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The 42 best beers in the world, circa 1982

Michael Jackson Pocket Guide to Beer - 1982When somebody talks about “MJ’s list of best beers” do you think about the latest offering from Men’s Journal or one from Michael Jackson?

Me too.

Working on another project I recently hauled out his first Pocket Guide to Beer, published in 1982 and opened enough times since that the 18 pages containing Guinness through Anchor keep falling out.

This was the only pocket guide where Jackson used a 5-star rating. In following editions the highest was 4. In essence, each 5-star beer in this edition was a best of breed, so Zum Uerige Altbier represents that style, Westmalle Tripel that one, etc. (More about this at the bottom.)

Just for fun, here are the 42 beers that Jackson awarded 5 stars. (He also gave all 12 traditional Lambic brewers in the Senne Valley 5 stars “for dedication to an elusive craft,” adding “their products vary according to the good years and the bad, a greater discrimination would be illogical.”)

Czech Republic
Pilsner Urquell

Germany
Jever Pilsner
Einbecker Ur-Bock
Dortmunder Kronen Export
Zum Uerige Altbier
Kulminator 28 Urtyp Hell
Hofbräuhaus Maibock
Hofbräuhaus Edel-Weizen
Paulaner Urtyp
Paulaner Salvator
Schlenkerla Märzen
Spaten Dunkel Export
Spaten Ur-Märzen
Weihenstephan Weizenbock
Kindl Berliner Weisse

Belgium
Duvel
Liefmans Goudenband Speciaal Provisie
Rodenbach
Rodenbach Grand Cru
Westmalle Tripel
Hoegaards Wit
Saison Dupont
Chimay Red
Chimay Blue
Orval

Britain and Ireland
Brakspear’s Pale Ale
Courage Imperial Russian Stout
Fuller’s ESB
Gales Prize Old Ale
Whitbread Gold Label
Mackeson
Marston’s Pedigree
Marston’s Owd Roger
Highgate Mild
Thomas Hardy’s Ale
Belhaven 80/-
Traquair House
Guinness Extra Stout (Britain and Ireland)
Guinness Foreign Extra Stout

France
Jenlain

United States
Anchor Steam

Australia
Cooper’s Sparkling Ale

In the introduction Jackson explained a beer rated 5 stars was “a world classic either because it has outstanding complexity and distinction or because it is the definitive example of its style, and no matter whether everyone is capable of appreciating it; some people probably don’t like first-growth Bordeaux, either.”

In later editions he introduced the star ratings by making it clear they compared beers within a region to each other. For this first one, he wrote, “The whole scale of ratings in the German section tends to be high because all beers in that country are of what must be recognized internationally as a particularly good quality.”

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13 Responses to The 42 best beers in the world, circa 1982

  1. SteveH October 23, 2007 at 5:25 am #

    “Spaten Ur-Märzen”

    *sniff* Makes me long for the old days.

    Though in ’82, I’m sure the only beers on this list I was at all familiar with were Guinness Extra and EKU 28.

  2. Stonch October 23, 2007 at 6:55 am #

    Sad to see how many of those beers have become so dreadfully mediocre since then.

  3. SteveH October 23, 2007 at 9:40 am #

    Maybe they were always mediocre, but our palates have advanced?

    I still enjoy Salvator and Schlenkerla, had a nice Jenlain and Fullers ESB not so long ago, but yes — the above mentioned Spaten Märzen has disappointed this year and Whitbread doesn’t turn my head as it used to.

  4. Stan Hieronymus October 23, 2007 at 10:26 am #

    Maybe they were always mediocre, but our palates have advanced?

    Steve, I don’t think so.

    In the second edition in 1986 Jackson demoted 15 beers (and didn’t rate two others) that had received the top rating, while promoting 5 to the top rating.

  5. SteveH October 23, 2007 at 1:13 pm #

    “In the second edition in 1986 Jackson demoted 15 beers.”

    Wow.

  6. Stonch October 24, 2007 at 6:18 am #

    “Whitbread doesn’t turn my head as it used to”

    Hardly surprising, considering Whitbread no longer brews – they’re a hotel/restaurant holding company these days. I don’t know who owns the rights to use the Gold Label brand anymore, but it isn’t the same beer.

  7. SteveH October 24, 2007 at 11:31 am #

    “Hardly surprising, considering Whitbread no longer brews.”

    See, that’s how long it’s been since it lost my attention! It was one of the first English beers I’d ever tried — a novelty at that. Though the best I can recall its impression was: different. And that was probably due to inexperience with beer styles, but still — I never really sought it out after too long.

  8. ToddA October 24, 2007 at 12:47 pm #

    I like to think about those German beers back in ’82. I bet they were awesome. Ditto on Hoegaards Wit… Too bad most are not like they were. I think there has been a little dumbing down in general and as palettes become more refined….

    ToddA

  9. Stan Hieronymus October 24, 2007 at 1:57 pm #

    Todd, I don’t have to tell you there are still some great beers in Franconia, perhaps not all that different than the Munich brewers produced in the 1980s.

    Not that we should use IBUs to measure the “character” of a beer, but Munich brewers don’t hide the fact that have cut back in the last 20 years.

  10. tony soetaert November 9, 2007 at 6:09 am #

    some pretty good beers then, and for the most part still good today.

  11. L4Lutefisk November 10, 2007 at 8:13 pm #

    Where are the eisbocks??? A shame!

  12. Once Young Stanley November 13, 2007 at 5:40 pm #

    In days gone by beer was carefully crafted and brewed with the beer drinker firmly in mind. No longer. Today beer is marketed with the stockholder and only the stockholder in mind. Many of the absolute classic brews are now subject to the “new and improved” mentality. “Let us look into ‘shortcuts’; see how we can produce it more quickly – at lower cost. It’s called ‘progress’! Sure, we’ll have to let a lot of the workforce go; it’s called ‘down-sizing’, everybody’s doing it. The stockholders are demanding higher profits”.

  13. Hoppy Jeff November 18, 2007 at 11:41 am #

    How many American beers could compete back then? Sierra & Anchor only. The Craft Industry rules now. Rogue still brews like it’s a sport not a business. Same as many other Small U.S. breweries. We had the taste before prohabition. It faded because everyone had to home brew. The average man made quick cheep beer. We have recovered ! !

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