Brooklyn Brewery, Summer Ale
Before prohibition, which banned the importation, transportation, and sale of alcoholic beverages from 1920 to 1933, Brooklyn, the most highly populated of the five boroughs in New York, was home to 48 breweries. In 1976 there were none left.
Step forward Steve Hindy, a journalist homebrewing in his spare time, and his mate Tom Potter, a banker with a desire to do something different. In the 1980s they struck on the idea that beer with a Brooklyn flavour and identity represented a decent business opportunity.
However, they couldn’t afford a brewery and finding anyone to distribute their beer in a city where Bud, Miller and Heineken reigned supreme seemed almost impossible. So they had another brewery up the road create their recipe, bought trucks and started to peddle Brooklyn Lager to local bars as a distribution company. The company also started to distribute other small, independent breweries’ beers, putting in a lot of the leg work for a craft beer legacy that is still thriving in the city and more widely to this day.
When they arrived in the Williamsburg area of Brooklyn with their own brewery in 1996, it wasn't the super cool hipsterville it is now. Hindy was once robbed at gunpoint whilst working in an area that was desolate by day and terrifying at night. The brewery “played an integral part in revitalizing Williamsburg and fostering Brooklyn's renaissance” according to former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
From the very beginning, Brooklyn Brewery had strong intentions to work with the best. The branding was done by Milton Glaser, the chap best-known for his iconic "I Love New York" campaign. After lots of pestering from Hindy, Glaser agreed to work on what is now the iconic Brooklyn Brewery logo in return for a stake in the start-up brewery and free beer for life.
Today the brewery is run by Eric Ottoway (whose family have been investors since day one) and Brewmaster Garrett Oliver who joined in 1994. While living in England during a stint as a rock band manager in the early 1980s, Garrett stumbled across real ale in a London pub. It was the first time Garrett tasted beer that wasn’t “industrial,” as so much American beer was at the time. It wasn’t long before he began to brew his own beer on his stovetop. In the years since joining Brooklyn, Garrett has hosted more than 1,000 beer tastings, dinners, and cooking demonstrations in nearly 20 countries, and writes regularly for beer and food-related periodicals. He wrote the seminal beer and food matching book; The Brewmaster’s Table in 2003 and more recently was the editor of The Oxford Companion to Beer.
Garrett is as talented as he is stylish and has been instrumental in the brewery’s success, whilst ensuring it is the beer and brewing process that always comes first, long before the business and money men get involved.
The Brooklyn Brewery site at Williamsburg
The Brooklyn brewery logo now pops up all over the world. Much of the brewer’s global success has been built through strategic partnerships, including a long and fruitful relationship with Denmark’s Carlsberg established in 2003, and collaborations with Italy’s Amarcord Brewery starting in 2011. Most recently, in 2016, Brooklyn Brewery announced that Japan’s Kirin Group had taken a 24.5-percent stake in the brewery for an undisclosed sum, with Kirin pledging to support Brooklyn’s growth plans, particularly in Asia.
Over the years, Brooklyn Brewery’s flagship lager remains far and away from its top-selling offering, comprising nearly half of all sales but this week’s beer, their Summer Ale, often outsells it between June and September. We’ll let them introduce it...
“It’s a refreshing, flavorful pale ale made to accompany you on all your warm weather adventures. 100% British 2-row barley brings its famed bready flavours, capped off with German and American hops to provide a snappy, clean bitterness and a bright, floral aroma. It's a sunny pale ale, Brooklyn style.”
Steve Hindy’s 1987 business plan summed up Brooklyn Brewery’s intentions nicely. "The emphasis will always be on craft and quality, and on linking Brooklyn Brewery’s image to the resurgence of Brooklyn pride". It seems they’re still living up to that original promise.