Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Our Whisky Benefactor

It has been just over 2 years since our benefactor, Michael Jackson*, left this earth. It was his palate description of the Talisker 1982 20yo gave us our 'Distant Thunder' name, so I though it was high time we honoured him on the blog.

My fellow members know that beer is my first love. Whisky is my weekend lover at best. Michael Jackson is my bridge to both worlds. My Friday night, as you will.

Beer was Michael's first love as well. In the late 70's he wrote 'The World Guide to Beer' which is regarded as the first book to give a worldwide view of beer styles. When it was published, I was barely sucking the lip of my dad's Fosters tallie, but even I understand the impact Michael had on the microbrew movement of the last few decades. We are all the richer for it.

I've just finished re-watching his 6 part TV Series from the 1980's called (aptly) 'The Beer Hunter'. This is a man who not only understands the history of beer styles, but also of the terroir of beer. Not the terroir of locale that soil can impart on wine, or that wood or air can impart on whisky. I'm talking about the terroir that the brewmaster imparts on his beer through his/her day-to-day choices in the brewing process. My favourite episode of the series is 'The California Pilgrimage'. This is no doubt inspired due to my current location as well as my long-term love of Anchor Steam beer. Here's a brief clip from that episode.

After Michael wrote his first book about beer, it was another decade before he wrote another book. This time about whisky, the inventively tilted 'The World Guide to Whisky'. This was a man who mastered the art of reviewing and commentating on two related, but vastly different industries.

For the last decade of his life Michael suffered from the effects of Parkinson's disease. Not long before he passed away in 2007, Daniel Shelton (from the U.S. Beer Importers, Shelton Brothers) visited Michael in his London home and recorded the interview below.

Every D.T.W.C member needs to watch this interview. This man's house is truly amazing. It's basically a beer and whisky Mecca. Having said that, the video is very difficult to watch in parts, as it is clear how the disease is impacting his day-to-day life. He even mentions writing a book about his experiences called 'I am Not Drunk'.

Now that would have been a great read...

Justin the Distant

* why is it that whenever you mention Mr. Jackson, you always feel the need to quantify it by saying, "Not THAT Michael Jackson?"