Michael Jackson: a toast

On the several shelves of beer books in my study, one stands out. It's a different shape to its neighbours. It sits almost awkwardly amongst the others. But it's well-thumbed with page corners turned, marginalia scrawled.

Michael Jackson's Great Beer Guide was my first beery book. Red dots in the top corner of pages indicate the beers I've tried; Adnams Broadside in a pub down the road, Jever Pils from the father-in-law's stash, Tripel Karmeleit after my first boozy Belgium stag trip. And it got me thinking about the idea of beer style, not simply gold (Tennents), black (Guinness) or brown (Newcastle).

Did Jackson invent the concept of beer styles? I believe he did more than that. He helped shape the syntax of how brewers could express themselves and how they could be interpreted by others.

In some cases, that interpretation has become too prescriptive. And somewhere along the way, many have forgotten that style isn't borne overnight. Style is classic. Fashion is contemporary.

Michael Jackson said "understanding beer starts with understanding style".

On what would have been his seventieth birthday today, I'll raise a glass to understanding. One beer at a time.



  1. I'll raise my glass in his memory, happy 70th Michael.

    "Some are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them." Michael definitely falls into categorises 1+2

  2. Classics actually spawn styles: http://beerblog.genx40.com/archive/2012/march/whatdoyoudowhen#comment361839

    I now look back at how late I ran into Jackson as a very odd thing. My heroes are more his predecessors but happy to remember someone who made such a great contribution to the hobby.