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Ask Michael

From Bob Kuhn: Could you recommend a guide to the pubs of London? I shall be there at Christmas.

MJ: A handful of the best and most convenient London pubs are listed in my own Simon&Schuster Pocket Guide to Beer. For more details, the paperback Good Beer Guide, published by the Campaign for Real Ale, is unbeatable. In Britain, it can be found in almost any W.H.Smith shop. These stores, selling books, magazines, etc, are in every shopping center. Before making any pilgrimages, phone to the check that the pubs are open over Christmas. Some in business districts may not be. Pubs can close very early in the district Londoners call "The City" (the British counterpart to Wall Street).

If your visit is very brief, remember that the great delights of London are the cask-conditioned ranges of the Young's and Fuller's breweries. Although these are famous names in the U.S., they are both relative small local breweries - in the western neighborhoods of London (Young's south of the river, Fullers on the north side). Their beers are best sampled in the pubs they own. In central London, seek out the hard-to-find Guinea pub (Bruton Place, off the N.E.corner of Berkeley Sq) for Young's; and The Star (6 Belgrave Mews W) for Fuller's. For a wider range of beers, and as good a pint of Bass as can be found, make the trip to The White Horse, off New King's Road (near Parson's Green Underground station).

From Tom Gray: I enjoyed your appearance at Rock Bottom, in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1997. Any chance of your coming to Lansing, Michigan? I am brewing at the Blue Coyote there.

MJ: Several brewers in Michigan have mentioned that I am overdue for a visit there, so perhaps something can be arranged in 1999.

From David Lane: Royal Brand Beer, from The Netherlands, was imported to the U.S. in a white bottle in the 1980s. Whatever happened to it?

MJ: This beer came from The Netherlands' oldest brewery, dating from 1341. The Brand family become involved in 1871, and later became suppliers of beer to the Dutch royal family. The Brands remained in the management after the brewery was acquired by Heineken in the 1980s. In export markets, Heineken tends to emphasize its own products rather than those of its subsidiary companies. The white bottle, based on the company's earlier ceramic flask, contained a pleasantly hoppy, unpasteurised, Pilsener-type. The company's Brand-Up is yet hoppier. As these do not seem to be available in the U.S. at the moment, I suggest you look for Christoffel Blond, imported by All Saints, of Minneapolis. This very hoppy, world-class, Pilsener, is made in a Dutch micro established by a member of the Brand family.

From Michael Michalik: I have managed to collect several (full) bottles of the Burton Ale once made annually by Ballantine, but have yet to sample one. I have been told that they hold up quite well. Any thoughts...

MJ: I sampled a 1950s edition in the late 1970s. It was hazy but otherwise in remarkably good condition, like a very aromatic, hoppy, barley wine. It has been made at the Ballantine brewery in Newark, New Jersey. That brewery produced its own hop oil, which it must have used lavishly. The brewery has long gone, as has Ballantine Burton. The IPA and the regular Ballantine Ale were later made in Providence, Rhode Island; Fort Wayne, Indiana; and the Pabst brewery (now closed) in Milwaukee. Pabst has been making the regular Ale at Heileman, in LaCrosse, Wisconsin. Sample the Burton now, rather than keeping it any longer. If you have a bottle to spare, I would be delighted to have a further taste two decades down the pike. Incidentally, I believe Ballantine Burton was one of Fritz Maytag's inspirations in the creation of his Old Foghorn Barley Wine at the Anchor brewery, in San Francisco.

From Matt, Ed and Brebett: Which do you think is better, Pilsner Urquell (which we know you already endorse) or Whithead?

MJ: I do not make advertising endorsements for any beer, but I have certainly written a lot about Pilsner Urquell. It is the original Pilsner lager and a fine beer, though less characterful of late. I am puzzled by your question concerning Whithead. Is this a mis-typing of Whitbread, a British brewing company that sometimes sends a Pale Ale to the U.S.? Or is it a translation of the Flemish Wittekop, the name of a Belgian-style wheat beer? In either case, the styles would be too different to compare.

From Mike Allisin, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and Carlo Sollazo, in Sydney, Australia: Where can we find Michael Jackson's Beer Hunter® videos?

MJ: carries the set of videos.

From Paul Savage: I enjoy reading your books, but am frustrated when I cannot find some of the Belgian beers your praise.

MJ: I do list several retailers and importers in some of my books, but space is a problem. Also, book publishers are hesitant to run material that may date quickly. If you are interested in specific beers, let me know and I will try to check whether they are available. Or call the Belgian Embassy Trade Department in Washington, D.C.; the Belgian specialist importer Vanberg and Dewulf, of Cooperstown, New York; or log on to the Belgian

From Lars Ulsoe, in Denmark: Keep up the brilliant work, but how about more on Danish beer?

MJ: My book the New World Guide to Beer and the earlier editions of my Pocket Guide have a lot on Carlsberg, but this company has in the last year or two been de-emphasizing its more interesting specialities. On a recent visit to Denmark, I gathered that this policy may change again, for the better. I have also written articles on the Ceres and Faxe breweries, and have an invitation in 1999 to visit Albani. I did recently visit St Clemens, Hancock's, Thisted and the wonderful Refsvindinge brewery, and will be writing about them very soon.

From Steen Karlsson, also in Denmark: Is Michael Jackson The Whisky Writer Dead?

MJ: No. In fact, my World Guide to Whisky and Malt Whisky Companion have both this fall been published in Danish, and will be updated in the future. I have in the past year written six or seven articles on whisky, for the American magazines Wine&Spirits and Wine Enthusiast, the British national newspaper The Independent, the Italian review Slow, and others. I am also a consultant editor to a new British magazine called Whisky ( The Michael Jackson site is first and foremost a beer resource, but we will post some whisky stories if users request them.

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