If you were to create a Mount Rushmore of American craft brewing, whose faces would you have etched into stone? Few would argue with the selection of Ken Grossman for his work at Sierra Nevada, the trailblazing West Coast brewery that set the blueprint for so many that followed. Serious beer nerds would surely lobby for Charlie Papazian, whose The Complete Joy of Home Brewing inspired so many of the garage tinkerers who today define the beer scene in the U.S. But you’d be hard-pressed to make it past the planning committee without serious consideration for Garrett Oliver, best known today as the brewmaster at Brooklyn Brewery.
With a career in beer spanning back to the ’80s, Oliver has been a vital and consistent link between the founders of the craft-beer movement and its current moment of unprecedented growth. He tasted some of the earliest microbrews—from San Francisco’s Anchor Steam, as well as the now-defunct Manhattan Brewing Company—and filtered them through what he learned about beer while traveling through Europe to form his own brewing philosophy: Respectful of old-world traditions and techniques, yet never afraid to embrace the artistry and individuality of beer-making.
In addition to helping turn Brooklyn Brewery into the 11th largest craft brewery in the country, Oliver has established himself as one of the industry’s most revered figures. Scholarly and hyper-articulate, he’s helped to codify many of the wild-west antics of American brewing, from bottle-conditioning (which he studied to create Brooklyn’s beloved Local 1), to food pairings (he literally wrote the book—The Brewmaster’s Table—on it in 2003), and everything in between (two years ago, he edited the first Oxford Companion to Beer, 960 pages of pure beer geekery). He’s also been a key ambassador for American craft-beer movement, solidifying ties to old European stalwarts like Brakspear and Schneider-Weisse through collaborations (a concept Oliver seems to have invented), and most recently breaking ground on a new Brooklyn Brewery project in Stockholm.
Suffice to say, Garrett Oliver has had a few beers in his day, and hearing him talk about them is like listening to Dr. Dre talk about his favorite beats, or hearing Scorsese break down the films that changed the game. You just shut up and listen—preferably with a pint in hand.
From his desert-island beer (Saison Dupont) to his most recent experiments in barrel-aging, these are the 10 beers that have shaped Oliver’s understanding and love of craft beer.