My Visit to Brooklyn Brewery by Ron Kapon

As defined by the Brewers Association a craft brewery produces less than 6 million barrels of beer a year (there are 31 gallons in a barrel). It is a distinctively flavored beer that is brewed and distributed regionally. If any alcoholic beverage industry member (who is not a craft brewer) owns or controls 25% or more of the brewery, then it cannot be called a craft brewery. To be a craft brewer, one must have “a majority of its total beverage alcohol volume in beers whose flavor derives from traditional innovative brewing ingredients and their fermentation.” Flavored malt beverages are not considered beers. Craft brewers may use other adjuncts like fruit, spices, rye, or oatmeal to enhance the flavor & mouth feel of their beers. Source:


The following figures are all for 2013: There were 2,770 craft breweries in the U.S. A microbrewery (1,410) produces less than 15,000 barrels a year. A Brewpub (1,240) is a restaurant-brewery that sells at least 25% of its beer on site. Anheuser-Busch InBev shipped 16 million barrels (down from 30 million in 2003). Bud’s US market share fell to 8.7% in 2013, down from 14.3 percent in 2005, according to data tracker Euromonitor. Craft breweries have about 7.8% of the US market selling around 15.3 billion barrels. The largest craft breweries include: Boston Beer Company as number one, followed by Sierra Nevada Brewing Co, New Belgium Brewing Co, Gambrinus and Lagunitas Brewing Co. Brooklyn Brewery is number 9. Sources:

Co-founder of Brooklyn Brewery Steve Hindy was the Middle East Correspondent for the Associated Press where he covered wars and assassinations in Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, Egypt and Sudan. Steve befriended diplomats based in Saudi Arabia, where Islamic law prohibits alcoholic beverages. The envoys were avid home brewers and showed Steve their techniques. While editing foreign news for Newsday (Long Island) Steve started brewing at his Brooklyn home. His downstairs neighbor was banker Tom Potter, and they agreed to establish the Brooklyn Brewery.

A few Brooklyn breweries survived Prohibition by marketing malt beverages and medicinal alcohol. The last two great brewing families Schaefer and Liebmann (Rheingold) closed in 1976. Intent on starting a brewery that would pay homage to the rich history of their beloved borough, Steve and Tom set their sights on bringing in the legendary graphic designer Milton Glaser (I Love NY logo- NY Magazine) to create a logo that would give their fledgling Brooklyn Eagle (newspaper) Brewery brand an instant identity. Milton even agreed to waive his usual fees in exchange for an equity stake in the company. Steve and Tom raised $500,000 from family and friends, personally persuading each to share with them in their plan to build a “microbrewery.”


Shelving the “microbrewery” plan, Steve and Tom commissioned brewmaster William M. Moeller, a former head brewer at Philadelphia’s Schmidt Brewery, to brew Brooklyn Lager at the FX Matt Brewery in Utica, New York. Moeller pored over the brewing logs of a grandfather of his who had brewed in Brooklyn at the turn of the last century to develop a recipe for Brooklyn Lager. The result was an all-malt lager beer with a tangy aroma created by “dry-hopping,” an age-old technique of adding hops during the maturation process to create a robust aroma. Brooklyn Lager made quite a splash in the 1980’s beer scene in New York City, dominated by the light, rice and corn lagers sold by Budweiser, Miller and Coors.

In 1988 Steve and Tom were hitting the streets to educate consumers from the bottom up, exposing a new generation of beer drinkers to flavorful beers that had been all but lost to the American beer scene. In 1994, Garrett Oliver was brought on board as brewmaster. His beers and books include The Good Beer Book, The Brewmaster’s Table and The Oxford Companion to Beer. He won the 2014 James Beard Award for Outstanding Wine, Beer or Spirits Professional.  On May 28, 1996, Mayor Rudy Giuliani cut the ribbon at the grand opening of the new Brooklyn Brewery brewhouse, tasting room and offices in Williamsburg Brooklyn.

Tom, who had been heavily involved in the distribution division for the previous fifteen years, decided the time was right for him to retire and sold his shares to the Ottaway family. Not long after, Tom grew bored with retirement and founded the New York Distilling Company not far from the Brooklyn Brewery. In 2014 Eric Ottaway became the CEO and Robin Ottaway President.

Amarcord Brewery in Rimini, Italy teamed up with Brooklyn Brewery in 2011 to launch the first of four collaborative beers: Ama Bionda, Ama Bruna, Ama Mora and Ama Reserva. In 2003, Carlsberg, the fourth largest brewery in the world, assumed responsibility for distributing Brooklyn beers in Scandinavia. The Brooklyn brands took off as Brooklyn as a borough began to develop an international reputation as a center of the arts and entrepreneurship and America’s craft beer revolution began to take root around the world. In 2014, Brooklyn Brewery and Carlsberg celebrated the opening of their joint venture brewery Nya Carnegie, operating as a brewery and tasting room in Stockholm, Sweden. It was the first time an American craft brewery had established a facility overseas. Later that year, Brooklyn donated a microbrewery to the Culinary Institute of America, one of the world’s foremost cooking schools located in the Hudson Valley north of New York City. Garrett is developing a brewing curriculum for the CIA to familiarize students with the brewing process and produce beers for the school’s restaurants. Garrett has an expanded barrel-aging program housed in the historic Brooklyn Navy Yard down the road from the brewery and an extensive roster of experimental batches tucked away for study (and tasting).


I along with some 25 other people took the Small Batch Tour that takes place from 5-7PM Monday through Thursday. Reservations are required. We started by tasting 4 of their beers & even got to keep the tasting glass. Quite a bargain at just $10. The beers we tasted were: Brooklyn Lager, Local1, Wild Horse Porter & Unsung Hero.

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