A Walleye's Eyes

 

TABLEHOPPING

MICHAEL JACKSON'S MAIL CARRIER: I was leafing through Michael Jackson's latest book, Ultimate Beer (Dorling Kindersley, $29.95). This really is the ultimate beer drinker's lazy-afternoon picture book. It breaks down beers by styles--Golden Lager, Pilsner Lager, Porter, Dry Stout, Christmas Ale, Dortmunder Export, etc.--and shows them four to a page, in their bottles and poured, along with tasting notes and little nuggets of brewery or brew-style history. It's so perfect because it provides you with exactly as much reading as you'd ever want to do while sipping on the couch, and it's also got a very good index in case you care to geek out at the liquor store, which I've been known to do.

Location Info

Map

Tavern On Grand

656 Grand Ave.
St. Paul, MN 55105

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: Macalester/Groveland

Anyhoo, leafing through the book and marveling at all the drinking yet to be done, it occurred to me that I have some sort of purchase on food-writing legitimacy, and I wonder if... And wouldn't you know, he picked up the phone. Michael Jackson, the world's foremost beer authority, author of beer encyclopedias, star of the television series The Beer Hunter, was but one costly call away.

Shocked as all get-out, I asked him about something that's puzzled me forever: How Budweiser, the Anheuser-Busch product, could allow another beer to use its name--Budweiser Budvar, a Czech brew found on page 153 of Ultimate Beer. He explained that the city of Budvar, or Budweis, in Bohemia, has been famous for its beer since the 1200s, and that when Adolphus Busch named his beer "Budweiser" he was taking advantage of an already well-known name that connoted quality, sort of like you would name your restaurant "Tuscany" or your wine "Champagne." The duplicate name didn't cause much trouble when the Czech and American Budweisers were separated by the Iron Curtain. But ever since Budvar's two breweries--Budweiser Bürgerbräu, founded in 1795, and Budweiser Budvar, founded in 1895--began competing in the modern world, Anheuser-Busch has been alternately trying to sue them and buy them out. Neither worked, so now the various Budweisers have to learn to coexist. Not that it matters, says Jackson: Bud will always be Bud, while the other two brews are known (by a lot fewer people) as Bürgerbräu and Budvar.

Speaking of Budweiser, I babbled on, how is it possible that the world could be gaining more and more microbrews, while at the same time Budweiser expands to the point of becoming omnipresent in places with fine native brews, like Ireland, Japan, and Italy? Jackson theorized that the world is developing into "parallel universes," and that one universe's beer is getting "ever smaller, ever more tasty, and ever more local," while the other's becomes "ever more the same."

Which is funny, because that that's what I think about agriculture: That the upper classes are eating ever more organic, closely supervised, naturally and ethically raised chickens, wheat, carrots, etc., while the rest of the people are left with ever less-regulated, chemical-laced, irradiated and fumigated and otherwise abused food.

But an awareness of parallel universes is probably about all Jackson and I have in common. No one, to my unending chagrin, sends me six-packs in the mail; Jackson says that while working on this book he had 1,500 separate beers around his London office--in six-packs, cases, gallon jugs and 40-ounce bottles. While researching his last whiskey book, he says he got more than 500 bottles over the transom. So I'm putting that in my little black book. Best job in the world: beer and whiskey authority. Worst job: beer and whiskey authority's letter carrier.

I was so awestruck after talking to Jackson--he's got this deep, rolling, British voice you could wade through--that I raced right over to www.beerhunter.com, his Web site, and read his recent diaries from beer-tasting trips. Minnesota-wise he has good things to say about Minnetonka's Sherlock's Home "which has, for my money, the best cask-conditioned ale in the United States." About St. Paul's Summit Brewing Company, whose India Pale Ale left him "dazzled by its balance of oily maltiness and earthy hoppiness," and the Minneapolis Town Hall Brewery on Seven Corners, whose Bitter "combined a smooth maltiness, orangey fruitiness and hoppy dryness; well-balanced but bitter enough to justify its stylistic description." Ah, the malty oiliness of it all--doesn't it just make you want to mail the guy a beer?

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