Fans For Fair Play
Challenging Bruce Ratner’s Brooklyn Atlantic Yards project

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Think Before You Drink Brooklyn Lager 

Beer and sports are intrinsically linked, like Ali & Frazier, Abbott & Costello, Bush & Abramhoff. Beer companys are the prime buyers of sports television ad slots. Worse, they target men just about exclusively, using putrid, dated appeals to machismo and sexism.

Okay, okay, they target women too -- women that like putrid, dated, macho, sexist men.

It's no surprise, then, that there's a beer company rushing to cozy up to Bruce Ratner to be crowned the Official Beer of Brooklyn's Destruction.

That beer is Brooklyn Lager, the product of Steve Hindy's Brooklyn Brewery.

Last week Hindy hosted a party at the Brewery's Williamsburg location to celebrate the "impending arrival" of the "Brooklyn Nets," an otherwise fictional team crashing about the cavernous dreamscapes of Bruce Ratner, Marty Markowitz, a few toady community groups, and a handful of basketball fans scattered throughout the borough.

The dignitaries at Hindy's brown-nosey party were Forest City Ratner's Vice President for Obfuscation Jim "Hairclub For Men" Stuckey, four plucky Nets cheerleaders (who, for some reason, insist that you and I call them "dancers"), and Bruce Ratner's new bid for African-American stree-cred, former NBA star and backboard destroyer Darryl "Chocolate Thunder" Dawkins (his nickname, not ours -- though we do take credit for Jim "Hairclub For Men" Stuckey).

Quite the chill-inducing, buzzkilling soiree, yes indeed.

It's been known for quite some time that Hindy is desperate to be part of, as well as aid and abet, Ratner's hoped-for Brooklyn: bland high-rises, national-chain boxstores, and a paucity of small Brooklyn businesses the likes of which Hindy's brewery is supposed to exemplify. Like Markowitz, Hindy believes he's a good-will ambassador for Brooklyn.

We have a different title for Hindy: traitor.

Hindy's support for Ratner is disgusting. Markowitz's clueles cheerleading for Ratner's glossy, politician's wet dream is typical for a hack operative of Marty's station.

Hindy's dealings with Ratner are something else altogether.

Steve Hindy rode into town on the back of Brooklyn's fabled brewery past. At one time Brooklyn -- not St. Louis, Milwaukee or Golden, Colorado -- was the beer epicenter of America. There used to be dozens of amazing local brews, including nationally-known Schlitz, Schaefer, Piels, Rheingold and Old Dutch.

Never mind that early Brooklyn Brewery customers, thinking those brown bottles contained beer brewed here in Brooklyn, were actually washing down suds concocted in Utica, New York.

Hindy did a good job finally setting up shop in Brookyn proper ten years after offering Utica beverages to Brooklynites. His Williamsburg brewery is something of a mecca for microbrew afficianados, and he continues to name his beers after Brooklyn heritage and mythology, including the popular Dodgers tie-in Pennant Pale Ale '55.

And that's why Hindy's support of Ratner's Atlantic Yards project is so misguided, opportunistic, cruel and pathetic. Everything that Ratner stands for ignores real Brooklyn history. Every Ratnerville ever built in America ignores small business, local flavor and the cool eccentricities of regional traditions. The slowly unravelling Atlantic Yards, if it manages to get built despite fever-pitched community opposition, lawsuits, statutes being written against it, and increasingly impatient investors, will ignore Brooklyn's storied past.

It's the nature of the beast.

Hindy, in fact, is an enabler for Ratner's planned, but far-from-realized, destruction of Freddy's Bar, located in the footprint of the Atlantic Yards project. Freddy's is an iconic venue -- as "Brooklyn" a bar as any in the borough.

Guess which beer is the biggest seller at Freddy's. Of course...Brooklyn Lager.

Freddy's, through its innate Brooklyn DNA as well as its knowledgable bartenders, has made Brooklyn Lager the number one beer in the old place, which has been there since Prohibition days.

Hindy's complicity to destroy Freddy's is the thanks they get.

The pathetic part comes when Hindy discovers he's being played. No major sports arena gives local breweries exclusive contracts -- unless it's the home cities of the mega breweries. Go to any major-league sports event. The beers are Budweiser, Miller and Coors. Sometimes there are small kiosks scattered about the arena with a local, gourmet beer -- for the kind of "local flavor" presentation that can only come from the vapid stylings of sports marketing consultants.

A few years ago, when new ownership relaunched Rheingold, a big deal was made of its return to Shea Stadium. Mets fans who remembered the glory days of the '69 Amazin' Mets and whose thirst was slaked by Rheingold -- the Official Beer of the New York Mets back then -- were excited. They were decided less so when they discovered that they had to spend innings searching the stadium for the remote Rheingold outposts, while Budweiser products continued to be sold at every concession stand.

This is what Hindy has to look forward to if Ratner's arena ever gets built. The mega breweries would throw tens of millions at Ratner to be the arena's official beer. Brooklyn Lager would certainly be available, just as Rheingold was at Shea. It's doubtful they would be the primary, "official" beer in a Ratner arena in their home borough.

That's not how the big-time sports biz operates these days, and that's not how Bruce Ratner has ever operated.

Here we have Steve Hindy tossing out Brooklyn's proud past with the bathwater that his beer now tastes like to former Brooklyn Lager drinkers now furious with him.

Hindy must be aware that hundreds of his heretofore most dedicated customers have now sworn off his products. Some have even used the B-word: boycott.

Fans For Fair Play believes Brooklyn Brewery products should be boycotted. Brooklyn Lager's taste may be one reason people drink it. But if you ask a Brooklyn Lager imbiber why she or he drinks it, the answer is often "I like supporting the local brand" or "I like a beer made in Brooklyn."

Hindy's deal with the devil proves he cares far less for Brooklyn than his customers care for his beer.

To that end, we urge beer drinkers to switch to another brand, and let Steve Hindy know why they're making the change. Maybe it will be a temporary condition -- Hindy could decide it's not worth the hassle, and withdraw his support for Ratner. He might even decide this based on compassion and ethics, not just business practicalities.

You can reach Steve here:


You can also write and call:

Steve Hindy, President
Brooklyn Brewery
79 North 11th Street, Brooklyn, NY 11211
(718) 486-7422
(718) 486-7440 (fax)

We also urge pubs whose owners disagree with the Ratner project to stop serving Brooklyn Brewery products -- a well-promoted emptying of Brooklyn Brewery kegs into the corner sewergrate will send the message that local businesses that will be irreparably harmed by the Atlantic Yards project don't take kindly to traitors.

In this struggle against Bruce Ratner and the Atlantic Yards project, anti-Ratner groups have proven that Brooklynites have the power to fight City Hall.

Bet you didn't know the power you wield includes this simple, forceful statement:

"Hey, barkeep, whattya got beside Brooklyn Lager?"

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