the medal of the German Academy of Gastronomy and the
Mercurius Award for services to Belgian brewing. In 1997 he became the first
non- brewer to become a member of the Confederatie der Brauwerijen van
Jackson had been suffering from Parkinson's disease for more than 10 years,
but never declared it until his symptoms caused some to think he was drunk.
"I do not have, and never have had, a drink problem," he pointed out.
He is survived by his long-term girlfriend, Paddy Gunningham.
|[WORLD-OBITS] JACKSON: Michael Jackson aug.2007 by "Peter McCrae" <>|