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    Brooklyn Brewery unites beer industry in global initiative

    In an industry first, breweries from around the world have joined forces in an innovative initiative to produce beer using the versatile, ancient West African grain, fonio.

    Thriving in West Africa for over 5,000 years, and widely used in African cooking, fonio has huge untapped brewing potential as it is drought resistant, and requires no irrigation, pesticides, or fertilisers.

    The “Brewing for Impact” initiative sees breweries from seven countries, including global industry leaders like Brooklyn Brewery, Carlsberg and Guinness, coming together to create a series of limited-edition beers that will spotlight fonio’s remarkable qualities and is the creation of Brooklyn Brewery’s multi-award winning Brewmaster, Garrett Oliver, who pioneered fonio brewing in 2019.

    It comes as Oliver celebrates his 30th anniversary with Brooklyn Brewery, where, for over three decades, he has continued to be a beacon of innovation in the craft beer movement, skilfully blending his passion for crafting exceptional beers with a steadfast commitment to social change within the industry and beyond.

    “In some ways ‘Brewing For Impact’ is the most important work I’ve ever done,” said Oliver. “If what we’ve started truly catches hold in the industry, we will hopefully start seeing the wider use of a grain that has no need for irrigation, fertilisers, pesticides or other chemical inputs.

    “It also supports soil regeneration while providing a vital source of income for thousands of smallholder farms in West Africa, which are predominantly female-led – all while making some really fantastic beers. What more can you ask for?”

    “Brewing for Impact” is rooted in Oliver’s belief in beer’s power to unite people, cultures, communities and traditions. Embracing this vision, he has mobilised a diverse coalition of brewing partners alongside Brooklyn Brewery, including Maison Kalao from Senegal, Thornbridge from the UK, Omnipollo from Sweden, Carlsberg from Denmark, Russian River from the US, Jing-A from China, and Guinness – each tasked with crafting a unique beer made with fonio.

    Rolling out throughout 2024, the series of limited-edition beers will spotlight fonio’s remarkable qualities and potential to drive positive change, and a more sustainable future, with each respective brewery contributing its own expertise and creativity to the lineup. The collaborations, listed in order of their release, are as follows:

    • April – Maison Kalao (Senegal): The “Brooklyn A Dakar” Pilsner, is the latest from a newer lineage of fonio beers at Maison Kalao, initiated after witnessing Oliver’s innovative use of the grain grown in their own country. 
    • May – Thornbridge (UK): Thornbridge Brewery introduces the world’s first Pale Ale – Cask Beer made with fonio. This blend of tradition and innovation celebrates a 15-year friendship, rooted in Oliver’s admiration for British cask ale, the tradition that sparked his brewing career.
    • June – Omnipollo (Sweden): Omnipollo’s “Blacker Chocolate Stout,” reimagines the first beer Oliver ever brewed for Brooklyn Brewery (Black Chocolate Stout), with a focus on fonio’s sustainability. 
    • July – Carlsberg (Denmark): The launch of a 100 per cent fonio beer is a collaboration that showcases both Carlsberg’s and Garrett’s enthusiasm for pioneering sustainable brewing practices and exploring fonio’s potential in new frontiers of beer.
    • August – Russian River (US):  Russian River’s Fonio Belgian blonde ale emerges from the deep friendship between Garrett and the owners of Russian River, Vinnie and Natalie Cilurzo, and their shared commitment to excellence coupled with a desire to explore being more sustainable in brewing.
    • September – Brooklyn Brewery (US): Brooklyn Brewery adds to its impressive fonio beer lineup with a new pale ale brewed with fonio, embodying the ‘Brewing for Impact’ ethos and Oliver’s continued innovation with the grain. 
    • October – Jing-A (China): The West Coast IPA made with fonio underscores a unique connection between Oliver and Jing-A, who first introduced Garrett to Beijing’s brewing culture while exploring the historical significance of native grains like fonio. 
    • November – Guinness – Guinness’s “Fonio Stout” highlights Garrett’s long-time adoration and respect for the iconic brand, which has deep roots in Africa and around the world and reflects his personal ties to Ireland – both a major source of inspiration throughout his brewing career.

    The “Brewing for Impact”’” series of collaborations will also be showing their support for The Michael James Jackson Foundation for Brewing and Distilling, an organisation founded by Garrett Oliver himself. The Foundation, which is dedicated to funding scholarship awards for Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour (BIPOC) within the brewing and distilling trades, will receive a portion of the proceeds from all the beer released under this campaign.

    Garrett’s brewing exploration with fonio was inspired by esteemed Senegalese Chef Pierre Thiam, whose pioneering food company Yolélé has played a pivotal role in introducing fonio to the Western world. Captivated by Thiam’s TED talk, Oliver saw the potential of fonio – cultivated in West Africa for over 5,000 years and recently celebrated as part of the UN’s “year of the millet” – and embarked on a mission to create beers with the grain that not only taste exceptional, but also contribute to a more sustainable and equitable food system.

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