2005 | REVIEWS | AMERICAN BEER DVD
"American Beer" DVD
Reviewed by Jay Brooks
Six Hundred Films
DVD Format (NTSC)
Running Time: 100 min
Bonus Time: 80 min
IT HERE – $19.99
I sat down to watch “American Beer” with great
anticipation. Scanning the list of breweries, I realized I
knew many of the people who would undoubtedly be interviewed.
The promotional material hypes the film as a paean to good
beer, specifically American craft beer. Certainly the industry
could use some good publicity.
The idea was simple enough. Five people drove a van cross-country,
visiting 38 breweries in 40 days. The amount of footage they
amassed during that Lenten period must be gargantuan. So the
real trick, like that of any reality-type film, is what to
leave in and what to leave out. The interviews with the various
brewers and brewery owners along the way are the most memorable
and entertaining part of the film. Those are thoroughly enjoyable,
and most do an excellent job of explaining what makes craft
beer so great and why it is worthy of respect.
Unfortunately, there are two films here, and they seem almost
at cross-purposes. The tone changes from scene to scene. After
almost every brewery visit, the following scene involves drinking
from bottles in parking lots, drinking in the van itself,
being hung over morning after morning and — by far the
worst — celebrating Wyoming’s new open-container
law (which allows non-drivers to drink in a moving vehicle)
as if Prohibition itself had been repealed.
At the risk of sounding like a cranky oldster, these guys
acted like frat boys in search of the next party. The only
difference between them and other twenty-somethings is they
appear to like good beer. But the real disservice here is
that they manage to undo time and time again the valuable
lessons of what makes craft beer great. If you hear a brewer
telling the audience about the quality of craft beer but then
immediately afterwards see the same students who were shown
listening intently chugging bottles in the parking lot, the
message gets muddled. Have that happen over and over again,
and the good-beer message is lost entirely.
From the outset, I knew nothing of our five intrepid explorers.
Who were they? What had led them on this quest? How would
it change them? Sadly, none of these questions are answered,
and only the last is even addressed, although rather pretentiously,
at the very end of the film. I expected that we would learn
about them as the film progressed, but their scenes only served
to transition from one brewery visit to the next. Precious
little real personality was revealed. I had trouble keeping
them straight. I suppose it could be argued that the beer
was the star of the film, but if so, why include the filmmakers
at all? In the end, they detracted from the message. The result
was that this does not show the industry in the best light,
despite the interviewed brewers’ valiant attempts to
do just that.
I could also quibble with the filmmakers’ choices,
though many were excellent breweries. A few, however, were
perplexing, and there were several that were sinfully omitted.
But that is, of course, a matter of personal taste.
Ultimately a disappointing experience, this DVD may appeal
to a younger audience whose knowledge of the beer industry
is limited. There is much good information here. Unfortunately,
it is contradicted by the filmmakers themselves. The DVD can
be purchased on-line at sixhundred.com.
Jay R. Brooks is a cranky oldster who loves
film. He is the blind tasting director of the Celebrator
Beer News and a former beer buyer. He can be found these
days wandering the streets of San Rafael, Calif., with his
wife and two children.