Starting off like the Blair With Project of the craft beer world, American Beer shortly turns into a kick ass liver bender as five friends travel from East coast America to the West and back in 40 days, visiting 38 breweries.
As the host pull one of American's finests suds after another from the cooler in the back of the van and cheers with delight while entering heavy traffic, one might wonder what the open container laws are like in this situation. When was this movie filmed? A mild sense of impending doom hints from the corners of the screen as popular hand cam movies come to mind like District 9, Cloverfield or Paranormal activity, but are equally stalked by shadows of, "oh no, this is a home movie." Answer 2002 and don't worry, it gets better.
After a time the old world quality video and chummy chatting sinks in and you become one of the crew.
American Beer is very well edited and put together in a friendly, informative way that leads the viewers on with only minor moments of "you had to've been there" comedy that one would expect from an all male brewery hopping road trip.
[caption id="attachment_688" align="alignleft" width="260"] Larry Bell rockin the Hawaiian shirt like a boss[/caption]
We are toward the beginning of the great beer culture boom! The guys making American Beer got to meet some of the heaviest hitters in today's current beer scene, experiencing the highest density of Hawaiian shirt wearing company owners on the planet. We get to scope people like Sam Cologne from DogFish Head and Kim Jorden from New Belgium when they were rocking late 90's fashion and still loosing sleep over marketing. To be sure that when his movie was filmed neither one of them would have predicted just how extremely immense their empires would become.
The film does a beautiful job of showing the roots behind the mash tuns. Each brewer and brewery owner comes from a unique and diverse background: police officer, professional cellist, unemployed, foreign correspondent, chiropractor and on through all walks of life. Each of these people saw craft brewing as a way to express their love of being drunk.
"To me the idea of actually owning a brewery, of actually making beer was absolutely magic." -Fritz Maytag
Best movie moments:
Climax brewing, "my dad never had any JUNK BEERS around the house.."
Although the brewer from Climax has an accent like a moose in heat, the idea of only packaging in half gallons and kegs is an enlightening one. Then again, they might be disinclined to change the system seeing as how the bottling line workers build up a "pretty good buzz before lunch," sipping on the spillage.
"There are more dangerous ways to drive then fast," as the driver receives a speeding ticket.
"In those days every town of any consequence would have a bunch of breweries similair to what today, every town has a bunch of gas stations." -Fritz Maytag
"Uh, scared shitless is mostly what it is, yeah." is Larry Bell of Kalamazoo's response to being asked if he is exicted about opening his new much larger brewing location.
[caption id="attachment_693" align="alignright" width="240"] Seeing the 90 minute IPA in classic large bottling with the original labeling and cork topped, suggested by Sam Cologne as a hangover remedy.[/caption]
Holding the film together by an aspirin is the question, "can you give us any hangover remedies?". Best answer goes to David Geary of Geary brewing in Portland Maine:
"Any hangover remedies?"
"Moderation is the best hangover remedy."
"And if moderation doesn't present itself."
[caption id="attachment_702" align="alignleft" width="288"] Nitch and The French Man driving through the same red wood tree as seen in American Beer![/caption]
Towards the end Nitch perks up at getting to see her ol' stomping ground and does a few "I've been there!". I've drove through the same great red woods in northern california and I had mother's day dinner with my grandma at the exact table they filmed at in Rogue.
Needless to say, I was surprised they accomplished their 38 brewery goal with only minor weight gain and loss of mental facility. American Beer has to be one of the first movies of it's kind, boiling the facts down to a fermentable brew that is already showing signs of vintage statues. As time moves on, this canned film is likely to continue to increase in value. Simply charming and down to earth- like the beer culture it documents.