I have no real skin in this question. Never met the man but at the same time have plenty of his books. Professionally with my LLB / LLM [Ed.: not as impressive as might seem to suggest] and academically with my BA in English [Ed.: now, bow ye down before me] I am used to the idea that there are many points of view about a person's writing that should be taken into account. Today, two writers made reference to Michael Jackson and it got me thinking. First, Ron Pattinson wrote:
Old new styles. I could also call them forgotten styles. Or the styles Michael Jackson missed. Burton, AK, Double Brown. Beers that not only were around for decades in the past, but have clung on as tattered remnants to this day. Vital links in the evolutionary chain of styles whose place in history has been forgotten and ignored. It's all Michael Jackson's fault. Or rather the laziness of his successors. They didn't bother looking themselves and adopted wholesale his analysis of British beer styles. Time for this historic wrong to be righted. But not in this post.
A few hours later, as the rosy fingers of the dawn reached across the Atlantic [Ed.: what an amazing thing a "B" grade BA in English is] Jack Curtain wrote:
A new film about the life of Michael Jackson will debut at the Great American Beer Festival this year. That’s a pretty major event in the beer world which has apparently slipped right under the radar, or at leas my radar, because the first I’ve heard of it just now was at the KalamaBrew website, which they in turn got from beernews.org. It seems only fair to let those guys get the site hits they deserve, so use the links to read the details... Lord, how much we lost that August day in 2007.
At some point we have to be ready to discuss the great departed man as we have to assess all things in this mortal coil. For me, Jackson is not great because of his lists of great beers and books and books and books of tasting notes. He was not even at his greatest for his work opening up the world of Belgian beers to an English speaking audience. He is most worthy to me for none other than his least influential, first book The English Pub from 1976. It is sort of the Neanderthal of his works, a genetic dead end as he did not continue to focus on the idea of beer and culture after this book. While Richard Boston did concern himself with the role of beer in culture before Jackson, others later took up the question... but only after at least a 25 year gap. And that topic is prone again to be lost in a sea of dodgy food and beer "pairing" books and the unending volume after volume of dreary whopped together "527 Beers You Have To Have Before Next Tuesday" books. I would prefer that we pick up his first thread, frankly, and think about what beer means to the consumer as much or more than what it means to the brewer.
With a focus on his work rather than himself - admittedly perhaps an impossible problem of long division - where do you place his writings and ideas? Was he vital in that he raised the public profile of good beer more than anyone else? Or is he a nerd's nerd, the finest sort of friend or icon of an era now passing?