Garrett Oliver, Brewmaster, Writer, Editor-In-Chief, Brooklyn Brewery, Brewmaster’s Table, Oxford’s Companion To Beer, Ale, Beer, Beer Recommendations, Best Beer, Where to drink beer in New York, Manhattan, NY, Beer Expert, Favorite Beers

Q & A


The Brewmaster's Table: Discovering the Pleasures of Real Beer with Real Food [buy it]


- Fred Dexheimer, Master Sommelier, Mixologist, Beer Lover

- Allan Benton, Benton’s Smoky Mountain Hams


Garrett Oliver’s recommendations for his favorite beers and where to drink in New York.


Q & A With Garrett Oliver

Q. Tell us about your newest beer, Main Engine Start:

A. The name Main Engine comes from it being the first beer that we’ve done at the new brewery.

The overall style is probably closest to what is called an Abbey Single. It’s a very obscure style, since it’s actually almost never sold. It’s the type that the monks in the Trappist monastery breweries actually make for themselves.

When you see beers like Chimay on shelves, that beer is not actually drunk by the monks. They may taste it and they’ll occasionally drink it on a holiday or something, but the beer they drink on a day to day basis is not released to the public. I’ve been to the monasteries and I’ve tasted some of those beers, and this is our version of something along those lines. It’s not a very strong beer, as most of the monastic beers are, more of a beer for everyday drinking, but it still has a lot of flavor to it

Q. You’ve just expanded your Brooklyn operation, what is the overall change?

A. We’ve had the brewery in Brooklyn since 1996 and have been brewing twice a day there, every day, for 14 years. But we also have production in upstate New York, in Utica, and I’m in charge of our production in both places.

We’ve always wanted to expand what we do in Brooklyn, but up until this point it’s been pretty impossible. We were lucky to get space right next door to us and we’re expanding into another 16,000 square feet. It definitely represents a very big evolution for the brewery and eventually, we’ll be able to make about eight or nine times as much beer.

Q. Your beer always tops people’s lists of recommendations. What do you think it is about your beer that appeals to so many people, yet it’s different enough that they want to single it out?

A. Well, we have a wide range of beers. The beer that most people are familiar with is Brooklyn Lager, which was our first beer and still, by far, our top selling beer. When Brooklyn Lager first appeared, it was to most people who tasted it, really strange, very obscure. Now there are more full-flavored beers on the market, but Brooklyn Lager retains its singularity. I don’t really know any other beer that tastes like it.

However, for beer aficionados, it’s become more of their everyday drinking beer that they have in the fridge all the time. Now they might go for one of our other beers like Local 1 as their special occasion beer. It’s re-fermented in a bottle like champagne and has tremendous complexity.

Q. What are some other new beers on the horizon?

A. Every few months, we make a new beer under the overall name of “Brewmaster’s Reserve.” The idea is just to create new things and keep us creative and give our fans out there an opportunity to taste some new things. In any given year, we make 15-16-17 different beers, so always constantly new things are happening. Some are released to the public and some are done for fun.

Q. The ones that are “just for fun,” why don’t you release them to the public?

A. Some of them take a very, very long time, like years to make, and by the time we’re actually seeing the results, we have created such a small amount that it really doesn’t make sense to sell it.

I’m sure every chef will actually do some dishes in the kitchen that he really likes, but they don’t end up on the menu. In a way, a brewery is similar. We do make things that we don’t necessarily intend to sell, however, we may base later beers that we do on those experiments that we did. So I think it’s important to play. If you don’t play, whatever you’re doing becomes stale.

Q. Where do you get your inspiration from?

A. I get inspirations from all over the place. Not just other beers, of which I’ve tasted thousands, but also from wines, even from cocktails.

We made a beer last year which was called The Manhattan Project, with a rye beer that was aged in Rittenhouse Rye barrels and then infused with dozens of botanicals, so that it would basically mimic the vermouth in bitters and it tasted just like a Manhattan.

Q. Tell us about your new book:

A. It’s the Oxford Companion to Beer, to be published by Oxford University Press. Most wine people will know the Oxford Companion to Wine and this is the beer equivalent. I’m the editor-in-chief and there are over 100 writers from all over the world and about 1170 subjects. Basically almost anything you can possibly think of about beer, whether it is cultural, historical, technical, it’s all covered like an encyclopedia, A to Z.

Q. What has it been like for you to work on it?
A. It’s been fascinating, enlightening and frankly, very difficult. We’ve been building a brewery at the same time and I’ve had essentially two jobs and so I’m looking forward to soon reacquainting myself with the concept of free time.

Q. When you go on vacation, do you drink beer?

A. Oh yes! But that assumes, of course, that I can find something decent to drink. I mean, there are some people who say ‘oh well, I’ll drink craft beers when I can find them, but otherwise I’m perfectly happy to drink the mass market beers.’ I’m not really one of those people! I actually don’t like the mass market beers, though I have respect for the people who are able to make them.

Q. What are your thoughts on can beer?

Beer in can was looked down upon for a long time by American consumers in particular. It could have been that at one time cans did give you a metallic flavor or that the beer can was not a very good package. But these days canning technology has greatly improved and beer in cans can be excellent. Like screw cap on wines, it’s not widely accepted by consumers yet, but every wine professional knows that it’s likely much better for the wine than a cork.

The can protects beer from light, which is one of its major enemies and with modern canning technology it’s a perfectly good package. We’ve had beer in cans for years, many years, but by and large we only sent it out to golf courses and places where you couldn’t have bottles. People didn’t want to see more serious beer in a can, but these days that stigma is going away, which I think is a good thing and the only way you’re really going to get a metallic flavor from a can, is if you’re drinking directly out of the can, in which case you get whatever you deserve!


Garrett Oliver’s recommendations for his favorite beers and where to drink in New York.


Brooklyn Brewery - Brooklyn, NY

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