In his new book, “The Craft Beer Revolution: How a Band of Microbrewers Is Transforming the World’s Favorite Drink” (Palgrave Macmillan, $25), Steve Hindy chronicles nearly 50 years of American craft brewing history, from Fritz Maytag buying Anchor Brewing in 1965 to the current boom of innovative new breweries.
Hindy is a good man for the job for many reasons. As a former Associated Press Middle East correspondent, he knows how to get the facts and tell a good story — and he tells it warts and all. As the president and chairman of Brooklyn Brewery, which he co-founded in 1988, he’s been both a craft beer eyewitness and a major player. And, nowadays, his membership on the boards of directors of the Beer Institute and the Brewers Association gives him what he modestly calls a “unique perspective as an insider.”
Q: For some people, I think this book might come as a bit of a shock. You really get into some of the controversy and bickering that was and still is part of craft beer history, from the earliest days of the Great American Beer Festival.
A: I talked to a lot of younger brewers who looked at the book and the reaction was “Wow. I hadn’t realized all those battles took place back in the day.” I think it’s important to have that perspective on what has brought us to where we are today. A lot of those battles were pretty passionate at the time. But I think they really resulted in a stronger, more unified industry.
Q: Jim Koch and Boston Beer Co. seem to have been a lightning rod. You write about some personal confrontations.
A: Within 10 years of going into business, Jim was in all 50 states. So that means Jim was competing with everybody, up close and personal. That definitely is a big part of the reason for his many critics and battles over the years, But Jim, too, wanted things to get better and ultimately contributed a lot to the growth of the industry and the growth of the Brewers Association. Actually, we get along great now. He even wrote a blurb for the book (laughs). I have a lot of respect for Jim. He really is the hardest-working guy in the beer business. And he’s a great guy to have a beer with.
Q: In the chapter “Big Money Meets Craft Brewing 1994-2000” you trace a pivotal era, and you write about the list of failed breweries you kept pinned to the wall in your office, which from 1995 to 1998 grew to about 40.
A: It was a nervous time. Another thing I realized writing the book, all those breweries that came into existence in the ’90s were really important in broadening the perspective of craft brewing. Doing the Belgian styles and really beginning to innovate. All that stuff happened during the so-called “shakeout.”
Q: You record the accomplishments of the second generation you call the “innovators,” and that continues with the incredible growth we’re seeing now with the third generation of brewers.
A: I was impressed by the amount of experimentation that was going on. That was about the time that (Brooklyn brew master Garrett Oliver) joined us, and Garrett took us into that world of experimentation and innovation. He really gave Brooklyn Brewery a whole new dawn. The first beer he did was Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout, which at the time was considered off the charts. And then he did Brooklyn East India Pale Ale. It went on from there with Belgian-style beers and barrel-aged beers. Brooklyn Lager is still 50 percent of our business. But the other 50 percent is a range of different kinds of beers.
Q. Where is craft beer headed next?
A: People know what craft beer is now. And they know what good craft beer is. They are not as forgiving as they were back in the ’80s. But it’s amazing all the different models that are emerging. It’s like there are niches on the niches now. There’s an incredible proliferation of different approaches and different styles of beer. I think there are going to be success stories in all those different categories. There’s not going to be a category killer for craft beer. It’s going to be like fish in the sea or flowers in the field.
If you go
Steve Hindy will sign “The Craft Beer Revolution” at 6:30 p.m. May 1 at Blue Tarp Brewing, 731 E. College Ave., Decatur, bluetarpbrew.com.
Beer pick: Brooklyn Lager
Brooklyn Brewery, Brooklyn, NY
$9.99/six-pack bottles; also available in 12-pack cans, and on draft at metro bars and restaurants.
Profile: The beer that launched Brooklyn Brewery in 1988 is still going strong and even won a Gold Medal at the 2010 World Beer Championships. The Vienna-style amber lager is dry-hopped and features a nice balance of floral aroma, caramel malt flavor and refreshing bitterness.
Pair with: One of the most versatile food beers around, Brooklyn brew master Garrett Oliver recommends pairing it with pizza, burgers, Mexican food, roast chicken, barbecue, fried fish, pork and Chinese dishes, or cheeses like manchego or Stilton.