Two titans of specialty imbibing died this past week: Michael Jackson and Alfred Peet. Jackson almost single-handedly ushered in a new appreciation for well-crafted beers in the 1970s, when every was content ignorantly gulping down insipid pilsner. And Peet's obsession with fine coffee began American's love affair with artisinal brew.
(These guys were not wine and spirits expects, I know, but to my mind they were fighting the same fight and contributed greatly to the refined drinking tastes now in evidence in the 50 states.)
Jackson died Aug. 30 in London. During his career, he turned the world on to Belgian's luscious beers and inspired hundreds of microbrewers. Every brew pub you see is part of his legacy.
Peet lent him name to Peet's Coffee, the famed shop he started in Berkeley in the late '60s, around the time Alice Waters was started Chez Panisse. He refused to accept the vile swill Americans then drank as being coffee. He knew all about beans, roasting, brewing, everything, and introduced as many people as he could to his idea of java, including the founders of Starbuck's, who basically stole his ideas and ran with them. Peet's would expand into a chain, too, but never at the rate Starbuck's would.
We owe them both a lot.