Beer Edge

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Garrett Oliver, long-time Brewmaster at the Brooklyn Brewery, discusses the Michael Jackson Foundation, his upbringing in Hollis, Queens, and why his brewery has never had a black applicant for a brewing job.

Show Notes

Garrett Oliver has been on a bit of a media blitz in recent months following his announcement of the formation of the Michael Jackson Foundation for Brewing and Distilling. The foundation, as you will hear, will fund technical education and career advancement opportunities for black, indigenous, and people of color in the brewing and distilling industries. Oliver is obviously well-known as the long-time Brewmaster of the Brooklyn Brewery. And in that role he has seen the beer industry change and evolve in amazing ways. He’s also seen it stay the same in some troubling others. 

Oliver stands in a unique position in the craft beer industry at this point in time. In one sense, he is a statesman for flavorful beer, one of its longtime and most popular advocates. He is a renowned author, a frequent speaker and teacher at events around the globe, and a James Beard award winner. In another, he is routinely one of the only Black people to be found at industry events, even those that have thousands of attendees. Lately, Oliver has been ruminating on the topic and he has a lot to say. 

During his many recent media interviews, Oliver has frequently noted that in his decades at Brooklyn, he had never had a black person apply for a brewing job there. At first, the line strikes you as a bit shocking. But after a few moments of reflection, you start to winder, “How is that possible?” Never had a single application? How did Brooklyn Brewery, located in one of the most diverse places on earth, let that go on for so long? It’s a question that Oliver is still grappling with and he discusses the issue at length in this interview. He also grapples with the criticism that his high standards, which require a formal brewing education for brew side staff, has served as a restrictive force, an act of gate keeping that kept out Black applicants. And while you will hear him contemplate the subject, you’re not going to hear him apologize for reaching for excellence in his staffing. 

In this interview, Oliver takes us all the way back to the beginning, talking about his upbringing in Hollis, Queens, and where he developed his special relationship with food. We also discuss the state of beer journalism, his thoughts on Dave Infante’s article on Black people in the beer industry that we discussed on last week’s podcast, and his plans for the Michael Jackson Foundation.

For more information on the Beer Edge Podcast, or to check out Beer Edge: The Newsletter for Beer Professionals, follow us on Twitter @thebeeredge and subscribe to our beer industry focused newsletter. There is more information, articles, and engaging content at Beer Edge.
  • Hosts: Andy Crouch
  • Guests: Garrett Oliver
  • Tags: beer, craft beer, Garrett Oliver, Michael Jackson Foundation. beer journalism, Dave Infante, Brooklyn Brewery

What is Beer Edge?

A weekly dive into the business and culture of beer. Hosted by Andy Crouch and John Holl, The Beer Edge podcast provides listeners with unparalleled insights into the beer industry. Our mission is to provide consumers and industry players alike with a fresh and unfiltered look at the world of better, flavorful beer. We seek to capture the essence and passion of brewers, both big and small, foreign and domestic, each of whom has a distinctive and colorful story to go along with the beautiful beers they produce.