The genesis of our family’s involvement in Brooklyn Brewery dates back to the early ‘80s in the Middle East, where co-founder Steve Hindy and our father were fellow journalists covering wars and raising families in Cairo, Egypt. When Steve started his crazy adventure of establishing a brewery in Brooklyn, our father contributed $10,000, more in support of Steve than as a serious investment. Little did our father know where that relatively small investment would take him and in particular, his kids. Over the past 20+ years working here, Eric and I eventually became majority owners and CEO and President of the Brewery. I’m proud to say I’m only the second President of the Brooklyn Brewery, after Steve, who is now Chairman. A lot has changed in craft beer and in Brooklyn since we joined Steve’s adventure. Both have become global phenomena and we’ve been fortunate to have the opportunity to contribute to those waves. Now we’re riding them into an exciting future. And while there have been many important milestones in our company’s evolution, today is one of the biggest in our history.
Earlier today in Japan, we announced that Kirin Brewery will be making a minority equity investment in Brooklyn Brewery. This investment allows Steve, Garrett Oliver, Eric and me to achieve our #1 goal- to remain an independent owned and operated brewery (as defined by the Brewers Association).
So, how did we hook up with Kirin? We’ve been selling beer in Japan almost since we started in 1988. It was our first export market. I began visiting Japan regularly in 2012, and while it was clear that craft beer was happening there, it needed a catalyst to make it bigger. I noticed that of the big domestic brewers, Kirin seemed to understand craft best. Kirin was founded in Yokohama in 1869 by a Norwegian-American who apprenticed under a German brewmaster, later moved to the US, and then to Japan. Kirin has become a leading global brewer because of their focus on quality, world-class R&D capabilities, and an ability to partner effectively. In 2014, they took a minority stake in Yo-Ho Brewing, Japan’s leading craft brewery. I was impressed with their focus on beer and food education at Spring Valley, a craft brewery they successfully established in 2015. It was clear to me that Kirin understood and respected craft beer and the way it could elevate all beer. They became a natural partner for us.
What will we do with our new resources? In short, we’ll continue to reinvest in Brooklyn Brewery. We intend to continue our global expansion and affirm our position as a leading global craft brewer. While keeping our current brewery in Williamsburg, we are building our new global headquarters in the Brooklyn Navy Yard with a 600-person capacity rooftop beer garden. We intend to build another bigger brewery that will enable us to brew 100% of the beer we sell domestically in-house. We intend to build on a strategy that takes Brooklyn Brewery to a fully national brand with a top-class sales and marketing team supporting our distributors. We are busy developing our vision for a Brooklyn bar, initially aimed to be located overseas. And we will continue to promote craft beer globally through our joint-venture brewery partnerships in Sweden and Norway, and soon-to-be Korea. It’s an exciting time to be a craft brewer, and I’m proud to say that our beers are better than they’ve ever been and we remain at the cutting edge of craft brewing in everything we do.
Even though we’ve been around for almost 30 years, this is a new beginning for the Brooklyn Brewery, or certainly a new chapter. In many ways we’ve always been open to the rest of the world. We love our home, but we are travelers, and we’ve always reached out to fellow brewers everywhere. This investment is part of a broader strategy to form partnerships and collaborate around the world to build our brand and help grow craft beer wherever we go. We have been working successfully with another global brewer, Carlsberg, for more than a decade. They import and distribute us in many countries throughout Europe and parts of Asia. We have established craft breweries together in Sweden and Norway, with more coming. We are excited to now add Kirin to our team.
But let me be entirely clear – Eric and I will continue to control and operate the Brooklyn Brewery for many years to come. Kirin’s investment allows us to do that and a lot more. So on behalf of our 150+ employees, soon to be growing, we welcome Kirin to the Brooklyn Brewery family and look forward to our journey together.
– Robin Ottaway, President, Brooklyn BreweryBack to all blog posts