Brewing Industry Stands Together to Raise $200K for The MJF

Garrett Oliver is more than willing to admit guilt as well. A longstanding Brewmaster for Brooklyn Brewery, Oliver was adamant about not hiring those without experience. But Oliver, a Black man, was hurting the chance for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color applicants to join his team.

“I required 2-3 years of experience, or I want to see your [brewing] certificate,” he explained. “You will not come into my brewhouse, roll something over, or blow something up and kill my people. Not going to happen. I’ve got to know that you know what you’re doing.

“I thought I was doing the right thing. And it turned out, no brown people ever showed up.”

Oliver spoke to a crowd atop a rooftop overlook of Fait la Force Brewing in Nashville on Monday, May 8, and pointed out that with only about 3% of the beer industry being of color and a vast amount of breweries in the country less than five years old, he was hurting himself in creating progress for BIPOC candidates.

So, Oliver, along with a vast majority of sponsors was happy to give a more than $200,000 check to The Michael James Jackson Foundation. Formed in 2020, The MJF is a grant-making organization that funds scholarship awards to BIPOC within the brewing and distilling trades. The program is open to candidates at the beginning of their careers, as well as those looking to continue their education. The MJF awards present an opportunity for members and patrons of the brewing and distilling industries to directly fund a more just, equitable, and dynamic future.

Gathered at the Nashville brewery with Oliver for the check presentation were members of Athletic Brewing along with Natalie Cilurzo of Russian River; Sam Calagione of Dogfish Head and many others that have helped raise the funds. Athletic vowed to match all donations up to $100,000, which brought the total heading into the Craft Brewers Conference week to $208,608, with thoughts that that number would rise by the end of the week.

“I’m glad that I don’t have to compete against the people that we are giving awards to,” Oliver said. “I’m gonna be out the door by the time they’re sitting in the chair, because if I had to compete against these people? Oh, Lord. They’re crazy ambitious, crazy smart, motivated, and animated by the same thing that brought us into this.”

Oliver said the way that he grew up was very traditional, and asking for money was frowned upon. But that needs to be put aside to raise incoming talent that has been underutilized.

“This whole thing of going and asking people for money is very emotionally difficult for me,” he said. “I came to realize that emotional difficulty is a function of ego. You feel ashamed to ask for money.

“If you can’t ask for help, then you don’t deserve any. Community means that you have to reach out.”

Donations into the fund are still accepted. More details at

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