Brooklyn Brewery: How Beer Was Reborn

He started out as a journalist. Now, Steve Hindy is co-founder and chairman of Brooklyn Brewery, with his product selling in about 25 U.S. states and 25 countries around the world.

Birth of a Brewery

After getting a job with The Associated Press, he volunteered to cover wars in the Middle East. While there, Hindy met American diplomats living in Saudi Arabia, where the Islamic law prohibits alcoholic beverages. Faced with the haunting prospect of a beer-free reality, these men turned to home brewing, and ultimately Hindy started making his own beer too. At his wife’s urging, he gave up war reporting, came back to the states, and subsequently got carried away with brewing his own beer at home.

A Brewing Partnership

On weekends, Hindy and his neighbor, Tom Potter, kicked back for New York Mets games with Hindy’s home brew. At the time, Potter was a banker with an MBA and an entrepreneurial spirit. Despite Hindy’s consistent urging, it took a trip to the Craft Brewers Conference in Portland, Oregon in 1986 for Potter to realize that quitting his steady job to start a brewery might actually work. The duo put together a business plan and raised half a million dollars from colleagues and friends. That was the easy part.

Failure Was Never An Option

Hindy describes the company in the first ten years as functionally bankrupt. In fact, he does not recall the early days with anything resembling nostalgia, “I mean we were on the edge all the time. I still don’t sleep well. And I trace it back to those early days and because you know, my apartment was right above my partner Tom, and he tells this story about hearing me pacing at night and he heard me because he too, was lying awake in his apartment.” Despite insomnia and constant worry, the two were in it for the long haul. “As I said, failure wasn’t an option. We knew we were going to succeed. It was just a matter of enduring the pain of those early days,” he added.

Sweet Sell of Success

In 2003, Hindy and Potter sold the distribution rights of their brews for $12 million. This was a memorable moment for the owners, allowing them to give original investors a great return on their stake in the company.

The numbers tell the story of a slow start followed by staggering growth. It took Brooklyn Brewery 23 years to produce 100,000 barrels. Five years later, the company reached 200,000 and this year the company expects to reach 300,000.

Hindy believes the company will be a major international player in the beer industry. “We brought beer back to life and taking it away from the mega brands, you know, with mass advertising and kind of bland common denominator beer. We’ve kind of restored the beauty of beer in the eyes of a lot of people and I'm really proud of that.”