Brooklyn Brewery Brewmaster Garrett Oliver is widely known for his debonair personal style, his elegant lectures on the history of beer and the art of brewing, his extensive knowledge of movies and literature and his two hats. He is also the brewmaster of Brooklyn Brewery, editor-in-chief of The Oxford Companion to Beer, author of The Brewmaster’s Table and winner of the 2014 James Beard Award for Excellent Wine, Beer or Spirits Professional. He’s a world traveler, snazzy dancer and we’re starting to suspect he doesn’t sleep.
While living in England during a stint as a rock band manager in the early 1980s, Garrett stumbled across real ale in pubs and taprooms that had been pouring the traditional cask-conditioned style for generations. It was the first time Garrett tasted beer that wasn’t “industrial,” as so much American beer was at the time. This new beer was dark, bitter and complex, with just a hint of carbonation laying wisps of bubbles against the side of the glass. It wasn’t long before he began to brew his own beer on his stovetop, taking the first steps down a path that would take him from his filmmaking past and cast him--fortunately for beer drinkers everywhere-- into the world of brewing.
Garrett continued developing his tastes and techniques as a homebrewer, eventually becoming president of the New York City Homebrewer’s Guild. During this tenure he met Steve Hindy, who was attending a Guild meeting in downtown Manhattan. (Steve claims that Garrett was wearing a cape for this meeting, while Garrett maintains it was a French lieutenant’s greatcoat from the late 1800s. This point of debate remains open to this day.) They discussed a recipe Garrett was tinkering with that would later become the award-winning Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout.
The men remained friends and drinking buddies as Garrett left a perfectly respectable banking position in order to brew professionally with now-defunct Manhattan Brewing Company, where he was promoted to brewmaster in 1993. In 1994, Steve approached Garrett with an offer to be the brewmaster at Brooklyn Brewery and help design their planned Williamsburg brewhouse. Garrett signed on, crossing the river to open the new brewhouse and unleash a torrent of new beers offered by the Brooklyn Brewery as year-round releases, treasured seasonals, cult hit limited releases and experimental batches.
In the years since joining the Brooklyn Brewery, Garrett has continued to be a tireless advocate for bringing together great beer and good food, touring the world to introduce countless people to the tastes he loves. Garrett has hosted more than 1,000 beer tastings, dinners, and cooking demonstrations in nearly 20 countries, and writes regularly for beer and food-related periodicals. Over the past twenty years, Garrett has been responsible for many craft beer innovations, such as collaborative brewing, beers based on cocktails, and beer brewed from garapa crushed from freshly-cut sugar cane. He has judged beer competitions from the Great American Beer Fest to the Great British Beer Festival, often pouring his own award-winning beers at the same festivals to get a chance to chat with the legions of beer faithful who now know his name.
In what little time he has left over between his international jaunts and day-to-day brewery operations work in Brooklyn, Garrett has also collaborated on three books. His first book, The Good Beer Book, co-written with Timothy Harper, was published in 1997 by Putnam/Berkley Books. In 2003 he authored The Brewmaster’s Table: Discovering the Pleasures of Real Beer with Real Food, published by HarperCollins Publishers, setting down a charming account of many key components of beer, food and the pairing of the two. His most recent book is The Oxford Companion to Beer (OCB), published in October, 2011 by Oxford University Press. Compiling the vast knowledge of 166 experts in 24 countries and covering 1,120 subjects, The Oxford Companion to Beer is the most comprehensive book ever published on the subject. These books can be found in kitchens, bars and stock rooms around the world.
When he’s not travelling around the world, Garrett can be found striding through the Brooklyn brewhouse overseeing daily operations, developing recipes and pushing the bounds of beer and Brooklyn Brewery. He also has a hand in the operations of our sister breweries, works with Head Brewer Hutch Kugeman at The Brooklyn Brewery at the Culinary Institute of America to develop their beer-based curriculum for the culinary students lucky enough to attend classes in the brewhouse. You can find him on Instagram, Twitter, and holding forth on beer, movies and swords at a watering hole near you.