I’m at the Craft Brewers Conference in San Diego this week. The 4,500 participants could not be more excited or confident about the future of craft beer in America. Craft’s share of market has doubled to about 6% since the conference was last held here in 2004.
Virtually all of America’s 2,000 craft brewers are expanding capacity in numbers that will easily push us past 10% share in the next decade. And there are more than 1,000 wannabe brewers busily honing their business plans.
That is a very exciting prospect for the hundreds of equipment fabricators and other industry suppliers in attendance. There also is a huge contingent of distributors at the conference, all of them enthusiastic about the fastest growing segment of the alcoholic beverage industry.
This year’s CBC includes the World Beer Cup awards, to be announced Saturday. There are more than 4,000 entries this year from 29 countries. That is a river of beer for the 215 judges, including our brewmaster Garrett Oliver, to taste. A tough job, but somebody has to do it.
It’s been 17 years since we brewed the first batch of Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout. It was the first beer Garrett Oliver brewed for us, and it was inspired by a homebrewed stout that I used to make. Garrett did it much better, of course. I recall my partner Tom Potter was nervous about making 6,000 cases of a stout beer. Tom noted that our distribution company, The Craft Brewers Guild, only sold a couple of thousand cases annually of stout beers, from Samuel Smith’s, Grant’s, Sierra Nevada and others. Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout was bigger and stronger than any of them. We believed that it would be a winner and we took a chance. It sold out by January 1995. This year, we’ll sell 12 times that much. It’s a winner.
The “Brooklyn Night Bazaar” planned for Dec 15-17 at 149 Kent Ave with DJ James Murphy, and bands Fucked Up and The Hold Steady takes me back to a similar extravaganza on the Brooklyn waterfront in 1989, the Cat’s Head*. Of course there are significant differences. The Cat’s Head was completely illegal. As I recall, it was created by a group of early Williamsburg settlers –Robert Elmes, Jessica Nissen and Fred Valentine. They squatted in an abandoned industrial building on the waterfront. No one had insurance; no one had any official approval from the Building Department or the Fire Department or the Police Department. No one had a beer license, but they somehow managed to buy and sell Brooklyn Lager. There were radical art installations, towering sculptures, exploding watermelons, nude performance art, even a tennis match between Paul Campbell and Reggie Hodges in a grain silo, when the event was held in the Mustard Factory on Grand. There were great bands. It went all night. It was utterly raw. As I recall, there were two such Cat’s Head happenings. The shadowy organizers took the profit and went to Berlin and did a Cat’s Head there.
The Brooklyn Night Bazaar will be much more buttoned up, but it continues a great Williamsburg party tradition.
– Steve Hindy, President & Co-founder
*I seem to recall a severed cat’s head on the property gave the event its name.
If you have been to the brewery lately, you could not fail to notice our new mural. The Egyptologists among you will appreciate the hieroglyphs that translate: “Beer has dispelled the illness which was in me.” Our translation was done by Dr. Kent Weeks, the world’s leading Egyptologist. I met Kent in Egypt in 1981, when he was a visiting professor from UC Berkeley. Kent resigned his cushy job at Berkeley and took a seat at American University of Cairo to lead the Theban Mapping Project, an ambitious effort to map all the tombs in the Valley of the Kings and Tombs of the Queens in Luxor, Egypt, using the latest remote sensing equipment. In the course of those explorations, Kent uncovered important new tombs in Luxor, making him the most prominent archaeologist since Howard Carter dug up King Tut.
Kent now divides his time between Upper Egypt and Connecticut. Indiana Jones has nothing on this guy.