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Imbibe 75 People to Watch: Garrett Oliver

Garrett Oliver is a master at juggling jobs and geography. The Brooklyn Brewery brewmaster is an author and a beer judge, canvassing the globe to lead beer dinners and act as ambassador for his brewery’s ales and lagers. His latest role is founder of the Michael James Jackson Foundation for Brewing & Distilling, a nonprofit that funds brewing and distilling scholarships for BIPOC working within those professions. “There’s so much disparity surrounding what it takes to get into these industries,” Oliver says.

He launched the foundation in the wake of last year’s Black Lives Matter protests, seeking to shore up craft beer’s multicultural shortcomings. Over the years at Brooklyn Brewery, the company’s brewhouse employment makeup “looked like diversity,” he says. “We had all these people from a dozen different countries, and it felt very diverse. But there was somebody missing, which was basically us: Americans that don’t come from a European background.”

Education could be the missing link. Brewing by rote is very different from brewing with a scientific foundation. Without that kind of training, an up-and-coming brewer can’t really advance. “As a result, the person has no great possibility of moving ahead in the company,” Oliver says. “I could do one very specific thing that is guaranteed to work.”

He named the foundation after Jackson, the legendary English beer and whisky writer, and launched a GoFundMe campaign that, as of press time, has netted more than $200,000. By the end of March, the foundation will announce the first wave of recipients. Writing a check is great, but Oliver sees mentor support as integral to achieving the ultimate objective. “The product of the foundation is the success of our awardees,” Oliver says.

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