Garrett Oliver – Brooklyn Brewery

So, many of you will know that last week was Ontario Craft Brewer’s Week (OCB Week).  A variety of publicans and brewers across Ontario hosted events celebrating our brewing culture, and introducing people to new and exciting beers.  This year, we were lucky enough to have Garrett Oliver come north. Garrett is the brewmaster at Brooklyn Brewery, and author of the epic “Brewmaster’s Table”, and the soon to be published “The Oxford Companion to Beer”.  I saw Garrett at a few events towards the end of the week, but was able to spend a good 30 minutes chatting to him while he promoted Brooklyn Brewery at the Summerhill LCBO.

Chris Schryer and Garrett Oliver at Summerhill LCBO

Why didn't I dress better?

If you haven’t read any of Garrett’s writing, you really ought to. Like most brewers, he is immensely knowledgeable in all things brewing.  He is also charming and incredibly eloquent; next to him I felt small and under-dressed and tongue-tied and generally dim.  And if you don’t know me well, I generally think pretty highly of myself.  So this is saying something.  Listening to him talking about a variety of things, from the history of the name “Post Road” in their pumpkin ale, to farming in upstate New York, you realize that he is one of the best spokes-persons for the craft brewing scene in North America.

So what did we talk about?  This was by no means, an “interview” (though he did one of those with Troy for TAPS The Beer Magazine.  If you want to read it, better get your subscription quick).  Rather, it was a bit of a meandering chat, including Troy from and Doug, a regular from Volo and the beer scene.  While wandering around the store and standing by the promotion table, we chatted about the ABIB purchase of Goose Island, some of the PR difficulties of being a bigger craftbrewer, the benefits and difficulties of dealing locally (I had  no idea that hops needed to be shipped to a  processing facility on the west coast, if you want them to be processed into pellets.  Hint, if you want to start a highly appreciated yet low-paying business, fire up a quality hop processing plant in upstate New York, or southern Ontario), the need for better communication between the  Ontario beer scene and the rest of North America, and as such, some of the recent brewing goings-on in Ontario. Throughout, he amicably chatted to passers-by and stoppers-for-free-beer-and-food about Brooklyn Brewery (“we’re located in Brooklyn New York…..”), and was engaging, both to retiree women with bottles of rose and sparkling pinot grigio as well as cargo-shorted and flip-flopped 30-somethings.

Later that night Garrett joined the throngs at Volo’s House Ales launch, and nicely filled in the brewing credibility at the event, including brewers from a stack of Ontario breweries, Stephane and bim from DDC and the brewer from Central City (totally sorry, have forgotten his name.  Met a lot of people and drank a lot of beer Friday night).  There he was equally pleasant and friendly, talking shop to his peers and punters alike.  Garrett also helped kick-off this year’s Session99, the wrap-up event for the week, and a great little beer fest in it’s own right, where he gave an opening toast, and also a cooking demo.  Once again, he was charming and eloquent and incredibly well-dressed.  Chopping, as Chris Grimely pointed out, while sporting french-cuffs and cuff-links.

Thanks to Garrett Oliver, for demonstrating once again, that brewers (even well-published and highly-respected ones) are just downright nice people.  Interested in talking about their passion as well as just about anything else.  I can’t wait for The Oxford Companion to Beer to come out this fall.

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