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Garrett Oliver Unites Brewing Industry in Pioneering ‘Brewing for Impact’ Initiative

Garrett Oliver
Emma Wargolet

For more than 30 years, Garrett Oliver has been a pioneer in the brewing industry, both in his brewing and his commitment to social change. His focus on innovation in the craft beer movement has led to national recognition and a James Beard Award. Having been with Brooklyn Brewery for 30 years this year, Oliver is proud to announce the “Brewing for Impact” campaign. This initiative launches a worldwide collaboration with breweries, spotlighting the ancient West African grain fonio, and is rooted in Oliver’s belief that beer can unite people, cultures and traditions. In highlighting fonio and its adaptability, Brewing for Impact is able to emphasize the idea that the future of brewing can have a focus on sustainability and social awareness.

Showcasing Oliver’s influence in the beer world, he has reached out to a diverse group of breweries across the world. This includes Maison Kalao from Senegal, Thornbridge from the United Kingdom, Omnipollo from Sweden, Carlsberg from Denmark, Russian River from the United States, Jing-A from China, and Guinness; and of course, Brooklyn Brewery. Each brewery will be brewing a unique beer made with the aforementioned fonio, a grain that has thrived in West Africa for more than 5,000 years.

Oliver pioneered fonio brewing in 2019, and looks to bring attention to the versatile grain and its ability to be the focus of great beer. His exploration with fonio was inspired by Chef Pierre Thiam, the esteemed Senegalese chef behind Yolele. This food company has been central to bringing fonio to the Western world; and was key to helping Oliver see the potential of fonio. Not only does this millet grain taste delicious, it provides a way for brewers to be more sustainable and support rural African communities.

Garrett Oliver: https://www.instagram.com/p/C4a-1VgLe57/?img_index=1

The significant contributions that Africa as a continent has provided the beer world often goes unnoticed, and Oliver aims to correct that. He explains, “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 for thousands of smallholder farms in West Africa, which are predominantly female-led…all while making some really fantastic beers. What more can you ask for?”

Announced at the Craft Brewers Conference, this global campaign will be rolled out throughout the year. It will be a series of limited edition beers spotlighting fonio and the potential this grain has to encourage change. The series of “Brewing for Impact” limited release beers will also donate a portion of proceeds to The Michael James Jackson Foundation for Brewing and Distilling, an organization that Oliver founded. Providing scholarships for BIPOC within the brewing and distilling trades, you can learn more about this great organization here. The collaborations (listed in order of release) are:

    • April – Maison Kalao (Senegal): The”Brooklyn A Dakar” Pilsner is the latest from a newer lineage of fonio beers at Maison Kalao, initiated after witnessing Oliver’s innovative use of the grain grown in their own country. 

    • May – Thornbridge (UK): Thornbridge Brewery introduces the world’s first Pale Ale – Cask Beer made with fonio. This blend of tradition and innovation celebrates a 15-year friendship, rooted in Oliver’s admiration for British cask ale, the tradition that sparked his brewing career.

    • June – Omnipollo (Sweden): “Blacker Chocolate Stout” reimagines the first beer Oliver ever brewed for Brooklyn Brewery – “Black Chocolate Stout” – with a focus on fonio’s sustainability. 

    • July – Carlsberg Laboratory (Denmark): The launch of a 100% fonio beer is a collaboration with Carlsberg Research Lab, showcasing both Carlsberg’s and Garrett’s enthusiasm for pioneering sustainable brewing practices and exploring fonio’s potential in new frontiers of beer.

    • August – Russian River (US): Fonio Belgian blonde ale emerges from the deep friendship between Garrett and the owners of Russian River, Vinnie and Natalie Cilurzo, and their shared commitment to excellence coupled with a desire to explore being more sustainable in brewing.

    • September – Brooklyn Brewery (US): Brooklyn Brewery adds to its impressive fonio beer lineup with a new pale ale brewed with fonio, embodying the “Brewing for Impact” ethos and Oliver’s continued innovation with the grain. 

    • October – Jing-A (China): A West Coast IPA made with fonio underscores a unique connection between Oliver and Jing-A – who first introduced Garrett to Beijing’s brewing culture – while exploring the historical significance of native grains like fonio. 

    • November – Guinness (US): “Fonio Stout” will highlight Garrett’s long-time adoration and respect for the iconic brand – who have deep roots in Africa and around the world – and reflects his personal ties to Ireland—both a major source of inspiration throughout his brewing career.

 


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