Steve Hindy, co-founder and CEO of Brooklyn Brewery, has some advice for those planning to open a brewery: Stay connected to your community.
“There's a kind of respect that's accorded to people who are making the beer,” Hindy said prior to an event at The Avenue Pub in early April. “You have a role to play in the community, and you can either embrace that and do good things and build good will, or not.”
He pointed to Kirk Coco’s story, told at the “Craft Beer Revolution” roundtable discussion at one of Brooklyn Brewery's Brooklyn Mash events, which also included Hindy and David Blossman of Abita Brewing Co. Coco had planned on a career in the Navy, but after Hurricane Katrina hit and the levees failed in 2005, he came home to rebuild. He recalls looking at a bottle of Dixie beer and noticing that it was brewed in Wisconsin. “That was not acceptable to me,” said Coco, who noted that prior to Prohibition, New Orleans was known as the beer capital of the South. He thought the city needed a local brewery, and the idea for NOLA Brewing was born.
It seems breweries appreciate the connection to the community: 40 Arpent Brewing Company hosted New Orleans’ homebrewers club and offered free beer and advice to attendees. Courtyard Brewing, which is going through the permit approval process, decided its first step was connecting with the residents of the Lower Garden District; its application has been free of opposition. Cajun Fire Brewing won a $50,000 grant from the Idea Village’s Big Idea pitch competition after doing well in the first round, which was crowd sourced and community driven.
“(The roundtable) showed the collegial nature of the craft beer industry,” Hindy says. “The audience demonstrated the curiosity and support that craft beer drinkers have for our industry.”