Monday, June 14, 2010

"American Beer"

Back around early 2005, I saw an event on either BeerAdvocate.com or RateBeer.com for an event where there was a showing of a documentary entitled “American Beer” in Columbia, Missouri. I believe it was on a Tuesday night around 8 PM, and I had seriously considered taking the two-hour trip to watch it. Eventually, common sense prevailed and I didn’t make the trip. Mainly because it was during the work week and cost $25 per ticket (which included beers from the local brewpub, Flat Branch Brewing Company). I researched the website of the company who made the film, Six Hundred Films, and I saw that the movie was like $20 after shipping, so decided to give it a shot. Now, five years later, the only movie I’ve probably seen more times is “Stripes” (although “Superbad” might catch up in a few years).

The movie was the brainchild of Paul Kermizian, who, along with four of his friends, decided to visit 38 breweries in 40 days. As a guy who scopes out local breweries whenever I make a trip somewhere, the concept of the movie was really interesting to me. If you’ve stumbled upon this website, the fact that I love visiting breweries isn’t a surprise to you. But if you watch this movie, you will see part of the reason why. Paul and his friends visited these breweries and got behind the scenes tours of each place from the people who not only make the beers, but more often than not risked their life’s savings to go into the beer-making business. And in almost every instance, the stories behind the breweries were pretty interesting, and the people behind the company were extremely cool people.

One of the surprising things about this movie in regards to how much I like it is that there isn’t a “payoff” at the end like in a lot of movies. “Bowling for Columbine” has Michael Moore confronting Charlton Heston. “Murderball” has the wheelchair rugby match between the U.S. and Canada. This movie doesn’t have the climatic ending those movies had, yet I found it every bit as interesting. Part of this is due to the likability of the guys in the movie. First of all, they aren’t know-it-alls. In fact, it seems like these guys are not all that familiar with craft beer at the start, at least not to the extent that you’d think five guys traveling the country to visit breweries would be. But they also aren’t idiots. There was a TV show on MOJO a couple of years ago called “Beer Nuts” that was crappy. It was two guys who knew nothing about beer, but weren’t interesting either. The concept of “Beer Nuts,” two guys going to a city and checking out the brewing scene, was a good enough idea. They just had two unlikable guys (actually one was unlikable and the other guy was okay, but whatever). The “American Beer” guys weren’t like that at all. They were smart enough guys who had a sense of humor. They seemed like regular guys that I would hang out with. I really enjoy this movie.

Anyway, this movie was the basis for Beer Trip. I saw this movie, and the following summer I had more vacation days than my wife, so I decided to go visit some friends and stop at some breweries along the way. I wouldn’t go as far as saying “American Beer” was a life changer, but it was a vacation changer.

I watched this movie again about two weeks ago, and it got me excited like it always does. I decided to see what Paul Kermizian was up to, and although I couldn’t see too much, I did see that he opened up a bar in Brooklyn called Barcade with two of the other “American Beer” guys. One of the other guys, Jeremy Goldberg is the head brewer at Cape Ann Brewing Company in Massachusetts. Our hope is to someday make a trip to both places on a Beer Trip (most likely Barcade next year on BT VII) because these guys are the reason that Beer Trip ever happened.