As part of The Brooklyn Brewery Mash, the country’s largest traveling food and arts festival, the brewery’s co-founder Steve Hindy will visit 11 cities in addition to stopping by the city that is fully embracing the craft brewing movement, New Orleans.
Alongside Kirk Coco, CEO of New Orleans Lager and Ale Brewing Co., and David Blossman, President of Abita Brewing Company, he shared many of the circumstances and ambitions that allowed the craft brewing revolution to take off, all of which make for an interesting tale.
Hindy began his beer tale by telling the audience about his time abroad as a war correspondent, where he met avid home brewers. After a move back to Brooklyn, he began making beer at home. “I’ve always dreamed of starting a business,” he told the crowd. He and his downstairs neighbor Tom Potter, who has an MBA, started the brewery in the late 1980s to make their craft dreams come true.
Blossman made his first green batch at the age of 14. “That was the eureka moment,” he explained. “From that point I’ve been a slave to the master of great beer.” He was 17 years old when he started Abita in 1986 and the rest is history.
Coco told the audience that he was never a great home brewer, rather a man who wanted to put money back into the city of New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina. He happened to know Byron Towles who believed in the need for a local brewery just as much as Coco. Towles put him in touch with the company’s current brew master Peter Caddoo and they “opened it with hope and a prayer that the city would have a brewery.”
Besides an overwhelming love of the beverage, which is thought by many to be the oldest fermented drink in the world, the three have one major thing in common: they are all entrepreneurs with the passion and dedication to keep the movement rolling.
Hindy’s new book “Craft Beer Revolution” tells the story of hundreds of groundbreaking breweries and how they fundamentally changed a beverage favorite. The so-called heroes of craft brewing helped challenge the long-running corporate beer dynasties and add new flavor to the entrepreneurial world.
Whether of an industry or an entire city, New Orleans, perhaps now more than ever, has realized the importance of a transformation through entrepreneurship. The local scene if full of the Jack of all trade types, due in large part to the entrepreneurial crowd identifying problems and working to solve them. From food and beverage to education to energy and technology, the city’s finest are wearing many hats to get the job done.
Hindy, who has been called a beer-journalist-slash-brewing-pioneer, provides an entertaining combination of craft brewing history along with a fearless exploration of the many entrepreneurs who changed the face of American brewing, according to Sam Calagione, Founder & President, Dogfish Head Craft Brewery.
Hindy attributes the craft brewery success stories to the collaborative, not competitive, nature of the brewers. “This is not just a push by brewers, it’s a call put out by consumers who want more real beer.” At the end of 1983, there were 10 microbreweries. Now there are 2,700, a number that has nearly doubled in the last year alone, and craft brew sales grew 18% in 2013.
“This is really a revolution,” explained Hindy. Although he said he respects the other companies, one thing remains: “At core of craft beer, it’s really a reaction against light modern beer.”
“The craft beer revolution, the most exciting development in the beer industry since the birth of lager beer in the 19th Century, now has its chronicler,” explained Daniel Bradford, a publisher at All About Beer magazine. “For decades going forward, this will be an important book for those who want to understand this transformative business story.”
Coco got a laugh from the crowd when he explained what a revolution is: “when the people, everybody, says, ‘this is jacked up and it needs to change.’” What’s happening now is a people’s revolution, from the bottom up, he said, and it happened became 1,000 home brewers stepped up. “We do it because we love beer but we really do it because you guys love beer.”
92 percent of beer drinkers still need to be conquered, according to Hindy. With a combination of inexpensive tools to reach beer drinkers such as social media and other marketing outlets and the technology to continue increasing production efficiency in breweries, it might not be long before they are.