Michael Jackson, The Beer HunterMichael Jackson, the world’s premier beer anthropologist and historian, passed away a couple of weeks ago. I remember my wife, Malin, walking into our office to tell me when she saw it on the news.

I own one of his books: The New World Guide To Beer. The original edition of this book, from the 70s, was the first formal categorization of the world’s beers into what we recognize today as beer styles. In addition to writing numerous books, Michael Jackson also wrote for All About Beer Magazine for 23 years. Their website currently has both his very first and very last article available for reading. You can get a sense for his style and see that he was a great writer, in addition to being an iconic figure in the world of craft beer.

Without him we may not have had the craft brew movement in America that has led to such a fantastic variety of great beer here. Also, we may not be enjoying the wonderful array of imported Belgian beers that are now commonly available in many restaurants and beverage stores.

In his last interview, it is evident that Michael Jackson was ill. He had been suffering from Parkinson Disease for over 10 years, and it had taken a toll. But he seemed in good spirits and certainly did not appear close to his deathbed. The video seems very sombre, particularly in retrospect now that he has died. Despite his battle with Parkinson Disease, it was a heart attack that ultimately took his life. You can read more about Michael Jackson from these articles, published after his death: Associated Press and Seattle Weekly.

Last night, I saw something on the web that reminded me of the tragic news: a national toast in honor of the man known as the Beer Hunter. The toast is two weeks from Sunday, and one aspect of the toast is to raise money for the National Parkinson Foundation.

National Toast Honoring Michael Jackson: September 30, 2007

I have been disappointed thus far in my failed attempts to find a place in Atlanta that is participating in the national toast. I have called and left a message for the operators of The Brickstore Pub in Decatur, hoping that they will show some interest and perhaps spread the word. I’ll also give a call to the Five Seasons brewpub in Sandy Springs. I will keep looking and doing what I can to bring this toast to Atlanta, even though I may not actually be able to attend (9pm on a Sunday up in the city won’t be the easiest thing to make happen). And I will send a check to the National Parkinson Foundation.

I had never before understood how some people get so emotional when a celebrity dies. For instance, that so many people who never even met Princess Diana wept at her death struck me as surreal. Though I did not weep when I heard about Michael Jackon’s passing, I did feel a sincere sense of loss and sadness – especially after taking time to read more about this great man. I still don’t completely understand how a person could be so grief-stricken by the loss of someone they never knew, but I can empathize a little better now.

Here’s to the Beer Hunter. May he dine and drink well in his afterlife, and may his life and death continue to conjure passion in – and inspiration for – the great brewers of this world.