Garrett Oliver Inspires in Lexington

Photo courtesy Aussie1962.

Photo courtesy Aussie1962.

Brooklyn Brewery brewmaster Garrett Oliver believes your first pint of the night at any pub should always be local.

Hard to argue that.

When in Lexington, Ky recently for the Craft Writing Symposium, Oliver said he settled in at a local watering hole the night before and did just that. The next day, the brewer, author and all-around beacon of energy talked to the nearly-packed auditorium at the University of Kentucky about brewing, writing and, most importantly, people.

In fact, the title of his presentation was “Beer is People,” and he quickly had everyone in the audience convinced it was true. He talked about what makes good beer writing and also about writing his first book, The Brewmaster’s Table: Discovering the Pleasures of Real Beer with Real Food, along with the challenge he faced in getting it written.

People, he said, look to see what’s going on in the world by getting online and searching. They have become aggregators, he reasoned, and “they are picking the loudest voices.”

To that end, Oliver, clad in a plaid shirt and buttoned black jacket, said people will assume that “if you don’t say anything, you aren’t doing anything.”

Well, he’s doing things. This is a guy who is a thriving author and, clearly, speaker. His first piece of advice to those who write about beer is to write more like wine writers do; in other words, talking about the chemistry is not appetizing.

While beer writers often wax feverishly about IBUs (International Bittering Units), he said, you rarely read a wine review that prattles on about tannin units.

The term IBU, he said, “doesn’t sound delicious.”

And so, he suggested writing about beer the way one writes about sports.

“Flavor is an action in time,” he said, later adding, “beer is not chemicals, it’s people. If you write about chemistry, you’re missing the entire story.”

Instead, the story is “in the diversion of an intended path.” The questions to ask the subject of a story, Oliver said, are: What did you intend to do, and what did you sacrifice?

This, he reasoned, is because most brewers don’t set out to become brewers.

Oliver, who at 51 appears far younger, has worked in many other fields, including in the rock music industry – he said he once took the Ramones bowling, in fact. But brewing sneaked into his life and unintentionally became his passion. He joined Brooklyn Brewery in the early 1990s, and the book came about 10 years later.

Writing the book, he said, was a diversion to be sure, one he honestly didn’t know if he was up for.

“Brewing is hard,” Oliver said. “Writing is really, really, really hard.”

But it was nevertheless a diversion from the intended path that needed to be taken. He realized this after a friend asked him a simple question: Do you want to be sorry now or sorry later?

The difference is that if you choose to be sorry now, you “write the book, do the work, and descend into hell.” If you choose to be sorry later, that simply makes you the person who isn’t willing to take it on.

“Sorry later,” he said, “lasts forever.”

All in all, it was a most inspiring presentation, and one that will stick with me, not just as a writer, but as a human being in general. And if you get the chance to hear Oliver speak, take advantage. Remember: Sorry later lasts forever.

This post was originally published by

West Sixth to Expand, Will Can Lemongrass Wheat

lexington beer west sixth

It’s just a mock-up, but it looks almost good enough to drink.

This one comes straight from the West Sixth Brewing website. Cool news from one of Lexington’s most successful breweries:

We’ve got some big news today that we can’t wait to share with you:  we’re embarking on a major brewery expansion, and launching a new beer (the Lemongrass American Wheat) in a can!

Over the past year, we’ve expanded a few times on our 15 barrel brewhouse by adding additional fermentation capacity. That’s allowed us to grow from our original 45 barrels of weekly production when we first opened up to 195 barrels of weekly production by the fall of 2013.

However, late last year, we realized that we just couldn’t keep expanding by adding tanks. We were brewing 13 times a week (up from our original 3), and didn’t want to expand into brewing overnight or on the weekends.

So, we’re excited to announce today that last week, our new 40 barrel brewhouse and 6 80 barrel fermenters arrived.

This brewhouse will allow us to continue to grow over the next few years, and also has a secondary benefit: it will allow us to begin canning a third beer.

This beer is one we’re really excited about: the Lemongrass American Wheat.

Robin, our head brewer and co-founder describes it this way: “This american wheat is brewed with Sorachi Ace hops and nearly 6 pounds of fresh lemongrass in each 15 barrel batch. The Sorachi Ace hop, which originated out of Japan, has a very unique flavor that we believe complements the lemongrass perfectly.  It’s a craft beer drinker’s wheat.”

This beer will be rolled out gradually into each market — it should be available on draft within a few weeks and in cans within the month.

All this is possible because of the continued support of all of our fans and trailblazers.  Thank you all for this — we never in a million years expected to be expanding in such a way so soon.

Thank you all, and cheers to an exciting 2014!

Wow, a 40 barrel system. That’s nearly three times what they started with. This should get interesting. Congrats to West Sixth!