Historical Tidbits: The New York Times Reviews “The Beer Hunter,” 1990

I gather today is the anniversary of the death of Michael Jackson. So in that spirit (no pun intended): In August 1990, cable television’s Discovery Channel began airing Michael Jackson’s six-part documentary on beer.(*1)

At the time, Jackson was unknown to most Americans but a reporter for the New York Times wrote a preview of the series. The reporter explained that Jackson’s goal was to answer the question “Why should wine drinkers be esteemed as nobs while beer drinker are put down as slobs?”

The first episode , “The Burgandies of Belgium,” showed Jackson in various Belgian breweries and “emulating the wine know-it-alls” as he “rhapsodiz[ed]” over the “‘three-dimensional exercise” of beer tasting. Jackson, noted the reporter, “is evidently in earnest.”

That first half-hour also featured a multi-course meal in which high-toned food was cooked and paired with equally high-toned beer. The “sedate diners” at the table, noted the Times writer, “bear no resemblance to the guzzlers in American [beer] commercials.” “The lesson of this  foamy journey,” concluded the reporter, “is that  homely beers, no less than delicate wines, require attention in the making and invite pretension in the drinking.”


*1: The Discovery Channel aired the program as “Beer.” It was released on VHS tape as “The Beer Hunter.”

Source: Walter Goodman, “Beer for Slim, Elegant Sophisticates,” New York Times, August 23, 1990, p. C22.


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