BREWMANCE is a tale of a love affair with beer– but not my father’s beer, and Chet and his brothers, my uncles, LOVED beer. They would sit around the backyard at all the family gatherings–barbecues to baptisms–drinking cases of the stuff. A cousin once drove in from out of state for a family funeral arriving early, and with a little help polished off half a case before the service. My father loved “BUD” that all-American brand he once championed at a hoity-toity restaurant. When it was missing from the list of highfalutin beers the waiter had just read off, my dad said, “What, no Bud? It’s the king of beers!” We burst out laughing. Many years later, a friend and neighbor showed up at Chet’s wake and slipped a six-pack into my dad’s casket.
But I digress– or maybe not. Beer has always been a boon to camaraderie, a hearty toast to success, and perhaps even a boost to the American Revolution, fomented and fermented in “public houses” over a few pints. So we are given to understand in this intoxicating documentary about another revolt, the craft beer revolution for folks who want more than what my dad and his bros drank. Independently produced and distributed by filmmaker Christo Brock, BREWMANCE documents the American craft beer movement spawned by home brewers in search of flavors infinitely more exotic than my father’s generic lager. In fact, BREWMANCE posits that the culture of craft beer is a rebellion against homogenization itself: variety and individuality is all. Indeed, the film packs a lot of heart, hops, history, family, and science into a refreshing cinematic elixir, with cool graphics and a heady close-up on the universe of alchemists who conjure the golden brew.
The film took me places I didn’t know I wanted to go, namely the agony and the ecstasy of making beer, starting a brewery, and meeting the captains of the industry including the godfather of the craft movement– nuclear engineer and founder of the American Homebrewers Association Charlie Papazian; Anchor Brewing Co.’s Fritz Maytag; Boston Beer Co.’s Jim Koch among many others.
We also get a glimpse of the infinite permutations of flavor that can be derived from only four ingredients: water, malt, hops, and yeast. Then there are the tales of the brewers who scale up from their garages to full blown breweries which serve the public and whose unique concoctions might win a medal at the GABF– Great American Brew Fest where amber ales, cream stouts, dunkels, and lagers compete and brewmasters share uncensored opinions. One particular IPA was described as tasting “like your cat ate your weed and pissed on your Christmas tree.”
These brewmasters of course are the soul of the world of craft beer, innovative individuals with unique tastes and a flair for the creative. The film zeros in on two groups out of California who set out to handcraft beer and open their own breweries. For the Sundstroms, home brewing is a family affair and the turning point in healing a “tumultuous” father/son relationship. The result is the “pet-and kid-friendly” Ten Mile Brewing Company which boasts brews as fresh as the natural landscape that inspired their beer.
Then there’s trombonist Dan Regan from the ska punk band “Reel Big Fish” whose wild life on the road as a musician eventually led him and two pals to embed their renegade spirit in a craft beer brewery called Liberation Brewing Company. It welcomes “storytellers…revolutionaries…pirates” and their ilk, and has “Jack Rabbit” and “Sick Beat” on tap. Being more of a reader than a beer drinker, I find these monikers inspired. “Pliny the Elder” a double IPA from Russian River Brewing Company tickles my curiosity. And I once tasted a vanilla bean-chocolate-coffee-inflected stout out of the Maine Beer Company called “Mean Old Tom” that made me swoon.
Whether or not you’re a beer drinker with a frisky palate, there’s plenty here if you appreciate connoisseurship and are thirsty for a good story. What BREWMANCE serves up without reservation is unabashed passion, an undercurrent of down home determination, and an unmistakeable tincture of joie de vivre. These brewmasters swear “sharing your home brew adds to your quality of life,” while others throw caution to the wind and declare it a flat out “all-consuming love affair” or even “life itself.” Ken Grossman from Sierra Nevada Brewing described “the craft” in terms this drama critic could immediately embrace: “It’s not producing widgets. It’s producing something that’s got romance and character and a feeling and a soul.” “We’re artists,” declares Vince Cilurzo from Russian River Brewing. “We’re making liquid art.”
If Chet were still here, we’d definitely hoist a few.
BREWMANCE is now on tap: on Digital and On Demand! CHECK THIS OUT!