Most craft brewers find their way to brewing via the hobby world, but Brooklyn Brewery co-founder Steve Hindy came to brewing by way of the Middle East. In the '80s, he covered the area as an Associate Press reporter. He was on the dais when Egyptian President Anwar Sadat was assassinated. He also covered the Iranian revolutions, the hostage crisis, the Israeli-Egyptian peace process, the Iran-Iraq wars, and the conflicts in Lebanon.
"I met these American diplomats who'd been posted in Saudi Arabia, where they have this Islamic law where you can't buy alcoholic beverages, so they brewed their beer at home," Hindy remembers. "So I started homebrewing. My wife eventually got fed up with it by the time we came back to New York. That's when I got carried away with the whole thing and started the Brooklyn Brewery."
Hindy and business partner Tom Potter quit their day jobs, pooled their resources, and started brewing in 1987. The business has come a long way from the days when Hindy distributed six-packs of Brooklyn Lager from the back of a van.
"Early on, it was a struggle to get people to think about flavor in beer," Hindy says. "I did not see the kind of excitement that was developed about innovative brewing, the kind of thirst that people have for experimentation that's going on now."
The brewery sold more than one million cases last year. They've recently expanded their facilities, doubling their previous size.
"When we started 22 years ago, Brooklyn Lager was considered a pretty radical beer," says Hindy. "A lot of people tasted it and went, 'Oh my God, it's so bitter.' What they were really saying was, 'Oh my God, this beer has flavor.' They'd never had anything like it. It took a while to convince people that flavor belonged in beer and that there was a whole rainbow of styles that could be enjoyed at different occasions and with different foods. These days, it's so much fun to introduce people to the special beers we make."
Hindy visits Charleston this week as part of the nationwide American Craft Beer Week. Created in 2006, the annual series of events promotes and celebrates craft brewers around the country.
"We're all doing really well, but we're all still very small compared to the giants we're competing with," he says. "There is a lot of collegiality among craft brewers, and that's a great thing."
In Charleston, a handful of small breweries will host promotional events, beer dinners, and tastings. Hindy swings by Total Wine & More for a growler-related event on Wed. May 19 from 4:30-6:30 p.m. and co-hosts a beer dinner at Laura Alberts Tasteful Options on Daniel Island on Thurs. May 20 at 7 p.m.
"I'll be talking about the beers and how they'll pair with the courses," Hindy says. "I'll also talk about how I got into this. People are usually very interested in the story behind the beer."