Check out Kirk Fernwood’s review from OneFilmFan.com
First, the Recap:
Suds. Brew. Stout. Lager. A cold one. These stand as terms we’ve heard a thousand times or more in our lifetimes when it comes to describing one of the truly few universal beverages in this massive world–beer. While some might consider it no more than “that typical choice” for everything from college keg parties to familial get-togethers, there exists a much deeper, more impassioned journey that a chosen few embark upon that finds the search for color, aroma, foam, and clarity the primary foci while striving to elevate their overall knowledge of one of humanity’s most shared commonalities and subsequently educating those around them as such, whether as fellow colleagues or simply best friends, to illustrate the undeniable versatility of said ales.
Yet, what exactly is the commitment to such an endeavor? When there are literally well over one hundred plus styles of beer worldwide, each with their own uniquely created profiles, on top of the technical art that is the brewing process, while also being able to discern the varied tastes each primary style possesses, it’s no small matter to proclaim yourself a bonafide master of the drink. Yet, as previously mentioned, there are those who have unrestricted determination and drive to showcase that beer is not just beer, not just that ever-present social libation or subject of many an entertaining TV commercial. It’s history, it’s culture, it is dogged fixation. Voyage with two Master Cicerone candidates, a chef, and a brewer plus a myriad of others who all demonstrate the science of success through the drink they adore.
Next, my Mind:
It doesn’t remotely matter, in this critic’s opinion anyway, whether you officially consider yourself a “drinker” or “non-drinker”, casual imbiber or all-out partier, there’s no getting past the fact that this 120-minute documentary feature film from co-writers/co-directors/co-producers Scott Owen and David Swift, along with additional producers Mike Cooley and Jonathan Hack, deliver an amazing part-Stateside, part globetrotting pilgrimage that is highly educational, totally grounded, and engagingly entertaining as it presents a core storyline of four remarkable individuals who all share the common love for beer and how it has effected and altered their life’s path. From current locations in St. Louis, MO, Charlotte, NC, and Chicago, IL, pseudo-flashback steps back in time to colonial Williamsburg, VA and Plimoth Plantation, MA, and travels across the sea to such esteemed breweries in Germany like Weltenburg Abbey, Weihenstephan, Andechs, Weyermann Malting, and Meierei, the film’s characters expound on their experiences with a definitive intensity and joy, external or otherwise, that verbally and visually paints a era-spanning portrait of just how influential and impactful their excursions into the world of beer have been, shaping their choices, personally and professionally, as their aims to achieve the lofty goals they’ve respectively set forth for themselves carry forward.
Interviews span a large range outside the main four to include Ray Daniels, Pat Fahey, Sugar Creek Brewing Company‘s Eric Flanigan, professors Charlie Bamforth, Patrick McGovern, and Elke Arendt, as well as Max Bakker, Bill Simpson, Ludwig Narziss, Jon Townsend, Gavin Harper, James Tai, and Kate Daley just to name a few and not including all the additional appearances by brewmasters Alexander Reiss, and Jurgen Solkowski, and archivist Tracy Lauer just to name a few. But, prime space is first reserved for Master Cicerone (the beer world’s equivalent of wine’s Sommeliers) candidates Ryan Daley and Joe Vogelbacher, both enduring the extreme pressures of cramming as much information about beer as they are able into their heads in hoping to become a part of a extremely limited group of experts (say, only 13 in the world!) even as they attempt to balance home and family life in the process. It’s inspiring to see their efforts, even as Vogelbacher also shoulders running Sugar Creek Brewing Company as well. The pair reach test day in New York City and the results are interesting and revealing about each man’s mentality and drive. Then there is home brew chef Sean Z. Paxton, whose own culinary experimentation involving beer-infused foods has made him a known commodity as it is. However, his deep desire to dig into the actual history of beer in this country leads him to not only seek out each avenue to do go, but ultimately leads to an old style feast he makes at Plimoth Plantation in Massachusetts for all those who aided him along the way. It’s an endearing passage that indicates a raw yearning for melding beer’s history past and present.
Finally, there is Bend, Oregon’s Tonya Cornett, Brewmaster of Research & Development at 10 Barrel Brewing Company who, after all she’s already accomplished by surprising the critics and showcasing what levels of success a female brewer can attain, decided the ultimate search for Berliner Weiss would be at the forefront of her plans to travel overseas to Germany and hunt it down, all while taking in the sites, sounds, and tastes that beer has to offer, hoping to further guide and sway her own goals with brewing. Watching the sheer enjoyment Cornett undergoes in her travels is heartening and so emotionally real, which is exactly how a genuine searching out of a dream and finding it should be. Visually as a whole, the film is quite lushly shot, highlighting the contrasting beauty found in both cityscapes and countrysides, modern buildings and historic abbeys, contemporary brewing processes to places where recipes are one thousand years old, all while embracing wonderfully every individual who has a part in this world-encircling play, effectively bringing to us the realities of what actual complexities are involved in something we take for granted as a simply recreational beverage. Likewise, the varying music score and other accompanying songs perfectly match the matching locations and spirit of each sequence to a “T”, which aids in the viewer’s pleasure of taking everything in for the film’s full duration and not losing interest along the way, which was this critic’s experience.
In total, “Beers of Joy” is a beautifully executed and assuredly all-encompassing documentary effort that makes the normal seem extraordinary, learning history fun, and perhaps having our own engines fired up to pursue the dreams we have with the same measure of fervor, eagerness, and stalwart resolve these four people exhibit. And along the way, whether seeking out the qualities of foam or just good fellowship, may we all find a way to raise a toast to the world’s most recognizable potation. Cheers, all!
As always, this is all for your consideration and comment. Until next time, thank you for reading!