Steve Hindy, co-founder of Brooklyn Brewery and author of the recently released The Craft Beer Revolution: How a Band of Microbrewers Is Transforming the World’s Favorite Drink, participated in an Ask Me Anything (AMA) on Reddit recently. It’s as simple as it sounds: users submit questions and the host attempts to answer as many as possible. A number of celebrities and well-known figures have taken part (from Barack Obama to Bill Murray), as have several prominent brewers and brewery owners.
I searched through the beer-focused AMAs to find some of the most interesting questions and answers that have come up. Here are a few of the best:
Did you ever have any trouble with crime or gangsters at the time you were starting out?
I was robbed at gunpoint and forced to open the safe, which held $30K in cash. We had a run in with some mob-like guys when we built the brewery. Read about it in BEER SCHOOL, my first book.
On the biggest mistake:
In the late 1990s, 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.
What’s your very best life advice?
Don’t do business with assholes.
Brett Porter, Brewmaster at Goose Island Beer Company
What’s the most difficult situation or obstacle that you’ve had to overcome in your professional brewing life?
I had to pull a naked woman off a ladder who was about to climb into an open fermentor of beer.
I spilled a five gallon bucket of yeast on my first brewing boss.
Turning my favorite hobby into my full-time profession.
On failed variations of Bourbon County Brand Stout (BCBS)
Last year we tried nine different versions of bourbon county rye variants. Most were rejected; one of the worst ones was my idea, wild Oregon huckleberries. It sounded like a good idea, but the flavor of the seed dominated the flavor of the beer. We also tried a chili beer that had an oil slick on the top of it and burned your mouth for at least two hours.
Mike Stevens, CEO and co-founder of Founders Brewing Co.
When did you realize that your KBS [Kentucky Breakfast Stout] had a cult following?
When people were camping on asphalt.
Joe Short, Founder of Short’s Brewing Co.
Have you found an ingredient that doesn’t work well with beer?
Yes. Lots of them. Example: bacon. I was as disappointed as you are.
What inspired you the most to turn a hobby and passion into a business?
So, basically you work 80-90% of your life. I wanted to make that time spent in my life doing something I loved. Making beer was one of my favorite things to do, and I wasn’t good enough to be a professional wakeboarder or skateboarder, so beer it was!
Jacob McKean, Founder of Modern Times Brewery
Do you feel pressure to fit into the «west coast» style?
Oh god yes, and it’s actually not something I expected at all. I constantly hear from all sorts of people that we will crash and burn without an IPA. I love IPAs as much as the next guy, but I’m totally sick of it. I was talking to another craft brewery owner recently who was complaining about the «IPA zombies», i.e. the people who come into the tasting room and order «IPA» without even looking at the menu.
I think there’s a real conformist trend right now with IPAs, and a lot of other really fantastic beers get ignored because of it. But I think it’s mostly the zealousness of the recently converted; as craft beer drinkers mature, I think they’ll open their minds a bit. Portland’s beer writers recently named The Commons Urban Farmhouse saison their Beer of the Year, which gives me hope for the future of humanity.
Shaun Hill, Brewer/Owner at Hill Farmstead Brewery
What factors do you think contribute to Vermont’s success in the craft brewing industry?
Greg Noonan. The Value Structure and the Lives that people lead here. Vermont is a unique place that influences how folks approach craftpersonship and business.
On the struggle to meet demand:
This is why I cannot sleep at night. There is no way to meet demand. In opening this brewery, I did not somehow sign a contract with «consumerism» that I must, at the end of the day, grow my business until all consumers are happy… but it often feels this way. This brewery began as a means for me to continue to live in the place that I love (sense of place). To create an industrial park on my front yard would make me not want to live here any longer… Goal: To brew beer. Take care of employees. Take care of myself. Be happy. And eventually find a day in which I can turn off my cell phone, not check email, not worry about fermentation or demand… and relax.