Beers of Joy puts Sugar Creek on National Stage

By Todd Bowman of

Beers of Joy is a documentary film that follows the story of four unique individuals as each undertakes an audacious pilgrimage, hoping to achieve enlightenment within the world of craft beer.  The film was released across the country on March 1st, 2019, and has already earned a number of critical accolades. Surprisingly, the film has received very little coverage from the Charlotte media, in spite of the Queen City enjoying a major part in the film.  Sugar Creek Brewing, a LoSo brewery specializing in Belgian-style ales, is working hard to remedy this oversight by hosting the first public Charlotte screening on June 28th.

At the center of the film are two men from very different backgrounds, both seeking to climb one of the most elusive summits in the brewing world: the Master Cicerone exam.  The film follows both Joe Vogelbacher, CEO and co-founder of Charlotte-based Sugar Creek Brewing, and Ryan Daley, educator at Anheuser-Busch’s High End business unit, as they prepare to take one of the most difficult written and sensory exams ever created, and one with a failure rate near 99%.  At the time of filming, only 13 individuals bore the title Master Cicerone, roughly one for each year of the program’s existence.

The film also tracks the escapades of two talented individuals on journeys of creation.  Tonya Cornett, the decorated head brewer at 10 Barrel Brewing, sets out on an expedition across Europe, pursuing the secrets behind brewing the world’s finest Berliner Weisse.  And Sean Z. Paxton, better known as the Homebrew Chef, tracks down the historical roots of American cooking and brewing traditions, endeavoring to prepare an authentic 16th century meal using only traditional tools and techniques.

I recently had the pleasure of discussing Beers of Joy with several folks directly involved in the movie’s creation: David Swift of One-Eleven Entertainment, who directed, wrote and produced the film, as well as Joe Vogelbacher and Eric Flanigan, the founders of Sugar Creek Brewing, who both appear in the film.  After spending a few hours both on the phone and in person with these three individuals, I can tell you that their passion is real, their vision is compelling, and their determination to deliver a profound vision of the world of beer is unshakable.  This is the story behind the story.

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