Brooklyn Brewery Cofounder Steve Hindy Discusses South Florida's Brewing Future
On Tuesday evening, the Brooklyn Brewery held an event at Biscayne Bay Brewing Co. in Miami as part of MASH week, an series of events to highlight different aspects of local culture (and some Brooklyn beers) in 12 cities across America.
On this night, Brooklyn Brewery cofounder Steve Hindy joined Raymond Rigazio, founder of Abbey Brewing; Jose Mallea, president and cofounder of Biscayne Bay Brewing; Johnathan Wakefield, eponymous founder of Johnathan Wakefield Brewing; Peter Schnebly, owner of Miami Brewing; and Dustin Jeffers, head brewer at Delray Beach's SaltWater Brewery to discuss in front of a crowd their histories, their thoughts, and their ideas about the craft beer industry in Florida and at large.
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For those unfamiliar with Hindy, the following must be taken into account: In 1984, Associated Press correspondent Hindy returned from a six-year stint in the Middle East and settled in Brooklyn's Park Slope neighborhood.
Soon after becoming bored with his position as an editor of a national news magazine, he quit his job and founded the Brooklyn Brewery.
Now his brewing empire stretches across 26 states and 25 countries, and chances are you've drunk a Brooklyn Lager in the not-so-recent past.
At this event, the speakers gathered around with host Evan Benn of the Miami Herald for some heavily Floridacentric discussion. From individuals' origin stories to a round of enthusiastic pleas from the audience to push back on the 64-ounce growler laws, it was an in-depth panel that displayed heavy insight into the thoughts and issues being talked about around the "brite tanks."
For instance, though New York City, where Brooklyn Brewery is located, is miles both geographically and politically (and in a thousand other ways) from South Florida, there are more parallels than one likes to admit between the two. "It's not unlike NYC," Hindy explained. "It's been a difficult market for craft breweries. In the first 15 years of Brooklyn [Brewery], there were 30 other start-ups that failed... We were the only ones who made it. Now that craft beer is booming, there are 25 craft breweries in New York City, most of them started in the last year and a half, and that seems to be similar to South Florida and Miami."
One idea that Hindy put forth was that Miami has had a hard time in the past in becoming a craft beer mecca because of its status as an international city. He sees that in major metropolitan areas like New York and Los Angeles. People are seeking the best of everything, even if it's just what they perceive as the best, no matter where it's from.
"Places like Vermont or Maine or Michigan or even Oregon are very loyal to their local product. International cities are not; [the people] want the best of everywhere. That's a challenge for craft beer.
"I think it's great that Peter Schnebly, and [Johnathan] Wakefield doing beers with local fruits and local accents, I think that's really important. If they can crack the Miami market, that's a huge advance for the craft beer revolution."
As books were being signed, each person who approached shared a moment of beer-oriented joy or recounted visiting a relative in New York.
And for those who spent this month looking for Brooklyn Pennant Ale '55 (which is a personal favorite), there will continue to be disappointment and sadness. "Believe it or not, we just discontinued it," Hindy lamented. "Because we've expanded -- we have Brooklyn ½ ale, which is a low-alcohol version of Sorachi Ace, and we have a new wheat beer -- so we had to rationalize our perennials, so Pennant got dropped... which I'm bummed out about, but you know..."
But life is not all melancholia; there is a bright light to every tunnel (even into the center of the Earth). Hindy spoke on lessons learned and what advice he would give to budding brewers starting our in the industry. "You've got to be determined and keep pushing."
"Probably the most important lesson I've learned is to stay focused on the goals you set early on. Once you've become a little bit successful, there are all these people clamoring for you to do all different kinds of things which are not your core purpose, and that's a danger, because you can't do everything."
Doug Fairall is a craft beer blogger who focuses on Florida beers and has been a homebrewer since 2010. For beer things in your Twitter feed, follow him @DougFairall and find the latest beer pics on Instagram.
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