Good Beer Hunting

A little bad news for all the page skimmers who just screeched to a halt: No. Michael Jackson, the all-singing, all-dancing pop star and plastic surgery poster child is not coming to town. No Thriller, no Tito, no Bubbles the chimp. So if you're looking for news on Lisa Marie reunions, hit the supermarket tabloid racks.

The good news for rabid beer fans is that the other Michael Jackson -- England's barrel-bellied big man and a globetrotting whiskey authority -- will be in town next weekend for an in-depth look at the brews of Texas.

Known by his well-franchised pseudonym (The Beer Hunter), Jackson is a British journalist and book author known for his exhaustive knowledge of international beer and Scottish whisky cultures. His previous books -- including The New World Guide to Beer and The World Guide to Whiskey -- have earned him the reputation as the most educated writer in the business, and his newest tome, Ultimate Beer (DK Publishing, $29.95), continues the tradition. He has also managed to translate his expertise into a BBC television series and CD-ROMs for wired brew aficionados. With a nose for drink and feet for walking, Jackson has cataloged the width and breadth of malt from Amsterdam to New Zealand.

Over the past few years, Austinites have had the chance to see Jackson in action through a nearly yearly series of Tutored Tastings, sponsored by local brewstore St. Patrick's of Texas. In years past, Jackson has led willing audiences through multi-shot samplings of global ales or Scottish single malts -- narrated (of course) by the encyclopedic man himself.

This year, Jackson's weekend appearances will include both a tutored beer tasting on Saturday, May 16, and a more formal sit-down luncheon the following day. And during both of these events, the all-drinking Jackson will focus exclusively on local expressions of the brewer's art. (Disappointed whisky fans will have to wait until next year.)

The tutored beer tasting takes place at 2pm in St. Patrick's brand new retail space, just south of Pflugerville at 1828 Fleischer Drive. Jackson will lead a group of 120 through a selection of Texas' finest beers to see how local brews stack up to offerings from other beer-producing regions. The event will be held in conjunction with St. Pat's grand opening, which runs from 2-6pm Saturday. When he's not waxing poetic about Great State Ales, Jackson will be signing books and pressing flesh with his always bubbly fan base. The few remaining tickets will be available for a price of $15. For more information, tickets, or specific directions, call St. Patrick's at 832-9045.

On Sunday, the intrepid Hunter will hold court at Austin's Bitter End for a more structured beer dinner. The six-course meal will match the beersof Bitter End brewmaster Tim Schwartz with the cuisine of new chef Matthew Shipman. Among the beers showcased will be the flavorful Prescott's Wee Heavy, the strong Scottish-style ale that won a gold medal at the 1998 Great American Beer Festival. The nine-beer tasting will also include offerings from Celis and Live Oak breweries. Tickets for this afternoon event (scheduled for 4pm) are limited and are available at the restaurant or St. Patrick's for $65. Call the Bitter End at 478-2337 for additional info. --Pableaux Johnson

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