A Beer Footnote

April 15, 2006

When I started putting my writing up on the Web, I thought of my beer articles only at the tail end of things. Everything else seemed more important. But today, 15 of the 20 most visited pages on my site are pieces about beer. My history of malt liquor — which, not surprisingly, is the only history of malt liquor — leads the way, garnering about 1500 hits a month. I’ve written about beer since 1973; Mike Greenstein gave me my first forum in the Syracuse New Times, and over the years I’ve written for Zymurgy, The New Brewer, Great Lakes Brewing News, the wonderful people at All About Beer, and even the Saturday morning men’s group at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church who sat spellbound while I spoke about “The Beers of Martin Luther.” Because of all this, I was aware of a modest amount of name recognition among a very small group, perhaps 100 people scattered all over who do nothing but drink, brew and read about beer all day.

But nothing prepared me for a recent note from my nephew in Japan. He had told me he was attending a beer festival and Michael Jackson, the author of The World Guide to Beer and many other books on beer and single malt whiskey, was going to attend. I first met Michael in 1985 at the Great American Beer Festival; we kept in touch, and I had the good fortune to be his minder/chauffeur when he visited Syracuse in 1996. He’s a delightful guy. So I asked Sean to say hello for me.

Sean writes, “One story I need to share with you is from the Tokyo Real Ale Festival, which was great fun. I was talking to Dan who is the head brewer at the Hitachino Brewery in Ibaragi, north of Tokyo. He mentioned how Michael Jackson was rumored to be attending but wasn’t actually there and I commented that that was a shame because I’d come all prepared with a name to drop as Michael has met my uncle on a few occasions.

Dan, curious, inquired, “Who’s your uncle?” When I said your name, his face lit up. “Holy shit! You’re Kihm Winship’s nephew!” He was grinning ear to ear and shook my hand (again). Needless to say, the man is an admirer of your writings. Thanks for helping me seem cool in the eyes of a fine brewer.”

I of course told Sean he was very welcome. I still can’t think of this without smiling.

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