Sunday, July 12, 2015

Blood, Sweat and Beer Movie Review

It's not too often that I review something that isn't beer but today I've got a special treat for my readers: I'm going to be reviewing a movie! Not just any movie, but a documentary about craft beer called Blood, Sweat and Beer. It that specifically focuses on the growth of two new craft breweries:

  1. Backshore Brewing (AKA Shorebilly Brewing)
  2. The Brew Gentleman Beer Company

In addition to that, the movie focuses on the growth of the craft beer industry as a whole across the United States, as well as the challenges faced by new startup breweries.

Right away when introduced to the two startup breweries, you can't help but feel like that they are each in their own planet. Shorebilly Brewing is a new but established brewery located along the boardwalk in Ocean City, Maryland. Brew Gentleman, on the other hand, is located in Braddock, Pennsylvania, which is a steel town located outside of Pittsburgh. Unlike Backshore, they have not opened up yet at the start of the movie.

These contrasts of locations are where the cinematography really comes into play nicely. On one end, you've got Ocean City, which is a picturesque summer tourist destination situated along the Atlantic Ocean. If no one told me where it was located, I could've easily mistaken it for Long Beach, California. Compared to Braddock, which is considered to be a Rust Belt city and it is in very rough shape with the majority of the buildings in town sitting abandoned and a population that is a fraction of what it once was.

Shorebilly Brewing has already been around for a couple of years at the start of the movie. Their story highlights the owner Danny Robinson's desire to grow their distribution, the struggles of seasonal traffic and the trademark lawsuit which could potentially shut down the brewery; The latter of which is the primary emphasis for Shorebilly's Story. If there is one thing I really like about this, it's that it shows just how ugly the whole litigation process is and it especially shows really shows when Danny is talking it. It is a name which he essentially poured his soul into making over the past few years after leaving the restaurant industry.

On the flipside, Brew Gentleman's story focuses more on getting the said brewery off the ground. They tell you their life story, background and how they came to a town that would be the last place you'd expect to find a craft brewery. You get to see how they live on a day-today basis and hear their story about how they got to where they are now. The spirit of these guys is reflected mostly with their brewmaster, a former intern at Anheuser-Busch, who seemingly turned away a potential career with them and instead opted to work for Brew Gentleman in a town that many of the locals referred to as "Hell." What makes it all more profound is that he did it all for free.

The spotlight isn't just on these two breweries in particular. The filmmakers went out of their way to speak with the owners of other, well-established breweries like Victory Brewing, Heavy Seas, Brooklyn Brewing, Flying Dog & Terrapin just to name a few. Their input helps give the viewer a broader context of what the industry is really like and what they think the future holds for craft beer as a whole.

The movie also highlights the following that craft beer has. Ranging from the casual drinker at a beer festival to the man who has an entire cellar full of literally hundreds of bottles that he has set aside for aging. It does so in a nice way without making the follow seem fanboyish, which I'll admit was one of my initial concerns about this film when I first started watching it.

While the movie talks about all the positives that have come to light because of the craft brewing industry, it doesn't shy away from the fact that the growth will eventually slow down . On top that, it doesn't ignore the fact that some breweries are going to go out of business; Whether it be from competition or quality of beer. It also does a great job of putting into perspective of the overhead costs to keep a brewery running and paints a realistic picture that not all breweries (and their owners) aren't rich but ordinary people like you and me trying to make good beer.

The movie does touch briefly upon the topic of Craft vs. Crafty beer, which I wrote about early last month. This means that big beer companies are trying to take their share of the craft beer market by releasing their brand of beer designed to pass off as craft beer. It's a topic that I felt should've been covered a little more but at the same time I think that could've taken away from what the overall movie was about.

All and all, the movie does a great job of showcasing the growth of the craft brewing industry in the United States & the realities of opening up a new craft brewery. At the same time, I really have gained a greater appreciation for the beer which I drink and review on a regular basis. If you have any interest in craft beer, whether it be passing or as a loyal follower, you owe it to yourself to check this movie out!

If you'd like more information about the movie you can check out the link right here -

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