Sunday, July 02, 2006

From 1994: "Beer Guru Michael Jackson’s November 19 Visit to Louisville."

It was a banner day in 1994 when Michael Jackson came to town, and there are photos on the wall at the Public House to prove it.


A large number of FOSSILS, LAGERS and unaffiliated beer enthusiasts gathered at Bluegrass Brewing Company on Saturday, November 19 to greet renowned beer writer Michael Jackson, who for all practical purposes invented the genre of beer writing and has gone on to provide the intellectual foundation for the brewing renaissance in America.

Jackson's visit to Louisville came on short notice, with details arriving only five days before the man himself, but his hastily-conceived itinerary went off without a hitch and must be viewed as a major boost for Louisville-area beer enthusiasm in general and for BBC in particular.

The legendary Beer Hunter arrived at Standiford Field alone from Chicago, carrying with him a "portable office," a couple of carry-on bags and one small suitcase. After checking in at the Seelbach, Jackson was escorted to the BBC, where he tasted the brewery's current lineup and was given the grand tour by Brewmaster (and FOSSILS President) David Pierce.

Beginning at 4:00 p.m., Jackson signed books and chatted with all who ventured forward to meet him -- and there were enough beer lovers in attendance to keep him busy for three hours, including one well-wisher who brought his young son and told Jackson that although his child wasn't old enough to drink yet, he would see to it that only good beer would be consumed when the time came.

Shortly after 7:00 p.m., the scene shifted to the Silo, where Brewmaster Eileen Martin conducted a tour and tasting for Jackson. Many of those in attendance at the BBC followed the party to the Silo, and then to Rich O's Public House for an impromptu nightcap.

The following are a few random thoughts and facts about Jackson's visit on the 19th:

Jackson was preparing to return briefly to his home base of London, having spent much of the previous two months constantly on the move here in the States, amassing material for an upcoming book on American breweries.

His visit to Louisville was not Jackson's first. Previously, he had been to the area to do research for his World Guide to Whiskey.

Jackson wouldn't be pinned down as to a "favorite" beer, saying that he prefers to drink what is unique and local (maybe he'll have the chance to sample some of the BBC's Kentucky Common beer on a return visit someday). However, he conceded that his favorite brewing area is Belgium.

In personal terms, Jackson is soft-spoken and reserved, incisive when seeking information and very funny when the opportunity for a quip is presented. There were no traces of pomposity or abrasiveness during his visit.

Jackson wants to do another Beer Hunter series for television, but must wait for some snafu to be corrected by the sponsoring network in Britain.

He said that BBC's Kolsch was one of the better American brewpub versions of the style that he has tasted, but pointed out that none seem to capture the essence of the style as it is brewed in Cologne, Germany.

Apparently overcome with emotion upon meeting Jackson, former FOSSILS president Stan Brown was able to do no more than very quietly whisper the words "we are not worthy" to me before toppling off a bar stool.

Jackson's parting words from Rich O's, where he enjoyed a pint of Sierra Nevada Porter and was exhaustively briefed on the lurid details of the FOSSILS revolution by Vice-President Mark Keeler: "I've been to many pubs in America, and I've never seen one quite like this."

Accepting these words as some variety of divine sanction, we immediately played Nirvana at high volume, suspended the Mark Francis Memorial "No Singing!" Decree, and continued to serve free beer to the usual suspects, some of whom lingered on until the wee hours.

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