Follow beer writer, Troy Burtch, as he explores the wonderful world of craft beer and the pubs that serve it. Great Canadian Beer is a place to come to catch up on beer news, read tasting notes, check out event listings, and for pub previews and reviews.


Monday, September 22, 2008

The English Pub: Michael Jackson

The English Pub: A Unique Social Phenomenon

This is not a new book. In fact it's very old.

I was walking down Queen Street East when I stumbled into a small, un-organized, used book shop with a name I can't begin to remember and I came across this fabulous read by the late Michael Jackson. I have always wanted to purchase this book but it has been incredibly hard to find and expensive, if going the on-line route. You can buy a copy for $129.31 on!

Well I was luckier than that. I only paid $15 and twenty minutes later I was sitting in my favourite chair flipping the colourful pages with a Brakspear 'Double Drop' Bitter by my side.

This was Jackson's first of many books and was published in 1976 at the time when the UK pub business was stagnant and just years after Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) was organized. The 170 pages contain beautifully written material on everything from the history of the pub, to pub signs to pub games and all the good stuff in between. Jackson wrote from the heart, which is both aspiring and inspirational to a pub loving person such as myself. I jumped chapter to chapter, turning pages and admiring the photographs of some of Jackson beloved pubs.

Jackson wrote about how the pub has influenced British culture in both the large metropolitan cities and the country-side villages. Each place craving out a niche that is unique in their own right. He paints a picture of their importance in British society as he quotes, "In the country especially, the pub is an organic part of the community," and he discusses how other countries have their cafes, dark bars and seedy booze shacks, but the English own the pubs. "When England presents itself to the world at large, the images usually include a pub," Jackson states in the last chapter , The Living Local: Social Changes in the Pub.

However, with the success and popularity of the storied English pub, has come imitators the world over, along with fake Irish pubs. These fake pubs have brought with them full food menu's and place an importance on the gastronomic nature of their being. This pleases a many of pub patrons in today's society and I enjoy gastropubs myself; however, I, as well as Jackson, appreciate that the availability of food should not blemish the drinking.

"Pub is a three-letter word that serves so many purposes"

The world's most famous beer author ends the English Pub with words that should be forever etched in stone and words that I strongly believe in - "Those who love the institution will continue to investigate it. Because no two pubs are the same, the search can never reach a conclusion. Therein lies its joy."

It has been just over a year since Jackson passed away from a heart attack after battling Parkinson's disease for many years, and reading The English Pub for the first time I felt I developed a better understanding of the man who opened the doors for serious beer writers across the world. And to that I raise my glass.

* I also found an original copy of Jackson's Beers of the World in near perfect condition at the same store - $10.


Frank said...

I bought the same book, differant cover picture, a couple of weeks ago at Value Village for $5.99!
Michael Jackson's "Beer Companion" was the first book to introduce me to the world of beer. I enjoyed it, and I look forward to reading "The English Pub".

Anonymous said...

lucky find indeed. I am jealous and impressed.

Good seeing you at the CBA soiree.


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