The MJF Announces New Scholarship Recipients

The Michael James Jackson Foundation for Brewing & Distilling (The MJF) today announced the latest winners of its scholarship awards, as well as its third annual matching funding challenge. 

Twice a year, The MJF awards full-ride technical education scholarships to Black, Indigenous, and People of Color within the brewing and distilling industries, helping these award winners further their professional education and progress deeper and higher within these industries. As of today, though more than 40% of Americans come from non-European backgrounds, people of color make up only a few percent of brewers and distillers. Technical education is one key to a more diverse industry. 

The latest MJF cohort of scholarship award winners are Ari Ballard, Harold Dale, Jr., Yvette De Luna, Carlos Fernandez, Erin Lee, Greg Mendez, Jacob Meza, and Tyler Sadler.

These scholarships would not be possible without the generosity of The MJF’s funding partners and their shared mission to diversify the beer and spirits ecosystems. For the past three years, The MJF, with promotional support from ProBrewer through its large base of industry members and subscribers, has run a matching funding challenge in the month leading up to the annual Craft Brewers Conference.

Beginning today, The MJF will launch its 2024 matching challenge, with Pinhook Bourbon, Athletic Brewing Company, and Lallemand partnering to match the first $100,000 in donations made through April 23rd, the start of the Craft Brewer Conference in Las Vegas. This matching challenge gives The MJF the opportunity to raise more than $200,000 to fund its technical education scholarships for its award recipients. 

Both individual people and organizations, such as breweries, distilleries, and allied trade partners can contribute to the matching challenge. Donations can be made by visiting

Founded in 2020 by Garrett Oliver, Brewmaster of Brooklyn Brewing Company, and named after the legendary beer and whiskey author Michael James Jackson, The MJF has awarded technical education scholarships to 44 recipients over the past four years. 

“It’s incredible to look back on four years and know that with the help of like-minded organizations and individuals, we’ve been able to provide more than 40 scholarship opportunities for BIPOC individuals to further their careers in brewing and distilling,” said Garrett Oliver, founder of The MJF. “We certainly couldn’t do it without the help of our funding partners, though. To help contextualize these technical education programs, a single course can cost up to $27,000. It’s an investment into the future of these people, not only to receive the best brewing and distilling education in the world, but to eventually become leaders in their own rights.”

Learn more about the latest recipients of The MJF’s technical education awards:

Ari Ballard – Ari’s journey from being a New Orleans native to an aspiring spirits producer showcases her dedication to her community. Her experience with Turning Tables, a non-profit organization that advocates for equity in the hospitality industry by providing mentorship and educational tools for the black and brown communities of New Orleans, and Preservation Hall, a historic music venue in the French Quarter, highlight her skills in event coordination and her commitment to local culture. Now, aiming to become a licensed distiller, Ari’s poised to make a significant impact in the spirits industry while staying true to her roots.

Harold Dale Jr. – A first-generation African/Korean American born in Seoul, Harold has more than ten years of experience within the New Orleans alcohol and hospitality industry.  Raised within a multicultural and military background, the importance of diversity and honoring his cultures, amongst others, was a priority in his house. Harold recognizes the importance of representation in every aspect of life and strives to be a role model for his son, as his parents were to him. Always an advocate for a tasty beverage, his interest in brewing started with a 2020 collaboration with a local brewery and his running crew for the release of a beer tied to the Black Is Beautiful project. From there, Harold started his journey in craft beer, working on the packaging and distribution side of a local New Orleans brewery. In 2023, when offered a position as assistant brewer at Brewery St. X in New Orleans, he jumped at the opportunity to get on the brewing side. Within a year of working at Brewery St. X, Harold accelerated his knowledge and skills to the point where he is now responsible for all cellar work and is the in-house brewer. Before brewing, Harold lived a nomadic lifestyle, traveling the world, teaching, and soaking up as much culture as possible. While living abroad in his birth country of South Korea, he fell in love with a local rice beverage called makgeolli. In the future, Harold looks forward to sharing his culture and craft by owning and operating his own brewery that also specializes in makgeolli.

Yvette De Luna – Yvette De Luna is a first-generation Mexican American born in Glendale, California, raised in Echo Park, Los Angeles, with roots in San Luis Potosi, Mexico.  Yvette started her journey in the craft beer industry at Arts District Brewing Company as a barback. She attended and volunteered at beer festivals, showing her commitment and interest in beer. After participating in a brew day, Yvette’s passion for beer grew. Even without having a formal education in beer, within months she worked her way up to the bartender, followed by a cellar person, and eventually became the assistant brewer. Finally, having a full-time job at Arts District Brewing Company, she joined Pink Boots Society, a non-profit organization that supports women and non-binary individuals in the fermented beverage industry.  During the pandemic, Yvette applied at Highland Park Brewery as a barback and again worked her way up to become a brewer. Yvette is now a Lead brewer at both Highland Park Brewery facilities. In addition to brewing, she helps develop standard operating procedures, improve processes, and train and mentor new employees and interns. She aims to get a formal education to learn more technical brewing, gain more leadership techniques, learn about brewery safety, and sharpen her vocabulary. The next step in her career is to become a mentor to individuals who are new to the industry. Her long-term goal is to become a head brewer. She often helps inspire others in the industry by being on panels and networking with the Pink Boots Society. 

Carlos Fernandez – Carlos’ craft beer journey started during his undergrad years when he worked at a pizza parlor that carried 16 beer taps, ranging from the giants of beer to the historical craft breweries of California and the microbreweries of the area. It was at this place that Carlos discovered what beer could be.  Immediately, he was captivated by the world of hospitality and food & beverage, with craft beer at the forefront. Carlos homebrewed his first beer around his discovery and learned as much about the industry as possible during his time out of class and work.  Years later, soon after pandemic restrictions were lifted, Carlos landed his first brewery job. He was thrilled to finally apply all his skills, knowledge, and enthusiasm to this business, hoping to be a professional brewer someday. A few years later, that dream is alive and well, and with the help of the MJF Scholarship Program. Carlos is excited to see where this dream takes him next.

Erin Lee – Born and raised in Toronto, Canada, to Korean immigrants, Erin has always been taste-curious and a maker. Erin moved to New York City in 2006, where she worked as a fashion designer for more than a decade. Years later, while searching for a new passion to sink her teeth into, Erin fell in love with tea during a trip to Asia. She became a certified Tea Sommelier with the Tea and Herbal Association of Canada. Along the way, Erin discovered how much she enjoyed the tasting process and flavor. The love of sensory soon led her to whiskey. Erin sought out every whiskey tasting she could from brands near and far, listening to whiskey podcasts, reading books about whiskey, and wondering if she could find a career in the spirits industry. Erin was selected to become part of the inaugural class of the STEPUP Internship in 2022, where she received spirits training around the country for one year at Westward Whiskey, Eight Oaks Farm Distillery, Stitzel-Weller Distillery, Cascade Hollow Distilling, Bulleit Distilling Co. and RNDC. In 2023, after completing her training, she relocated to Chicago, Illinois, to join the team at FEW Spirits as a Distiller. Bringing it all full circle, a recent project at FEW has allowed her to combine her passion for tea and whiskey on a special project. Through the opportunity afforded through this scholarship, Erin is excited to gain the technical knowledge and confidence she needs to continue to grow and pursue her dream of becoming a master blender. So many people have helped open doors for Erin on this journey, and she hopes to use her visibility and experiences to inspire and support other BIPOC folks in joining the industry. 

Greg MendezA first-generation Mexican-American with roots in Tampico, Mexico, Greg Mendez was born in Chicago, IL, and raised in the Mississippi Delta. He currently works as a shift brewer at Brewery X in Anaheim, CA. While living in Mississippi, Greg’s area didn’t always have a great selection of fresh and exciting beers. He and his friends would drive to Alabama or Louisiana for a better beer selection. Greg’s beer adventures sparked his interest in brewing, where he eventually joined a local homebrew club. He quickly went from being a patron of local beer fests to working these festivals and later even pouring beer he brewed himself. Greg officially joined the craft beer industry in 2015 and has worked hard to learn as much as he can from his jobs. Always looking for a new challenge, he moved to California in 2020 to test himself against others in the industry and is thrilled with his decision to make the big move. Greg states that it has been a journey to learn in this industry, especially being autistic and dyslexic, which requires him to approach mastering his role a bit differently. He is excited about getting training and furthering his career through the MJF’s opportunity. 

Jacob Meza – Jacob Meza was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois, to immigrant parents from Mexico City. His passion for craft beer started a decade before he landed his first job in the beer industry. Jacob first started attending small festivals, which piqued his interest in craft beer. Soon after that, Jacob was home brewing one-gallon batches in his kitchen. After mastering the art of homebrewing, Jacob started investing in more equipment to make even larger batches of beer. Jacob joined the brewing industry in 2018 as a delivery driver at Lake Effect Brewing. Eventually, he entered the brewery and worked as an assistant brewer at District Brew Yards. Jacob’s goal is to eventually have a family-owned brewery that is inclusive to people of all backgrounds.

Tyler Sadler – Tyler was born and raised in Southern California, where she currently works as a full-time brewer at Shadow Grove Brewing in San Fernando, CA. Tyler’s beer journey started in 2017 when she discovered much more flavorful and exciting beer than anything sold at a macro level. She eventually started homebrewing and joined the Social Cerveceros homebrew club in 2019, where she met other BIPOC individuals who were equally as passionate about beer as herself.  Over the next couple of years, Tyler would rack up a handful of homebrew competition medals, work in a leadership position in a homebrew supply store, start a fun beer and brewing podcast with her friend, as well as develop recipes for a new beer brand focused on making culturally influenced craft beer. In the spring of 2022, she applied to work as a beertender at Shadow Grove Brewing. After six months of serving beers, she was offered a job on the brew team, where she now works full time overseeing and managing all day-to-day brewing operations at Shadow Grove. The art, science, and overall challenges of brewing great beer motivate Tyler every single day.

The Michael James Jackson Foundation for Brewing & Distilling (The MJF), formed in 2020, is a grant-making organization that funds technical education scholarship awards to Black, Indigenous, and People of Color within the brewing and distilling trades. To learn more about The MJF, visit

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