Beer Birthday: Michael Jackson

Today would have been Michael Jackson’s 73rd birthday. I first met Michael in the early 1990s, shortly after my first beer book was published. He is all but single-handedly responsible for the culture of better beer that exists today. He began writing about good beer in the 1960s and 70s and his writing has influenced (and continues to influence) generations of homebrewers and commercial brewers, many of whom were inspired to start their own breweries by his words. There are few others, if any, that have been so doggedly persistent and passionate about spreading the word about great beer. I know some of my earliest knowledge and appreciation of beer, and especially its history and heritage, came from Michael’s writings. Michael passed away in August 2007, eight years ago. I still miss him, and I suspect I’m not the only one. A couple of years ago, J.R. Richards’ new documentary film about Michael Jackson, Beer Hunter: The Movie, debuted, which I helped a tiny bit with as a pioneer sponsor.

I did an article four years ago for Beer Connoisseur, for their Innovator’s Series, entitled Michael Jackson: The King of Beer Writers, A personal look back at the man who made hunting for beer a career. I reached out to a number of people who also knew Michael for their remembrances as well as my own, and as a result I’m pretty pleased with the results (although the original draft was almost twice as long).

I’ll again be playing some jazz and having a pint of something yummy in his honor, which has become my tradition for March 27, which I’ve also started declaring to be “Beer Writer’s Day.” Join me in drinking a toast to Michael Jackson, the most influential modern beer writer who’s ever lived.

At the Great Divide Brewing’s media party in Denver over fifteen years ago.

On stage accepting the first beer writing awards from the Brewers Association with Jim Cline, GM of Rogue, Stan Hieronymus, who writes Real Beer’s Beer Therapy among much else, and Ray Daniels, formerly of the Brewers Association.

At GABF in 2006, still wearing the same glasses. But my, oh my, have I changed. Sheesh.

With Carolyn Smagalski receiving an award at Pilsner Urquell.

Beer Birthday: Tim Webb

Today is the birthday of British beer writer Tim Webb, who along with Stephen Beaumont recently published the World Atlas of Beer and the Pocket Beer Guide, along with the Good Beer Guide to Belgium, with Joe Stange. I love Tim’s dry wit and his unabashed disdain for America(ns). I like to think I’m tolerated because I know, and like, Canadians. Then again, who knows? Join me in wishing Tim a very happy birthday.

Me and Tim at the Falling Rock during an SF Beer Week promotional event during GABF in 2009.

Tim with Stephen Beaumont and Michelle Wang, showing off the 2nd edition of the Pocket Beer Guide in Leuven.

The British contingency, Adrian Tierney-Jones, Tim Hampson, Tim and Pete Brown.

Stephen Beaumont and I, looking perfectly pleased, while Tim displays a distinct lack of enthusiasm at Brouwerij de Kroon.

Beer In Ads #1481: March, The Month For Sowing Barley

Sunday’s ad is for the British ad campaign “Beer is Best,” from 1938. Part of “A Calendar of British Beer” from that year, March features a wonderful illustration of a farmer sowing his field with barley, and the text explains that this is the month for it, with some statistics of how much of the grain it takes each year to create all of England’s beer. “All the year round. Beer is Best.” Happy March.


Beer Birthday: Roger Protz

Today is the 76th birthday of British beer writer Roger Protz. Roger, of course, if one of Britain’s best-known beer writers, having authored over twenty books on the subject, including being the editor of CAMRA’s Good beer Guide for two decades. He’s also been very active in CAMRA through much of their history. Although our paths cross only occasionally, Roger’s great to share a pint with, and we apparently love a lot of the same British television shows, something I discovered after many beers at Het Anker in Belgium a few years ago. Join me in wishing Roger a very happy birthday.

Roger with Melissa Cole at the Great British Beer Festival in 2009.

Roger with Austrian beer writer Conrad Seidl in Belgium during a press junket there in 2013.

Roger with a bottle of Pliny the Elder I brought with me to England for him in 2008.

Beer In Ads #1405: Hay, Good Wholesome Beer

Monday’s ad is for the Brewers’ Society, from 1956. Similar to the ads in America by the United States Brewers Foundation that ran around the same time, the British ads used taglines like “Good Wholesome BEER” and “The best long drink in the world!” After working in the fields all day, making giant hay bales, who wouldn’t be dreaming of a pint of beery goodness? But I love the way they put it. “Beer refreshes you all right — but it does much more than that. It’s an invigorating drink. Beer bucks you up as well as cools you down.”



I love the Great British Beer Festival, and it’s a crying shame I don’t get over the pond often enough to attend it. Happily, Mark Dredge, who in addition to Pencil & Spoon, has been doing some work for Pilsner Urquell, had a camera crew follow him around the hall at the Great British Beer Festival. He’s created a short video giving a flavor of what it’s like to be there. So if, like me, you missed it this year, here’s at least a glimpse at what being there be like. Enjoy.


We Totally Let You Win! Newcastle Brown Ale’s Hilarious Independence Eve Campaign

Happy “Independence Eve” everybody. If you’ve never heard of “Independence Eve,” that’s because Newcastle Brown Ale made it up. But it’s so brilliant, I’m going to start observing it, and maybe even will start a tradition of drinking a British ale every July 3. Perhaps even a Newcastle Brown Ale just to say thanks for this hilarious series of ads.


There’s maybe fifteen ads on YouTube or at the dedicated website Newcastle set up for the promotion: If We Won. The latest is below, though I’d encourage you to go back and watch them all. Here’s the most recent one, and they keep adding news ones every few hours.

And here’s another favorite one, with Britsh comedian and writer Stephen Merchant. There’s also ones with Elizabeth Hurley and Zachary Quinto. You can check out all fifteen (at last count) at Newcastle’s YouTube channel.

AdWeek has a story about the advertising campaign, Newcastle Ambushes July 4 by Inventing ‘Independence Eve,’ Celebrating British Rule The Redcoats Get Revenge. From the article:

British brands, understandably, don’t have much to say around the Fourth of July—until now. Newcastle Brown Ale, among the cheekiest of U.K. marketers, has turned America’s most patriotic holiday to its advantage by inventing a new, completely made-up holiday: Independence Eve on July 3. The idea of the tongue-in-cheek campaign, created by Droga5, is to “honor all things British that Americans gave up when they signed the Declaration of Independence,” Newcastle says.

“Newcastle is a very British beer, and needless to say, it doesn’t sell that well on July 4. So why not establish it as the beer you drink on July 3?” says Charles van Es, senior director of marketing for Heineken USA portfolio brands. “Unlike the Redcoats in the 18th century, we’re picking our battles a little more wisely. By celebrating Independence Eve, we’re taking liberties with America’s liberty to create a new drinking occasion and ensuring freedom on July 4 tastes sweeter than ever.”


But not to worry, they’re returning to American beer promptly at the stroke of midnight, when it’s no longer Independence Eve, but officially the Fourth of July, and Independence Day.

Beer Birthday: Charlie Bamforth

Today is the 62nd birthday of Charlie Bamforth, who is the Anheuser-Busch Endowed Professor of Brewing Science at U.C. Davis (and was my teacher when I took the brewing short course there). His two most recent books should be on your must read list: Beer Is Proof That God Loves Us and Grape vs. Grain. He’s a terrific advocate for beer and a great person. Join me in wishing Charlie a very happy birthday.

Charlie with John Dannerbeck from Anchor Brewing, at a reception held there for the launch of Charlie’s new book.

Speakers at the Symposium: Bruce Paton, Christine Hastorf, Fritz Maytag and Charlie Bamforth
Charlie with fellow speakers at the Herbst Museum Symposium a few years ago, from left: Bruce Paton, Christine Hastorf, Fritz Maytag and Charlie.

Charlie being courted by both wine and beer on his publisher’s blog, Cambridge University Press.

Beer In Ads #1159: Enjoy A Double Diamond Today

Saturday’s ad is for the British beer by Inde Coope, Double Diamond Burton Pale Ale, from probably the 1950s. The ad shows a nice illustration of a tray with a bottle and two glasses, one full, with a second bottle about to be opened. But I confess I’m confused about this bit of the ad copy. “Get outside a Double Diamond and you feel more like yourself again.” Is “get outside” a British idiom for drink a beer?


A Historical Look At English Drinking Habits

This is an interesting report from the British Parliament, specifically from the Health Committee. It’s a memorandum by Dr. Phil Withington and Dr. Angela McShane entitled Fluctuations in English Drinking Habits: An Historical Overview.

The overview includes a chronology beginning around 1550 and discusses increases and decreases in alcohol consumption in five periods since then, which they summarize as follows below.

In terms of consumption (inevitably crudely measured at times) it can be seen that England experienced a significant rise and consolidation of drinking levels during the “early modern period” (1550-1750). Between 1550 and 1650 there was a commercialisation of “old world” production and distribution plus the introduction of tobacco. The 100 years after 1650 were in turn characterised by the assimilation of, and moral panics about, new commodities, in particular coffee and gin. In the following two hundred years, which coincided with industrialisation and massive increase in population, there was a marked decline in the consumption of alcohol. The post-industrial or post-modern era (post-1960) seems to have returned to the kind of trends in the early modern period: increased consumption—especially conspicuous and public consumption among certain sections of the population—facilitated by powerful business organisations that are extremely competent at managing their relationship with political authority.

The dense information about continuities, discontinuities and gender is fascinating reading, but takes time to digest. It’s still marinating in my brain. I’m especially intrigued by this statement. “The medical industry now has the technology, knowledge, and incentives (especially commercial) to identify and treat many of the biological consequences of alcoholic consumption. This is in definite contrast to previous centuries, when medicine was more likely to use alcohol as a treatment rather than cure its related maladies, and when the primary impact of medical practitioners was, it seems, to create, legitimise and/or popularise new kinds of intoxicants.” The memorandum also notes that “[i]ncreased female consumption of alcohol may go some way to explaining the increases in general consumption since the 1960s since half the population was tacitly barred from drinking before then.” So that would suggest that per capita consumption is actually falling if one of the primary reasons for an increase is essentially a twofold increase in the number of people consuming alcohol.


As prohibitionists incessantly nip at the heels of drinkers, doing everything they can to curb consumption, I think it’s constructive look at the bigger picture. Patterns of consumption tend to ebb and flow, and are affected by a variety of factors: economic, social, legal, and others. So whenever some prohibitionist group claims their new law, or awareness campaign, or what have you, has caused consumption to go down — or more often claims whatever they’re proposing is necessary precisely to decrease peoples’ drinking — it’s important to remember that people have always enjoyed alcohol, and will continue to do so, and changing the laws merely changes those patterns, it doesn’t really effect much over the long haul. I wonder if anyone has taken a similar look at historical drinking patterns in America?