This new documentary film from director Douglas Tirola frames a contemporary history of brewing around American stories of pursuing brewing dreams, learning the ropes, and overcoming failure.
FOR AS LARGE AS the United States craft beer market is, precious few films or television shows tackle the subject. Even fewer address technical aspects of the way beer is made. But Brewmaster, a documentary following the dual narrative arcs of attorney Drew Kostic (as he prepares to launch a brewery) and Brian Reed (a brewer for Tenth and Blake who’s studying for the Master Cicerone exam) manages to weave contextual interviews with brewing luminaries together with these core stories in a way that keeps them moving and gets viewers invested. The film never lectures and never judges, but paints a romantic yet realistic picture of the challenge of following one’s dreams.
The filmmaker has done his homework, and the stunning array of background interviews with luminaries like Sam Calagione (Dogfish Head), Rob Tod (Allagash), Garrett Oliver (Brooklyn Brewery), John Kimmich (The Alchemist), Jim Koch (Boston Beer), Randy Mosher (Forbidden Root and 5 Rabbit Cerveceria), and many more (including, in full disclosure, our own Senior Editor John Holl) shed light into the personalities and stories behind beers we all drink—stories that we rarely get to glimpse and which humanize the labor of beer production through recounting the similar challenges they all faced through their brewing careers.
While the production values are somewhat raw, the story drags here and there, and the camera movement can be distracting at times, the sheer pleasure of watching smart beer industry folks share history, experience, and brewing philosophy throughout the film makes it worth the price of entry. The filmmaker’s passion for the subject is apparent, as few would spend as much time traveling around the country and the world to capture the interviews he did, and that genuine love pushes the stories forward in a way that is relatable for many of us who brew or continue to pursue more brewing knowledge. One day, Ken Burns may score a PBS budget to tell the modern history of craft beer, but in the meantime, Brewmaster will do just fine. —Jamie Bogner