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Beyond the brewery: Steve Hindy, the journalist
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Beyond the brewery: Steve Hindy, the journalist

From reporting in Beirut to opening Brooklyn Brewery in the ’80s, this former war correspondent has quite a story to tell.
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There’s no question you’ve tasted their beers, and probably know the brewers by name. They have shaped the beer industry, but outside the brewhouse, these luminaries live as passionately as they work. Here, hear from Brooklyn Brewery’s Steve Hindy, a journalist and former war correspondent: 

“My dream was to design golf courses, but at the end of my freshman year at Cornell my grade point average was 1.9. So I quit golf and majored in English, then got a master’s in teaching English. I did student teaching and almost had a nervous breakdown. I just couldn’t do it. I wanted to write, so I volunteered at a weekly newspaper in Seneca Falls, New York. After two months, I became the local daily newspaper’s Seneca County bureau chief. It was right after Woodward and Bernstein, so everyone was an investigative reporter. I stirred things up, but I wanted to come to New York City.

My wife, Ellen, got a job at Cornell Medical College, and White Plains’ The Reporter Dispatch hired me. I was covering really boring, rich, white suburban towns. We had to cover every zoning-board story. It was awful. My next job was with Passaic’s Herald-News in north New Jersey, where I covered the Hurricane Carter retrial, mob trials and discovered municipal waste being dumped into a wetland. Newark’s Associated Press bureau noticed me and I became news editor, but the AP is grueling. You’re always on deadline.

There was an opportunity to become a foreign correspondent, so I started studying Arabic. I transferred to New York’s foreign desk, and six months later they sent me to Beirut. The Middle East was crazy, and it got crazier. I arrived in February 1979 and covered summer elections in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq before going to Tehran. I was a Middle East correspondent for five and a half years when the AP wanted me to go to the Philippines. Ellen said no. We’d divorced in New York, but after I was in Beirut about six months I started missing her and writing her. She visited and we got remarried during the war in Beirut. Our son was born there, and our daughter was born in Cairo. I thought, ‘I screwed this up once. Am I going to do it again?’ So we came back to New York.

Photo by Matt Furman

Photos by Matt Furman for DRAFT

After working on the AP’s overnight desk, Long Island’s Newsday hired me and we bought an apartment in Park Slope, Brooklyn. Compared to covering history, Newsday was a big comedown. When I left AP, my colleagues gave me a nice homebrewing kit. I’d gotten interested in homebrewing in Cairo, where I met the American diplomats who worked in Saudi Arabia—they made really good beer. I started making my own and convinced Tom Potter to help me start a brewery. We raised money from family and colleagues, including $110,000 from Newsday. Journalists don’t make much money, but they tend to be crazy.

In the beginning, people didn’t like Brooklyn Lager. But journalists think on their feet. If there’s no way to get something done, they find a way. In journalism they call that enterprise reporting. You also have to be persistent, which is how we started working with designer Milton Glaser. It took two weeks of badgering before his receptionist said, “You’re not going to give up. Here’s Milton.” We wanted to call the brewery Brooklyn Eagle, after the newspaper, but Milton said, “Forget the eagle. You’ve got Brooklyn. It fits with beer.”

In addition to books, I write for beer newspapers and magazines, as well as Vice, most recently about my kidnapping in south Lebanon. They do great war reporting, but it’s a very difficult time for journalists. In Beirut, we wore T-shirts that had the AP logo and said REPORTER in Arabic, while the back said DON’T SHOOT in Arabic, French and English. We could go anywhere. Now there’s something like two dozen journalists held in Syria. It’s a different world. Networks even have bodyguards for reporters. Today, lots of reporting doesn’t get done because you have to be almost suicidal to go into places like northern Syria. You’re worth money to kidnappers. The business has collapsed, but I think journalism will come back. Reporting and independent information will always be valuable.”

 

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