The best thing about Reddit AMAs is that they often do live up to their name--the Ask Me Anything of the title can be, well, anything. It didn’t get too crazy on today’s AMA with Brooklyn Brewery co-founder Steve Hindy, but Hindy did manage to address his biggest mistake, his days in journalism, and ants in beer.
Here are a few highlights:
On his biggest mistake: "In the late '90s, we were distributing our own beer and others. We tried to develop a dot-com to home deliver the beers in NYC. Big mistake. [It] cost us $1 million. Lesson: Stay focused."
His advice for aspiring entrepreneurs: "If you have a partner, or partners, make sure you have a partnership agreement, sort of like a prenuptial agreement. I’ve seen many businesses fail because of disputes among partners."
The most important thing Brooklyn Brewery did to spur growth: "From Day One, we committed all our marketing dollars to donations to not-for-profit and arts groups. We donate beer mostly, and some dollars. That has earned us goodwill in the communities we serve and has gotten our beer into the hands of many people."
His favorite breweries, outside of his own: Deschutes Brewery in Oregon, Yazoo Brewing Company in Tennessee, New Belgium Brewing in Colorado.
On the costs of starting a brewery: "[How much it costs] depends on your ambition. There are very small breweries and there are more ambitious breweries. You can probably start a nanobrewery for a few thousand dollars. Licensing can be costly though. As far as capital goes, you need more than you think you need, no matter the scope of your ambition."
How he got started in journalism: "I worked for small newspapers in upstate New York and New Jersey and got noticed by the AP in Newark, N.J., in 1976. Then I started studying Arabic and volunteered for the Middle East. There aren’t too many people that want to do that, so I landed in Beirut in February 1979."
On the dark days: Hindy said he always thought the brewery would be successful, but that "we were sweating bullets for the first eight years. In 1991 we could not afford to pay me so I went back to work at Newsday editing Gulf War copy. Newsday’s Pat Sloyan won a Pulitzer that year."
On competition and collegiality: "It can be cutthroat on the street, fighting for a draft line. But the craft industry is incredibly collegial. I have learned much from my fellow brewers and I always make time for newcomers."
About a recent report that some Brazilian brewers are using ants in their recipes: "Gives me the creeps."
His very best life advice: "Don’t do business with assholes."
Here is the full text of the AMA with Steve Hindy.