Brooklyn Brewery’s cofounder and president, Steve Hindy, fielded questions on a Reddit AMA today.
After getting in a couple of plugs for his new book, The Craft Beer Revolution, the former war correspondent dispensed advice about the business of brewing. Here’s the best of the bunch:
On the origins of Brooklyn Brewery
Hindy says: “I had been covering wars in the Middle East for 6 years and suddenly I was an editor at Newsday. Quite simply, I was bored. And I had always dreamed of starting my own business. Starting a brewery seemed like an amazing dream. And it was!
Yes I believed we would be successful. And yes, we were sweating bullets for the first 8 years. In 1991, we could not afford to pay me so I went back to work at Newsday editing Gulf War copy.”
On brewmaster Garrett Oliver
Hindy says: “I met Garrett when he was founder/president of the NYC Homebrewers Guild. We drank homebrewed beer together until 3am and had a big argument. I forget what it was about.”
On why the brewery doesn’t advertise
Hindy says: “From Day One, we committed all our marketing dollars to donations to not-for-profit and arts groups. We donate beer mostly, and some dollars. That has earned us good will in the communities we serve and has gotten our beer into the hands of many people.”
On his biggest mistake
Hindy says: “In the late ’90s, we were distributing our own beer and others. We tried to develop a dot-com to home deliver the beers in NYC. Big mistake; cost us $1 million. Lesson: stay focused.”
On starting a brewery
Hindy says: “You can probably start a nanobrewery for a few thousand dollars. Licensing can be costly though. As far as capital goes, you need more than you think you need, no matter the scope of your ambition.
If you have a partner, or partners, make sure you have a partnership agreement, sort of like a pre-nuptial agreement. I’ve seen many businesses fail because of disputes among partners.
Don’t do business with assholes.”
On what he drinks
Hindy says: “I usually ask for the local beer. I am not wedded to any style.
Yazoo and Jackalope in Nashville; Nola in New Orleans.
Right now, I have Hammarby Syndrome on tap at home. It is a beer made with the artisanal grain, spelt, and spruce tips. It is a tribute to our joint venture brewery in Stockholm, Sweden. Delicious!”
On how to get hired
“Members of our brewing team have 5-10 years of experience before they come here. You have to be a super homebrewer to get a job in a brewery today because there are many experienced people around. Brewing school helps, but experience is everything.”
On the competition
Hindy says: “When I started in business, the imports were 3% of the US market. Today, they are 13% and craft beers are 10%. ABInBev and MillerCoors are 74%. Craft beer is booming.
It can be cutthroat on the street, fighting for a draft line. But the craft industry is incredibly collegial. I have learned much from my fellow brewers and I always make time for newcomers. We had a cool bet with Anchor on the Super Bowl a couple of years ago. Ditto with Harpoon. They had to serve our beer in their pubs and wear Giants jerseys.”