Craft Beer Revolution Live presents our discussions with brewers across the country about the rise and risk of the craft beer industry. Each city will be posted here on our blog as well as our Soundcloud page. Taste with your ear buds.
On June 22nd, the Mash rolled into Pittsburgh, city of 400+ bridges and more than a handful of breweries. Brooklyn Brewery’s co-found & president, Steve Hindy, sat down to at the Church Brew Works to discuss his latest book, The Craft Beer Revolution with local heroes of brewing from the Church Brew Works, Hop Farm Brewing Company, and East End Brewing Company, moderated by Douglas Derda of Should I Drink That? Check out an excerpt where the brewers explore the oft-contentious world of gypsy brewing, or listen to the whole discussion, below:
Douglas Derda, “Should I Drink That?”: Well, back in the early days, Sam Adams caught some heat for winning an award while they were listed as a contract brewer with Pittsbrugh Brewing Company, which is very close to our hearts, and very close in location – almost directly across the street, at the time. Today there are still breweries that are contracting. […]People think of you guys working in breweries and pounding out your recipes, but then there are these other guys contracting out their recipes so other people are actually making them. Do you think that makes them less of a craft beer company or brewery?
Steve Hindy, Brooklyn Brewery: Well, we were strictly a contract brewer for the first seven years of our existence. […] I think without contract brewing, we wouldn’t have been able to get established and eventually build our brewery in Brooklyn. So, I’m not one to throw stones at contract brewers, having been one myself. I think there are a lot of great beers made by contract brewers.
In Matt’s generation, the new generation of craft brewing, there are a lot of people who are very upfront about not wanting to open a brewery, but wanting to make great beer. Now they’re called gypsy brewers, and there’s not so much of a stigma attached to it as there used to be. Jim Koch and I have fought over a lot of things, but I was always sympathetic to his comment that “if Julia Child cooks a meal in your kitchen, is it your meal, or is it Julia child’s meal?”
Scott Smith, East End Brewing Company: To me, the distinction comes back to what’s in the glass. I can have a beer that’s made by a small brewer that might have corn or rice as an ingredient – we brewed our cream ale with six-row barley and corn, which are generally ingredients frowned upon in craft beer circles because those are the garbage ingredients that the big guys use. But the reality is that you can make flavorful beer from them.
I have a hard time attaching [the “craft beer” label] to a specific set of ingredients, to if you own the building or the equipment that’s used to make the beer. I’m more concerned with what’s in the glass. What does it taste like? That defines a craft beer for me. Or how many barrels you brew – that’s another arbitrary number.
Sean Casey, Church Brew Works: Brewing is capital intensive. It takes a lot of money to buy equipment. […] I can tell you, one of the trends that’s going to be happening is […] mobile canning lines. These guys come in, they have a small twenty-foot box truck and a big load of cans, and they sit there and package the beer at these smaller brewpubs that really can’t put in a bottling line and may not have a canning line. The purists are going to start discovering that there’s a lot of canned beer out there that’s packaged on other people’s equipment. The concept of “what is contract brewing?” is splitting hairs.