Michael Jackson was, without a doubt, the most influential writer to affect the development of beer and whisky on the international stage. Known as the Beer Hunter and Whisky Chaser, he suffered from Parkinson’s Disease for the better part of 10 years. By his own account, he believed he may have actually had Parkinson’s for 20 years, and vowed to write a book called “I Am Not Drunk” to benefit and emotionally support those with the disease. But before he could launch that newest project, Jackson passed away on August 30, 2007 at the age of 65.
In the world of creative expression, rare times arise when the artist or writer has the opportunity to make a difference in the world. If we recognize that our response can make a huge impact in the lives of others, we “seize the day” and act with immediacy. Such was the case when 13 international drinks writers from the world of beer and whisky were recruited to contribute an original essay for a book in honor of Michael Jackson, the world’s leading authority on beer and whisky. Ian Buxton, the idea-man behind the project, served as editor and facilitator in the project, and approached The Glenlivet for financial support. Appropriately, the book is named Beer Hunter, Whisky Chaser, and all proceeds are to be donated to the Parkinson Society of the U.K.
The list of contributing authors is impressive and includes: Stephen Beaumont, Dave Broom, Ian Buxton, John Hansell, Julie Johnson, Charles MacLean, Hans Offringa, F. Paul Pacult, Roger Protz, Lucy Saunders, Conrad Seidl, Carolyn Smagalski and Gavin D. Smith. Six essays are on the subject of beer and six on whisky, along with one biographical piece by Jackson’s “latter-time partner” [Carolyn Smagalski].
The essays reflect the personalities of each author in the purest form. Each author endeavored to write a piece that he or she believed the Master would himself enjoy. These range in content from historical aggregation to esoteric donnybrook, and even a personal journey into the world of drink. Two pieces are clever fictional narratives with close ties to possible truth. Indeed, Jackson, a bibliophile with dedication to the written word, would have spent many an hour reviewing and dissecting the nuances of these stories, as if they were complex Belgian ales begging for discovery by a sophisticated taster.
The book has been produced in hardcover, with place ribbon and cover illustration of Michael Jackson by artist Gill Allan. The illustration is so well-done that it captures the physical look and multi-faceted personality of the Beer Hunter himself.
The book launched in several locations throughout the world on March 27, 2009, the anniversary of Michael Jackson’s birthday. In the Hammersmith section of London, Ian Buxton, Gavin Smith, and Jim Long from Chivas Brothers held a launch event at The Distillers, a pub in the neighborhood where Mr. Jackson resided. At the Whisky Festival of Northern Netherlands in Groningen, four of the contributing authors - Hans Offringa, Charles MacLean, Dave Broom, and Carolyn Smagalski – celebrated the book with the launch of International Whisk(e)y Day, established to honor Michael Jackson and the countless unsung heroes who have dedicated their lives to producing whisky. In Chicago, Lucy Saunders and Stephen Beaumont toasted to Jackson at Delilah’s. John Hansell organized a launch on April 1, 2009, for the annual WhiskyFest in Chicago.
Beer Hunter, Whisky Chaser is available through Classic Expressions website:
Photos are: Front Cover of Beer Hunter, Whisky Chaser; (from left) Authors Charles MacLean of Scotland, Hans Offringa of the Netherlands, and Dave Broom of Scotland