You might be disappointed reading Steve Hindy and Tom Potter’s Beer School if you think you’re getting a lesson in actual brewing. You will not be disappointed if you’re interested in learning about the actual business behind the craft beer you drink. Hindy and Potter combine to give straightforward advice to those of you out there looking to create a business of similar size and scope. This advice ranges from partner relationships to employee morale and marketing techniques. Perhaps because I read the book so soon after viewing the movie Beer Wars, the distribution struggles and successes were particularly interesting.
The book also gives the reader a distinctly “New York” perspective on recent craft beer history. I doubt very much that many breweries had to specifically prepare for mafia-related issues when starting their businesses. Not only did the brewery need to plan for the mafia when seeking investors but it was actually paid a visit by mafia members during the building of its location in Williamsburg. In such a large market, Brooklyn Brewery had to contend with especially strong efforts from the large brewers to keep them out of New York (out-bidding them to supply beer to events, etc.). Beyond the lessons learned selling their own beer, Hindy and Potter relate what they learned from other brewers and attempts to expand into the New York market through their distribution business. I was amazed to hear of how many breweries and brew pubs were forced to close because of reasons related to attempts to expand.
Each chapter was written by either Steve Hindy or Tom Potter with a response from the other. The writing itself, especially that of Steve Hindy, is quick and fun to read. His backround as a journalist is apparent. The pair’s willingness to share many of the issues that they had with each other gives you the sense that they are being honest with the reader.
Beer School is a fun read for those interested in the development of the craft beer industry in New York City and offers many lessons for entrepreneurs. It’s worth the read.