Beer history Blogging and writing

Michael Jackson’s Writing for CAMRA 1977-1988

Like 80 per cent of those who write about beer in anything like a professional capacity, we’ve been commissioned to write a substantial piece about Michael ‘The Beer Hunter’ Jackson as the tenth anniversary of his death approaches.

As part of that, we’ve been exchanging emails with Alan ‘A Good Beer Blog’ McLeod who is a noted Jackson sceptic. He habitually questions whether Mr Jackson’s influence was as great as the consensus would have it, and whether other influential writers (Richard Boston, Dave Line) aren’t being short-changed by Jackson’s elevation.

One specific question he put to us was this: what exactly was Jackson writing between the World Guide to Beer in 1977 and the next item on his Wikipedia bibliography, a 1986 pocket guide to beer? How could he be so influential with one book every ten years?

One answer is that that really is only a selected bibliography — we have a copy, for example, of the 1982 Pocket Guide to Beer, which is the one veteran brewers we have spoken to carried with them as they explored Europe and the US in the 1980s, and there were paperback reprints/revisions of the World Guide too.

But, as is often the case, Alan’s niggling has highlighted a real issue: the lack of a comprehensive list of Michael Jackson’s writing for magazines and newspapers which, of course, is ephemeral by nature.

For the sake of the collective brain, and also because it’s useful for our article, we agreed to make a start on a list of material published in the UK. We’ve started with the monthly column he wrote for CAMRA, a filleting of which is reproduced below with notes on the content of each article.

If you see anything there that might help with your research drop us an email ( and we’ll be happy to provide more information.

The harder job, now, is tracking down the material he wrote for the national press in the same period. We have searched The Times and Guardian archives but if you have clippings, or perhaps have access to the Sunday Times archive online through your local library service, we’d welcome any tips.

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Articles by Michael Jackson in the CAMRA newspaper What’s Brewing from 1977 to 1988
  • ‘Like Our Beer, It’s Unique’, May 1978, p.7. A review of the 1978 CAMRA Good Beer Guide.
  • ‘Bottoms up! US Gets Taste for Ale Again’, March 1979, p.5. News of a resurgence of interest in beers other than lite lager in the US.
  • ‘First Sip Your Ale – Then Spit’, June 1980, p3. First of a series of monthly columns with an account of a beer-tasting dinner with wine writers in San Francisco, the growth of US micro-brewing, and the potential for a US beer purity law to hit ‘lite’ lagers.
  • ‘Oh, My Darling Ballantine’, August 1980, pp.6-7.
  • ‘A Knight in Shining Armour’, September 1980, p.9. The success of CAMRA and its global influence; the popularity of European beer in the UK.
  • ‘The Trusty Bulldog That Defied Courage’, October 1980, p.6. Profile of Courage Bulldog Strong Ale first brewed for the Belgian market.
  • ‘Tracing the French Connection’, November 1980, p.9. Profile of a Bière de Garde, St Léonard, then being much imported into the UK and brewed at Facon in Boulogne.
  • ‘Odd Island Of Ale in a Lager Sea’, December 1980, p.13. Profile of Farson’s brewery in Malta.
  • ‘Making Lite of the Facts’, January 1981, p.9. The difference between lager and ale; the way lager is advertised; the American consumer’s preference for lite lager.
  • ‘Try the Odd Bottle for a True Lager’, February 1981, p.9. Profile of Grolsch.
  • ‘Campaign Spreads Across the Channel’, April 1981, p.5. How CAMRA has inspired consumer groups and microbreweries in Belgium.
  • ‘Land of White and Wild Beers’, April 1981, pp6-7. Double-page feature on the beers and cafes of Belgium.
  • ‘Name Britain’s 50 Best Beers’, May 1981, p.6. Discussion of the best British beers in a range of styles and a request for readers to submit their own lists.
  • ‘Where Lager Sales Have Come to an “Alt”’, June 1981, pp.6-7. On the popularity of Altbier in Düsseldorf.
  • ‘Tiny Tremors in the Big Country’, July 1981, pp.6-7. An account of British brewery Vaux to move into the US market and a round-up of notable US microbreweries.
  • ‘Here’s Your Choice of Beers’, August 1981, p.7. Follow up to ‘Name Britain’s 50 Best Beers’, above, with discussion of possible new style categories, e.g. ‘strong dark mild’.
  • ‘Don’t Kill of Our Old Friend’, September 1981, p.8. The threat of extinction for imperial stout as a style with reviews of some notable examples.
  • ‘Lager Could Dig the Grave of the Big Six’, October 1981, p.4. The average strength of lager sub-styles; the poor quality of British-brewed lager; and a call for a lager equivalent of CAMRA.
  • ‘Is Fear Our Only Future?’, November 1981, p.7. How mass-marketing and brewery consolidations are reducing consumer choice worldwide.
  • ‘Sorting Out the Whites’, December 1981, p.9. The difference between Southern German wheat beer and Berliner Weisse.
  • ‘Whisky in the Jar?’, January 1982, p.9. Beers with whisky malt and German Rauchbier.
  • ‘Patter of Tiny Waltz Steps’, February 1982, p.13. An overview of beer in Austria.
  • ‘World of Beer: Wheatamix Serial’, March 1982, p.9. The American Homebrewers’ Association’s annual convention, micro-breweries in the US, wheat beer.
  • ‘World of Beer – Special Report: Giants Stir in Germany and Wake New Fears’, April 1982, pp.6-7. On brewery consolidation and takeovers.
  • ‘World of Beer: How to Go Dutch’, May 1982, p.9. An overview of Dutch beer with recommendations.
  • ‘World of Beer: All the Fun of the Fair’, June 1982, p.7. German beer festivals with calendar.
  • ‘Fermenting States — Play it Again, Sam’, July 1982, p.9. An account of judging at the Great American Beer Festival with David Bruce.
  • ‘Take the Abbey Road’, August 1982, p.9. Profile of the Schaapskoi monastic brewery in Tilburg, Holland; and the sale of De Ridder to Heineken.
  • ‘Mystery of the East’, September 1982, p.8. An account of a blind-tasting for the Sunday Times and a round-up of Asian beers.
  • ‘Curry Quencher’, October 1982, p.9. On pairing Dortmunder lagers with Indian food.
  • ‘Talk on the Wild Side’, November 1982, p.8. An overview of Belgian lambic beers.
  • ‘The Language of Lambic’, December 1982, p.8. Further detail on lambic with recommended beers and cafes in Belgium.
  • ‘American Taste Begins to Grow Up’, January 1983, p.8. Bert Grant, Red Hook, and their very bitter, hoppy beers.
  • ‘Inside Canada – Where “Pigs” Must Fly’, February 1983, p.8. An account of the founding of CAMRA branches in Canada and an overview of the beer scene.
  • ‘XXotic Imports’, March 1983, p.7. An overview of interesting beers from Mexico.
  • ‘Worth Czeching Out’, April 1983, p.9. An overview of beer in Czechoslovakia with recommended beers and bars.
  • ‘Iron Curtain Brews – Hop Poles and Roses’, June 1983, p.9. Beers in East Germany and Poland.
  • ‘Young Americans Get the Amber Light’, July 1983, p.11. The micro-brewing revolution in New York.
  • ‘On the Scent of Cologne’s Home-brewers’, August 1983, p.9. The first part of an overview of Kölsch.
  • ‘Clouding Over a Lack of Pedigree’, September 1983, p.8. Part two of the above focusing on Wiess, i.e. unfiltered Kölsch.
  • ‘Brewing Up a New Demon Drink’, October 1983, p.9. Profile of the then new Hopduvel brewpub in Ghent, Belgium.
  • ‘In the Grip of Belgium’s Abbey Habit’, November 1983, p.13. An overview of Belgian abbey-style beers.
  • ‘A Potent Religion’, December 1983, pp.6-7. Part two of the above focusing on Chimay.
  • ‘Worshipped as the Very Best’, January 1984, p.8. About Orval.
  • ‘Behind the Red Bamboo Curtain’, February 1984, p.9. Beer in China.
  • ‘The Black Beauties of Cork – Ireland’s Other Stout Fellows’, March 1984, p.9. An overview of Murphy’s and Beamish.
  • ‘Inside Czechoslovakia – Where Pils Has Pride of Place’, May 1984, p.8. An account of a CAMRA study trip.
  • ‘Staggering Through the States’, July 1984, p.9. Reviews of books by Stephen Morris and Bill Mares.
  • ‘The Odd bars of Boston’, August 1984, p.9.
  • ‘American’s “Beer Consciousness” Festival – Boulder Event Rolls Onwards’, September 1984, p.13. An account of the Great American Beer Festival.
  • ‘Land of the Rising Mimic’, October 1984, p.8. An overview of a trip to Japan.
  • ‘Japan’s Dark Surprises’, November 1984, p.9. Japanese-brewed stouts and other dark beers.
  • ‘Flanders Top Ten’, January 1985, p.12. On Belgian ‘gourmet beers’; note on the Manhattan Brewing Company, New York.
  • ‘Boozing and Losing Weight’, April 1985, p.13. Commentary on Dr Martin Lipp’s ‘beer diet’ book.
  • ‘Why We’re in a Bland Alley’, May 1985, p3. An argument against conservatism within CAMRA – flavour and variety are more important than dogma.
  • ‘Reward the True Brewers’, June 1985, p.11. A complaint about the tendency to view beer as a commodity to be marketed, and a plea for greater appreciation of small breweries using traditional methods.
  • ‘Behold the Mad Brewers’, July 1985, p.11. A profile of De Dolle Brouwers of Essen.
  • ‘World of Beer: Cafes Strong in Choice’, August 1985, p.11. A survey of new small breweries in Belgium.
  • ‘World of Beer: A Brewery with Tons of Vessels’, September 1985, p.11. A visit to the brewing museum at Martens’ brewery in Limburg, Belgium.
  • ‘New Beer Campaign Launched – Holding onto all the Pieces in Belgium’s Baffling Beer Jigsaw’, October 1985, p.15. More new Belgian microbreweries; the rise in brewery numbers in Belgium; and the founding of The Objective Beer Tasters.
  • ‘Seasonal Surprises in the States – Pioneering Spirit Stirs Again Out West’, November 1985, p.11. A round-up of German-style beers being brewed by US microbreweries including Widmer.
  • ‘World of Beer: Now the German Brewers “Think Small”’, December 1985, p.15. Brewing in Dortmund and the founding of Hövels brewhouse.
  • ‘Organic Ales – Brewing Good Beer for Health’, January 1986, p.15. German organic breweries including Pinkus of Münster and Hausbrauerei Altstadthof or Nuremberg.
  • ‘The Odd Case of Henry’s Stout – Hunting Black Velvet in Austria’, February 1986, p.15. Profiles of the Nussdorfer (von Echt) brewery.
  • ‘The Ones to Try’, March 1986, pp.6-7. Feature accompanying a list of every beer then being imported into the UK.
  • ‘World of Beer: Two Dark Secrets off the Tip of India’, April 1986, p.15. Survey of interesting beer and brewing in Sri Lanka.
  • ‘Tropical Toddy – The Staggering Coconut Brew’, May 1986, p15. Fermented coconut pod sap in Sri Lanka.
  • ‘Oldest Beer in the West’, June 1986, p.11. Ancient brewing methods, lambic, and a survey of lambic beers.
  • ‘Taste Before Technology – Belgium’s Red Revolution That Stayed Sour’, July 1986, p.15. Profile of Rodenbach.
  • ‘Felled by the Mighty Bush’, August 1986, p.15. The ales of North-West Brabant.
  • ‘Lusting After the Hop’s Caress’, August 1986, p.15. An account of the American Home-Brewers’ Association annual competition.
  • ‘Finding Heaven in the Forests of Franconia’, September 1986, p.11. Comments on Franconian beer and recommendations for guidebooks.
  • ‘Vintage Brews: Ale Not to be Sniffed at’, October 1986, p.11. Thomas Hardy, Courage Imperial Russian, Chimay, and the effects of aging beer.
  • ‘Boston Beer Party’, November 1986, p.15. The Commonwealth Brewing Co, Boston.
  • ‘America’s Lively New Brewery Quarter’, November 1986, p.15. Boutique breweries and taphouses in Portland, Oregon.
  • ‘A Drop of the Really Tough Stuff’, December 1986, p.11. Samichlaus and other super-strong German-style beers.
  • ‘Tasting the Italian Beer Style Surprise’, January 1987, p.11. A report of beers encountered on a holiday in Northern Italy.
  • ‘Time to Cry “Hail Ale” in Britain’, February 1987, p.15. A defense of focusing on the positive in beer writing and criticism of ‘cranky captious critics’.
  • ‘Charging Down the African Thirst’, March 1987, p.15. Tusker and the state of brewing in Kenya.
  • ‘Kronen Brings Back its Ancient Crown’, April 1987, p.15. Kronen’s launch of a sub-brand, Wenker, in Dortmund.
  • ‘Waving the Union Joke’, May 1987, p.13. Why it is wrong to assume the importing of British beer is good news for German drinkers.
  • ‘Ale Fights Back’, June 1987, p.13. How many world beers are brewed more like ale than lager; overviews of ale-brewing in Ontario and Australia.
  • ‘Kalamazoo Copies British Ale in Style’, July 1987, p.17. A survey of micro-brewing in Middle America with a box-out report on judging from the GABF.
  • ‘The Name IS the Game’, August 1987, p.11. On the difficulties of being the go-to rentaquote on beer and pubs and the popularity of bad lagers.
  • ‘Scaling the Peak of Perfection’, August 1987, p.11. A profile of Summit Brewing of Minneapolis, Minnesota.
  • ‘A Brewers’ Dozen Round the Bay’, September 1987, p.15. An overview of new breweries in San Francisco.
  • ‘America Needs its Beer Festival’, October 1987, p.11. A defence of the GABF after it was criticised by Vince Cottone and others for sexist marketing, among other offences.
  • ‘Ale Grows Out of the Vineyards’, October 1987, p.11. A survey of new breweries in California.
  • ‘Bottoms Up!’, November 1987, p.13. Aass brewery of Norway and complaints about being misquoted in the Today
  • ‘When A Beer Goes to Sleep’, December 1987, p.15. On aging bottle-conditioned beers such as Lees Harvest Ale.
  • ‘The Underground Movement for a Drop of “Real Malt”’, January 1988, p.11. How whisky appreciation mirrors that of beer, accompanying a review of and blurb for his book about whisky.
  • ‘Frisians Finally Follow the Herd’, February 1988, p.12. A new brewery in the Frisian-Dutch village of Uitwellingerga.
  • ‘New Lager Reaches the Bitter End’, March 1988, p.16. The launch of Christoffel in Roermond, Holland.
  • ‘Talk on the Wild Side’, March 1988, p.16. New beers in the Netherlands and the role of Brettanomyces in old British beer styles.
  • ‘Learning the Beer Quintessentials’, April 1988, p.13. On running beer tasting events.
  • ‘Trying to Find a Pearl of Truth in Oyster Stout’, May 1988, p.15. On the history and mythology of the style.
  • ‘Peering into Porter’s Dark Past’, June 1988, p.12. On the history of porter and with comments on the Durden Park Brewing Circle.
  • ‘Oh, Mr Porter, What a To-Do!’, July 1988, p.17. On the revival of porter and a comparative tasting hosted at The White Horse.
  • ‘Anchors Up and Away’, August 1988, p.13. A profile of Anchor Steam.
  • ‘Foaming the West Frontier’, September 1988, p.17. An overview of the boom in breweries on the US West Coast and Northern California especially.
  • ‘Drinking With Angels, Back Home in Pasadena’, October 1988, p.12. An overview of new breweries in Los Angeles and the surrounding areas.
  • ‘Beer Breeze Blows in the Windy City’, November 1988, p.11. An overview of new breweries in Chicago.
  • ‘Judy’s Pub’, December 1988, p.11. A whimsical full-page profile of the New Lyon’s Brewery, Dublin, California.

What’s Brewing was also the title of a short-lived CAMRA magazine published with a view to the mass-market between 1980-1981. Articles by Michael Jackson appeared in all three issues.

  • ‘The Hit and Myth Drink’, Issue No. 1, Summer 1980, pp.21-23. A critique of British-brewed lager.
  • ‘Imperial Adventure’, Issue No. 2, Winter 1980-81, pp.9-11. An overview of the history and character of imperial stout.
  • ‘A Matter of Taste’, Issue No. 3, Spring 1981, pp.30-32. About the brewing industry research centre at Nutfield.

7 replies on “Michael Jackson’s Writing for CAMRA 1977-1988”

I think it was the Independent that he had a regular Saturday column in, but that was later (early 90s), iirc.

Yes, and those are fairly well catalogued on the official Beer Hunter website. Before 1989 or thereabouts, the bibliography runs dry.

Excellent! I actually don’t think more than two minutes a month about the man so I am sure I have many poorer habits but this is fabulous. Many myths, I’m sure, would be dispelled from the actual reading as we’ve seen with his original construct of style – plus the “booth babes” thing.. That second article looks very interesting. How could the US fall in love with ale years before the advent of the 1980s. Can you scan it? Is it about imports?

“I actually don’t think more than two minutes a month about the man…”

Ha — this sounds like someone denying they are still hung up on an ex!

‘Fall in love’ is too strong. He says it might only be a ‘straw in the wind’ but that the popularity of Genesee had some speculating about the possibility of an ale revival across the US. He goes on to talk about other old school US breweries still producing ales and then mentions New Albion and Anchor.

What’s Brewing was unfortunately always running stories about how ‘[COUNTRY X] GETS THE ALE BUG!’ based on not much evidence and wishful thinking but, in this case, Jackson was right, wasn’t he?

Interesting. Domestic ales. In the 1977 original edition he is quite keen on Canadian ales. And it’s not so much Jackson as those who reference him without citation, quotation or anything resembling a stab at accuracy. And then adopt what they form out of his image and attach it to their own reputation, an odd sort of career advancement.

Even though he is writing for a CAMRA publication, you can track the development of the American Micro-Beer scene. Michael Jackson was one of the greatest influences on the American “craft” beer scene.

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