Brewing For Impact:
Fonio On Cask With Thornbridge


Brewing For Impact:
Fonio On Cask With Thornbridge

Brewing For Impact celebrates Brewmaster Garrett Oliver’s thirty year anniversary at Brooklyn Brewery. Garrett collaborated with seven breweries around the world to showcase fonio, a remarkable West African grain that can light the way towards a sustainable and equitable brewing future. Each collaboration will also support the Michael James Jackson Foundation’s scholarship program for BIPOC brewery and distillery professionals. Learn more about Brewing For Impact here and look for more releases throughout 2024.

When Brewmaster Garrett Oliver called on his old friend and collaborator Jim Harrison, co-founder of Thornbridge Brewery, to brew a fonio beer together, he knew Jim would agree. But he didn’t know Jim would suggest one of the most revered brewing styles to explore the grain: traditional cask beer.

“Cask is the quintessential English way of serving beer,” says Jim. “Specifically in the pub.”

Garrett’s love of cask ale goes back to his days as a rock band manager in the UK, where he first encountered the style while touring pubs and venues. As Jim puts it, “You’re one of those rare beasts in America that understands cask.”

Garrett and Jim’s previous collaborations have zigzagged across styles, blending tradition with innovation. “We were breaking barriers with Jaipur IPA, and Serpent, and Alliance, the barleywine.” Garrett counts off. “Now, it was actually your idea to make this into a cask project.”

The nuance and balance of cask ale is uniquely suited to showcasing fonio’s fruity, sometimes spritzy character. Jim says, “the flavors can be quite delicate, but the beauty of cask beer is that you can really feel the flavor come through.”

“What really excites me is the opportunity to bring British brewing tradition together with this ancient African grain, and create something that’s really new,” adds Garrett.



Over a proper pint, Garrett, Jim, and Thornbridge Head Brewer Rob Lovatt discussed the thousands of years of African brewing tradition meeting the revered British methods in their casks. “It’s really interesting to have a new grain that will add something to our cask beers in particular,” says Rob.

And the impact goes far beyond the brewing. Garrett says, “What’s really great for me, as an African American brewer, is watching how these beers reach into different communities – and people see themselves reflected in these beers.”

Jim agrees: “The world of craft has changed people’s perceptions, with new ingredients and new ideas from the rest of the world. It could do that again.”

Limited release casks of Fonio Pale Ale will be tapped in late May 2024. Follow Garrett and Thornbridge for more on their collaboration, and follow us for more to come from Brewing For Impact.

Looking for more stories and beers from Brewing For Impact? Check out Garrett’s work with Maison Kalao here, and stay tuned for more.