Every so often a person of great vision comes along to expose big truths and make the world a better place in the process. Michael Jackson, sometimes known as the Bard of Beer or from the PBS TV series of his naming, The Beer Hunter, was one of these and we lost him last Thursday at the age of 65. In what seems like too short of a life, he lived it more richly, intensely, truly than most can hope.
Friends and I toured microbreweries in the late 80s to discover the diversity of styles, producers and publicans that carried the torch to light the way for the Real Beer movement. We were captivated by the creativity and characters that were also drawn to the space. BTW, if this sounds a lot like the Digital movement there are many parallels. I was following my own path and as often happen, met co-conspirators and confidants along the way. Michael’s books were influential in educating, creating language and celebrating those supporting the movement’s adoption.
I had the great honor and pleasure of working with Michael in many capacities: as a collaborator on his beer clubs; a publisher for Beer Hunter and other entities; junior Beer Hunter seeking out or bringing to him new discoveries; on occasion as chauffer; and fellow real beer champion in a supporting role.
The first time we met Michael to discuss bring BeerHunter.com to the world we connected on many fronts. From the many stories I’ve read about him since his passing it seems this was one of Michael’s many trademark abilities born of his diverse and erudite background, curious nature, global travels and genuinely generous spirit. About my background in advertising, he shared he got his start and was familiar with the Saatchis. Regarding the role of a publisher as archivist and curator, he considered these some of the highest value endeavors. When it came time to talk money, he left it to his agent as these details—while important for the benefit of parity or fairness—was not a big driver for him.
He loved to write, educate, learn, sample, promote and present about subjects much more vital to him. While he may have been on the subject of beer or whiskey, his writing and lessons were more inclusive of major social and political movements. This isn’t to elevate his writing through post-humus interpretation; read for yourself (navigation is at the bottom of the page to the BeerHunter.com library) and see if there isn’t allusion and collusion to a movement, the celebration of art and the context of history within your pleasurable task.
Michael had a way of changing rooms, attitudes and perspectives for the better—most eccentrics do. I call him an eccentric in the term’s finest interpretation honoring his singularity and strength of personal conviction and purpose. Ever since we met over a decade ago, I close my communications with the entirely civil “cheers” that punctuated Michael’s departures as well.
Cheers, Michael. Thank you.