Michael Jackson, the hardest working man in beer journalism

Michael Jackson, the hardest working man in beer journalism

- em Artigos, Internacional
Michael Jackson, in classic photo and Martyn Cornell, also in a classic photo!

For the special event about Michael Jackson, the beer writer, we invited some relevant people from the beer market to share their memories.

On June 16, 2020 Priscilla Colares wrote to Martyn Cornell – from the site Zythophile:

I’m organizing together with another friend, Bia Amorim, an online event about Michael Jackson, his legacy and how the english way of brew was influential on what we drink now. I’m aware of some of the tags he are linked in your blog but I would like to ask if you can share your personal opinion about him and his work, if you can obviously. We would love to have your testimonial or anything you wanna share about Michael (text, video or audio…). We are in touch with Papazian, Tony Forder and other names of people that inspire us in the beer community. 

Here the answer:

From: Martyn Cornell ZYTHOPHILE

‘Zee-tho-fyle’, by Martyn Cornell, an award-winning blog about beer now and then, founded in 2007

Michael Jackson, the hardest working man in beer journalism

The first time I saw Michael Jackson in operation was in a bar in Bruges, Belgium called the Brugse Beertje, the Little Bruges Bear, in 1988. It was a trip for 14 or 15 beer writers from Britain organised by the local tourist association, and while we had all arrived by ferry and coach from the UK, Michael was making his own way there – flying in from Finland, where he had been judging at a beer festival.

When he caught up with us, in the middle of a tutored beer-and-cheese tasting, he sprang immediately to work: photographing all the beers, taking notes on every one. I learnt later that in his office in Hammersmith, in West London, he had filing cabinets filled with all the tasting notes he had ever written on all the thousands of beers he had drunk, collated so that he could see at once if a beer he had drunk in, say, 1982 was different when he tasted it again in, say, 1987.

That level of organisation was only part of what made him the best and most influential beer writer on the planet for 30 years. Funnily, though, he was undoubtedly more influential abroad than in Britain, his home country. The British beer scene, when Michael began writing about beer in the 1970s and for a long time afterwards, was very insular: there was a strong belief among many British beer drinkers, and brewers, that British cask beer was the best in the world, and there was no need to learn about all these funny beers that foreigners drank. This is much less true now, with younger beer drinkers in Britain happy to be influenced by trends in, say, the United States. It was not the case even in the 1990s, and Michael had a small falling out with Britain’s Campaign for Real Ale because Camra members felt he should not be using his column in the organisation’s newspaper, What’s Brewing, to talk about what was happening outside the UK. 

For those of us more eager to learn about what was going on in the rest of the world, Michael was our guide and our god: he opened our eyes to the wonders of beer in Belgium, in Germany, in Czechia and elsewhere. He is still, for any British beer writer over 35, the master, the one whose brilliant exposition, whose calm lucid, always deeply educational prose remains the gold standard in beer writing. Sadly, his death in 2007 deprived us of his comments on one of the most exciting periods in the history of beer, as the craft beer revolution conquered the globe, it and means that his books are becoming increasingly out of date, so that, alas, he is likely to become increasingly unread.

However, his influence will remain, not least because he was the writer who, almost single-handedly, invented the idea of beer styles. Before Michael, people had written about beer types, beer varieties, but never styles. It took a few years for his ideas on categorising different beers under different styles to solidify, but eventually they became mainstream among commentators, drinkers and brewers, so much so that it is hard to remember that there was ever a time when the concept of “beer styles” did not exist.

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Oi Michael, é Bia Amorim, sommelier de cervejas. Depois da sua Morte Subite, em 1997 ainda demorei muitos anos até conhecer você.