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No, Brooklyn Brewery brewmaster and internationally acclaimed beer expert Garrett Oliver will not be putting on patent leather shoes and moonwalking across the stage at National Geographic’s Grosvener Auditorium next week. But Oliver will be filling the large beer-and whiskey-stained shoes of a different Michael Jackson, the one responsible for turning beer into the artisanal pursuit it has become all over the world today.
Next Tuesday, May 18, is the annual National Geographic Society beer seminar (you may remember last year). The series, which is co-sponsored each year by The Brickskeller, has been hosted by Garrett Oliver for the past four years but was started by the late “Beer Hunter” Michael Jackson. From the publishing of his original beer bible The World Guide to Beer in 1977 to the last day of his struggle with Parkinson’s disease in summer 2007 and all the travel, tastings, and writing in between, Jackson was indisputably the world’s foremost authority on beer.
Unfortunately for beer fans without tickets, this year’s seminar, which will focus on the “New Beers of Scandinavia,” is sold out. Luckily for beer fans both with and without tickets, the Lagerheads had the chance to speak with Garrett Oliver about the National Geographic Society series, Scandinavian beer, and a few other worthy topics last month. Today’s blog is first in a handful of NGS event warm-up posts based on our conversation with him. Enjoy!
LH: You’re doing the same series of National Geographic events that Michael Jackson did. That seems like a natural choice. How and when did you start doing them?
GO: It’s my fourth year. Michael was a very good friend. I think that he thought also that I would be a natural choice. I spoke at Michael’s funeral. His partner, Patty, she said, “I want to make sure that Garrett gives one of the eulogies because I know he will do a great job,” which was very touching. I really take it seriously, since this was something that Michael made into an institution. It’s something that I really think is special, and if I can help it remain special that is what I’m trying to do.
LH: Many hold you in as high, or nearly as high, regard as Michael Jackson when it comes to knowledge and passion for beer, but how do you feel about filling his shoes?
GO: I don’t think anybody can ever really fill Michael’s shoes. It’s going to take a lot of us to fill in and carry on what he did. One thing I said at his funeral is that he basically invented a country and then gathered up all the people into it and became a benevolent king of a country that he invented almost from scratch. That’s something I don’t think anybody is going to do anymore. But what we can do is the main thing that he did, which is to go out there and show people brand new things to like, brand new things to enjoy everyday. If we can do that, I think that we’ll be carrying on his legacy. I’m really pleased that Natinoal Geographic had been doing this in the past and they continue to want to do this program. I think that obviously craft beer is just becoming a bigger and bigger part of life not only here but in many other countries. So it’s a natural thing to have going on and I’m just glad to be a part of it.
A movie about Michael Jackson’s life, Beer Hunter, is set to release this fall. Proceeds from the film will benefit the National Parkinson’s Foundation. Check out the trailer: