Brewing For Impact: Celebrating Brewmaster Garrett Oliver’s 30th Anniversary


Brewing For Impact: Celebrating Brewmaster Garrett Oliver’s 30th Anniversary

Three decades ago, Garrett Oliver took the rank of Brewmaster here at the Brooklyn Brewery. The early days included designing the brewhouse in our Williamsburg home; introducing the world to the legendary Black Chocolate Stout and steadfast East IPA; and adding his explosive energy to the craft beer revolution.

Garrett’s achievements and innovations have scored the years and decorated the walls of our office. He was the first brewer to win a James Beard Award. He wrote The Brewmaster’s Table and is editor-in-chief of The Oxford Companion To Beer, both essential reading for any beer enthusiast. He is an agent of social change within the industry and beyond.

There have been medals, parties, and iconic beers – and a few legends about him being hundreds of years old, and a social media presence for his hat. That’s another story.

To celebrate his 30th anniversary at the helm, Garrett is proud to unveil “Brewing For Impact,” an initiative that celebrates his enduring influence while embarking on a collaborative exploration with seven breweries worldwide to spotlight the ancient West African grain fonio – and its untapped brewing potential.

Garrett’s brewing interest in fonio began in 2019, inspired by a TED talk from esteemed Senegalese Chef Pierre Thiam. Chef Thiam’s pioneering food company, Yolélé, played a pivotal role in introducing fonio to the western world. Known as “the seed of the universe,” fonio has been cultivated in West Africa for over 5,000 years.

Fonio thrives in the nutrient-poor soil near the Sahel Desert where other crops often fail, growing without fertilizers or pesticides to deliver a uniquely delicious grain. It buoys the largely woman-owned family farms in the region, and supports soil regeneration that gives back to other crops.

When we asked Garrett about Brewing For Impact’s focus on fonio, he explained: “In some ways, Brewing For Impact is the most important work I’ve ever done. If what we’ve started truly catches hold in the industry, we will hopefully start seeing the wider use of a grain that has no need for irrigation, fertilizers, pesticides, or other chemical inputs. It also supports soil regeneration while providing a vital source of income to smallholder farms, which are predominantly female-led – all while making some really fantastic beers. What more can you ask for?”

Garrett is teaming up with seven breweries to release limited edition beers throughout 2024, all showcasing fonio’s remarkable qualities and potential to drive positive change in the world. The breweries include old comrades, new friends, and lots of delicious ideas:

  • Maison Kalao
    Dakar, Senegal
    Releasing April 2024
    Inspired by Garrett’s early work with fonio, Maison Kalao founder Raphaël Hilarion created his own line of fonio beers to bring more awareness to the grain in its homeland. He and Garrett collaborated on Brooklyn A Dakar Pilsner to create a fonio-forward lager that’s beautifully refreshing and perfect for the Senegalese climate.
  • Thornbridge Brewery
    Bakewell, Derbyshire, United Kingdom
    Releasing May 2024
    Garrett first fell in love with beer in pubs, drinking pints of traditional British cask ale. He and the Thornbridge team, led by Head Brewer Rob Lovatt, will blend tradition, innovation, and more than 15 years of friendship to produce a fonio-driven cask beer.
  • Omnipollo
    Stockholm, Sweden
    Releasing June 2024
    When brewer Henok Fentie and artist Karl Grandin founded Omnipollo, they shared a common love of Brooklyn Brewery: Henok was deeply inspired by Garrett’s Black Chocolate Stout, and Karl revered the work of Milton Glaser, the renowned designer behind our logo. Now Garrett and the Omnipollo team will reimagine the original recipe with fonio’s remarkable flavor to create Blacker Chocolate Stout, highlighting the supergrain’s versatility and sustainable growth.
  • Carlsberg
    Copenhagen, Denmark
    Releasing July 2024
    Carlsberg is one of the most instantly recognizable beers in the world – and longtime friends and co-conspirators of Garrett and the entire Brooklyn crew. Together with Garrett, they will create a 100% fonio beer to showcase sustainable brewing practices and explore fonio’s potential in new frontiers of beer.
  • Russian River Brewery
    Santa Rosa, California, United States
    Releasing August 2024
    Russian River Brewery owners Vinnie and Natalie Cilurzo are longtime friends and collaborators of Garrett’s, swapping knowledge – and sometimes, tankers of experimental beer – across the US. They will create a Belgian blonde ale to celebrate fonio, their shared commitment to excellence, and sustainable brewing practices.
  • Brooklyn Brewery
    Brooklyn, New York, United States
    Releasing September 2024
    It’s not a world tour without a hometown stop. Garrett and the Brooklyn Brewery team will draw on their previous fonio experiments to create a tasty new pale ale to embody the Brewing For Impact ethos and continue innovating with the supergrain.
  • Jing-A Brewing Co.
    Beijing, China
    Releasing October 2024
    Jing-A is a standard bearer of the surging Beijing brewing scene and one of Garrett’s home bases when he travels to China. Garrett and the Jing-A team, led by founders Kris Li and Alex Acker, will put a fonio-powered spin on the classic West Coast IPA style and release it just in time for Jing-A’s landmark 8×8 Festival, a gathering of local and international brewers to collaborate and celebrate.
  • Guinness
    USA & Ireland
    Releasing November 2024

    Guinness is renowned for its deep history in Ireland and Africa alike – and also happens to be one of Garrett’s longtime favorite “off the clock” beers. They will produce Guinness Fonio Stout, an innovative twist on one of Guinness’ most revered styles.

These Brewing For Impact collaborations will highlight fonio’s adaptability and its role in creating a brewing future centered on sustainability, community, and social awareness. They celebrate Garrett’s contributions to beer and the communities around it, and encourage the brewing industry as a whole to push forward.

Brewing For Impact will also support The Michael James Jackson Foundation for Brewing and Distilling, an organization founded by Garrett. The Foundation provides scholarships and mentorship for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) within the brewing and distilling trades, and has already awarded dozens of scholarships. A portion of the proceeds from each Brewing For Impact collaboration beer will be donated to the Foundation to help continue their mission.

There will be more to come about these releases, fonio, and Garrett’s work. Until then, join us in toasting our Brewmaster, and to the bright future ahead.