INVITES VIEWERS INTO AN AMERICAN CULINARY ORIGIN STORY
By George Pennacchio
LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- There's a new movie available for home viewing that's all about... beer! So if you enjoy a brew--or maybe two--this documentary may be for you. "Beers of Joy" is steeped in history, and it follows several stories, all involving Americans passionate about this beverage.
"There's a guy we interviewed who has a brewery in L.A. and he made a real good point that beer is the beverage where the haves and have nots can all have it," said producer Mike Cooley. "We found a world that fascinated us."
"Beers of Joy" looks at people who aim to make the best beer. There's also a chef whose specialty is cooking with beer; and students studying to become master "cicerones," the highest certification level for those with an exceptional understanding of the beverage. The test to become a master cicerone is grueling. And the filmmakers admit they were not rooting for everyone to pass the test!
"As a director, no. I got to tell you. I was rooting for something great to happen that would be dramatic and the film definitely pays off in the drama department," said co-director and co-writer David Swift. "As a human, I wanted them all to pass."
The beer lovers who made this movie did some globetrotting get their stories. But they also learned about the beer world right here in America.
"I think we're more creative here," said Swift.
"They can put oysters and orange peel and anything you want to do," said co-director and co-writer Scott Owen. "So it's been exciting to be part of what they're doing in the U.S. because it's definitely cutting edge."
"Beers of Joy" is available now on-demand, Amazon Prime and iTunes.
Some insight provided by co-Director Scott Owen:
When you have the opportunity to spend any time at all around someone that is a master, a master at anything, it's usually an eye popping experience. Master Brewers, Master Sommeliers, Master Cicerones, Master Chefs, Master Builders, any one that has dedicated the time and practice to becoming one of the best in the world at anything is a marvel. Think of Star Wars without the mastery of John Williams' score, life at least for me just wouldn't be as sweet.
Watching them taste and identify ingredients is just unbelievable. The inspiring part of our journey meeting these masters is that they are so normal... they aren't hermits living in the mountains studying ancient tomes. They are all normal, which is great news for the rest of us. We can all do something to the level of mastery if we just want to put in the time and dedication necessary... I'm starting on Monday, now where did I leave that remote?
Such was the life we lived while filming Beers of Joy. It was bouncing from one master-of-craft to another. It was exhilarating, humbling, and always inspiring. We were truly blessed to be able to spend time with Innovation Brewmaster Tonya Cornett and drink her beer. She is one of the best brewers on planet earth hands down (and has the medals to prove it). The specific degree to which she can predetermine a flavor target, figure out how to achieve that flavor through the process of brewing beer, and have the resulting beverage not only meet, but more often redefine your expectations is nothing short of mastery.
We traveled with Master Chef Sean Paxton aka Home Brew Chef who threw together some of the best meals I've had in my life. Most film projects have craft service, but really the service here was the palate expansion rendered unto us thanks to the talents and abilities of Sean who seems to enjoy sharing a meal as if it were an additional form of high level communication akin to dynamic conversation. Our crew would certainly agree.
Then watching anybody that is studying for Master Cicerone like Ryan Daley and Joe Vogelbacher is astonishing, the amount that they have to know is a Herculean task. It’s part dedication, determination, and ordination, really… you have to learn an encyclopedia of knowledge gathered around beer, from brew through service… present your knowledge through multiple means of testing such as oral exams, written essays, and more… then develop and exercise your senses to taste and smell as if they were your eyes and ears on a journey.
We like to say that privilege of this film was the people — the four main characters who granted us intimate access during fascinating vignettes of their lives — and that’s the truth. You’re lucky to get this much time with masters, if ever once, and we got it with them among other luminaries during the making of this film. We among the film making team are all better because of it. Cheers!
Some insight provided by co-Director Scott Owen:
While we were with Dr. Patrick McGovern aka The Indiana Jones of Beer, in his office/laboratory at the Penn Museum, I noticed a comic book style piece of artwork someone had drawn of Dr. Pat and his good friend Sam Calagione (Dogfish Head Brewery). It referenced probably one of the great pop culture touchstones of my youth, depicting the two stepping out of Marty McFly's DeLorean from Back to the Future. Dr. Pat is cast in this piece as Doc Brown, and Sam as Marty, complete with orange life preserver vest. In the moment, I thought it was a cool drawing and just a funny correlation to pop culture. I didn't think much more about it.
As we got into our several hours of interview with the amazing Dr. Pat he took out a box. This is when I started to get a little bit giddy, giddy like, is he going to show us some cursed relic that's going to bring ancient mummies back to life and we are going to be thrust into some real life Night at the Museum situation? Alas, it was not so, but something did happen, at least to me.
Out of the box Dr. Pat pulls out a small plastic baggy. The sample just looks like some brownish powdered schmootz. He begins to explain that this is the remnants of what they scientifically "scraped" out of an ancient cask found in a tomb in Turkey. I'm not sure why Dr. Pat would want me to hold the plastic baggy. It really is just holding a piece of plastic in your hand, it's not a relic or anything. But Dr. Pat with his big brain full of wisdom knew exactly what he was doing by letting me hold it. As I as held the plastic baggy I realized a kind of connection to that blob of brownish schmootz, not the bag itself but those who came before us. This is what the ancients drank! It had real resonance. It's not like holding an old relic and marveling at it's construction and beauty, it's something altogether different, at least it was for me. It's real, it's in many ways the reasons humans are still here. It is medicine and the life giving energy drink that kept our ancestors alive.
Now, it's a lot of arduous, difficult scientific steps to bring this ancient beverage to life again but here in my hand are the building blocks. It wasn't like being in a museum anymore. It's something about recreating these ancient recipes that we can actually taste and learn and enjoy. Since we don't have Doc's DeLorean this is the next best thing for me. That's as close to going back in history as I can think of. You are literally bringing something back to life resurrecting a real part of everyday life from thousands of years ago. It's astonishing and amazing and brought me to a point of understanding the absolute importance of ancient fermented beverages to humankind.
This is a little bit of the museum coming to life. You can buy Dogfish Head's Midas Touch, Chateau Jiahu, Ta Henket, and other ancient beverages that they have resuscitated. Buy some today to experience a little bit of the past and support the work they do! I look forward to the next ancient fermented beverage Dr. Pat and Sam unearth together. I fully understand why the little cartoon caricature in Dr. Pat's office of Back to the Future is prominently displayed in the office/laboratory. I get it Dr. Pat. I get it. As Doc Brown says to Marty McFly, "Roads? Where we going we don’t need roads." Keep pushing deeper into the past Dr. Pat we all benefit from your amazing and important work!
A musing by co-Director Scott Owen:
Beer has always been the drink for the every man. That is the way it should be. Other beverages and Spirits are so exclusive that only the richest of human beings could even consider having even a sip. I think of ... more than a couple bottles valued at over $500,000. Not so with beer, even if a beer is one of the greatest beers ever made - a certifiable 100 point beer. If you can get it, it still probably wont run you any more than 7-10 bucks and that's probably for a 12oz glass! That is one of the greatest things about beer: it truly has remained the drink for ALL.
Since everyone is invited to the "beer party" that means there will be a ton of different ideas about what tastes good, what ingredients are best, all sorts of conversations about the variants of beer will be had. There is no right answer. What you like, might be different from what I like, and in the beer world it's ALL good. There is a fair amount of debate about how to drink a beer. Master Cicerone Max Bakker once uploaded a video of him talking about how to pour a beer. It has nearly 2 million views. So, yeah, this is a topic. Seems like there shouldn't even be a question, right... Open and Drink. Well, if you are going to get the absolute most out of your beer then there are some parameters about drinking those beers. Once again, I'll reiterate that beer wants you to be happy so if you want to drink it right out of the can or bottle, then go for it. There are a number of techniques that you should at least be aware of. Let's assume that we are drinking a beer that is bottled. For me, I've found that I prefer to pour certain beers into a glass with enough energy that there is a fair amount of foam that is built, for me, at least an inch if not more. I can kind of classify these beers by color - beers that are usually on the lighter side; IPA's, Hefes, Lagers, etc... I've repeated a few times here the words "for me" because this totally depends on how you like to drink your beer. I like my lighter beers really cold, bubbly and effervescent. It's whatever you like.
When I was a kid and would have a Pepsi I would crack it and walk away for an hour then come back and drink it. I loved it totally flat. Like I said, beer wants you to be happy. When it comes to darker beers: Porters, Stouts, Dunkels, etc... Like my flat Pepsi when I was a kid, I don't pour them with as much energy so there is less head and I usually walk away for 10 - 20 minutes so all those amazing roasty, malty, chocolate, coffee flavors have time to blossom and bouquet. I find that the more complex darker beers love to sit for a while before they are ready. That's just me. Enjoy your beer, responsibly, however you like it.... You deserve it. Those are what I call, "Pour Ideas".
Check out this review from Richard Propes at the Independent Critic:
Even if you don't declare yourself to be a lover of beer, it'll be pretty hard for you to not get swept up in the enthusiasm of Beers of Joy, a feature doc about all things brew recently picked up by indie distributor Gravitas Ventures that is currently available on-demand through all your usual distribution channels.
Co-written/directed by Scott Owen and David Swift, Beers of Joy is practically a love letter to the world's most famous brewed beverage centering around four people, in particular, who've largely devoted themselves to beer and brewing.
The first two, and probably the most compelling, are Ryan and Joe, two young men seeking certification as Master Cicerone®, an ultra-elite certification indicating "an exceptional understanding of brewing, beer, and pairing." It's the highest level of certification within the Cicerone program that begins with Certified Beer Server and includes Certified Cicerone, Advanced Cicerone and, finally, Master Cicerone, a title that, at the time the film was made, had been awarded to only 13 individuals.
Beers of Joy also centers around Tonya, a brewmaster who travels to Italy and Germany seeking ancient brewing techniques and to further improve her own Berliner Weisse. Finally, there's Sean, a brew-inspired chef who explores the historical origins of beer as he prepares a historic feast.
Beers of Joy compellingly follows all four stories, Ryan and Joe providing the meatiest material here as the more intense, zealous Joe provides an interesting contrast to Ryan's more laid back nature. Both are followed in their preparations for the two-day, high-pressure exam that occurs 1-2x annually in Chicago. While I certainly won't spoil the results here, there's little question you'll have your own guesses along the way and might even be a little surprised.
The stories of Tonya and Sean are less intense and more entertaining. Tonya's simply a likable human being and watching her travels around Europe are lightweight but entertaining. Sean, on the other hand, is a charismatic and enthusiastic human being whose knowledge of all things beer helps to provide the film with a little more substance.
Beers of Joy isn't quite the definitive primer of all things beer and brewing, yet it most likely is the ultimate doc for beer lovers and those within the world of brewing. It's at times a bit too breezy, but it's a genuinely entertaining way to spend a couple of hours with people you grow to enjoy and journeys in which you become invested. Mike Cooley's lensing is pristine throughout, while the film weaves in a variety of musical accompaniments that help to add spark and energy to an already lively, entertaining production.
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic
Some insight provided by co-Director Scott Owen:
Sometimes it's not just about the taste it's about the people, the place, the history, the weather, the experience. That's what makes this beer, at this time, one of the best I've ever had. It was the culmination of experiences leading up to that beautiful effervescent sparkling Hefeweissbier brewed at Weihenstephaner. The payoff for all of you who are about to watch or have watched Beers of Joy is... the beer I'm gloating about is available in many places across the US. It won't be right off the draft line like at the brewery, none-the-less, you owe it to yourself to pick up a 6 pack of Weinhenstephaner Hefeweissbier and watch Beers of Joy for the first time or watch it again with a new appreciation for the beer.
The footage we captured of Brewmaster Tobias properly pouring the Hefe into tall Weizen glasses is some of my favorite of the film. Tonya, Ferdinand and Brewmaster Tobias Zollo enjoying the beer is just mouth watering. If you don't want to get up and grab yourself a beer at the scene in the Museum that starts 40 mins into the film you might not have a pulse and you should go to a doctor. For heaven's sake, it is the oldest working brewery on the planet, so pick up a six pack: pour, watch, drink and enjoy Beers of Joy.