WILLIAMSBURG — He sat behind Egypt's former President Anwar Sadat when assassins "blew his head off" in 1981, got abducted in Lebanon with U.N. peacekeeping troops who were tortured and killed, and embedded with Iraqi troops invading Iran.
Now, almost 20 years after leaving Middle East war journalism to found Brooklyn Brewery, Stephen Hindy's two distinct worlds are about to collide under the roof of his famous Williamsburg beer hall, as he kicks off a war-reporter panel series with his first guest, renowned journalist Sebastian Junger.
"I've always stayed in touch with my war correspondent friends and wanted to do something at the brewery for them," said Hindy, 64, whose monthly war correspondent speaker series will launch in May. "Americans need to hear more from people in these dangerous situations because I think Americans don't realize the extent to which we influence events around the world."
Hindy — who started war reporting in Beirut with the Associated Press in the late 1970s, and then stayed in the field nearly six years before his wife urged them to move back to New York with their two young children — said the intense topic was actually appropriate in his beer hall.
"When I was in Cairo, I met diplomats who had been in Saudi Arabia where it's illegal to buy alcohol...so they made their own beer," he recalled. "So when I came back home I started making my own beer and selling it to all my friends."
Hindy — who will share his stories alongside Junger during the first talk — started the series with the help of his daughter and Junger, who run Reporters Instructed in Saving Colleagues (RISC) to train reporters who are about to enter conflict zones.
"The series is a fundraiser and 100 percent of ticket proceeds will go to RISC. When I worked as a correspondent it was rare to have freelancers, and now Sebastian said it's about 80 percent freelancers," Hindy said. "It's really important for them to have this training."
The lineup — which includes photojournalist Michael Kamber, New Yorker correspondent John Lee Anderson, ABC News correspondent Bob Woodruff and New York Times writer C.J. Chiver — was arranged by Hindy's daughter, Lily Hindy, who was born in Cairo while her father still worked as a reporter.
"I haven't done any combat reporting, but I've always been interested in it because of my upbringing," said Lily, 29, who worked domestically on the AP's international desk and studied Arabic in the Middle East before helping found RISC.
"My dad came to our first group show where all [RISC] trainees show their work, photo slideshows and videos, and writers read their work... My dad was watching it and realized it was the kind of thing he wanted to do at the brewery."
Although war reporting is a closed chapter in Stephen Hindy's life — "I think my wife would shoot me if I went to Syria," he laughed — he said he has gotten a domestic "thrill" from launching such a booming beer business.
"It was kind of boring being an editor at a newspaper compared to being a reporter in a war zone," he said of his first job upon returning to New York in the late 1980s. "So I started thinking about starting my own company.... It's been a real thrill starting a brewery and selling beer, not just in the United States, but around the world."
Tickets for Brooklyn Brewery's war correspondent series are $15 each, but some dates may already be sold out, Hindy said. Tickets can be bought online.