Cheers to the lager drinking Michael Jackson

I’ve been casting around the internet trying to find various sources for some reviews I’m writing for a new beer book and came across a wonderful video interview with the late great Michael Jackson over at Sheltonbrothers.com.

I spoke to and met Michael on several occasions and despite him being rather disparaging about commercial lagers in his writing, his view and knowledge was far more nuanced than you would think.

My first experience was when I’d been in Carlsberg for only a few months when I intercepted a phone call destined for someone else and on the end was a rather confused marketing person who had been told that the great Michael Jackson was turning up at the brewery that day and they didn’t know what to do with him. They were a little bit uncertain because the last time they had spoken to him he was researching beer for one of his books and was refusing to put Carlsberg Pilsner in because it wasn’t interesting enough. They in return were refusing to help with information on any of the other beers Carlsberg make.

Not marketing

In his usual forthright Yorkshire manner he’d told them that he didn’t want to speak to anybody in Marketing, he wanted to speak to someone who knew about beer (he told me later on the phone). A few frantic phone calls later we managed to get him hooked up with Anders Kissmeyer, who later left Carlsberg to found one of the first microbreweries in Denmark, and they spent an evening talking about beer.

He also came away with an appreciation of Carlsberg 47, the Vienna style lager that Carlsberg started producing in  1972 to commemorate the 125th anniversary of the founding of the  brewery in 1847 . We managed to set him up with a container load for his US-based beer club.

The second time I met him was because I’d organised a yeast seminar for the British Guild of Beer Writers in Brewers’ Hall in London. We had Michael to give an introduction to the topic and then a more detailed lecture by the head of the Carlsberg Yeast Genetics department. He then very kindly invited us out for a meal at Belgo and we spent a fascinating evening with stories and recollections about beer and journalism.

The video by the Shelton Brothers brought all that back. So as I sit here and fight my way through several excellent Danish and Norwegian microbrews, I can’t help but raise a glass to the man who did more than anything else to get things moving.

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About Andrew

Former Grocer journalist and Carlsberg PR, turning lager historian
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5 Responses to Cheers to the lager drinking Michael Jackson

  1. Zak says:

    That’s great post, andno matter how many times I see that video, it’s always heartbreaking.

  2. Andrew says:

    Thanks Zak. Michael was a bit of a prickly bugger at times, but a journalist first and a beer/whisky lover after.

  3. Brewer says:

    He was an ignorant pompus jerk!

  4. Barm says:

    Maybe MJ was disparaging about mass-market lagers precisely because he knew how good proper lager can be?

  5. Andrew says:

    I think that’s the heart of it – Michael knew what brewers were capable and resented that many of them didn’t do their best. Although, to be fair, many brewers I have spoken too know that they aren’t producing their best work but following a commercial line… That has always been the case, but the technology available now raises the question whether some of them are actually producing beer or beer flavoured alcohol.

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