Directed by Paul Kermizian
Six Hundred Films, 2004
For a true beer geek like me, parts of this film are like seeing the early big-wave surfers in Riding Giants or the first pioneers of vertical skateboarding in Dogtown and Z-Boys. Like both Stacy Peralta flicks this Paul Kermizian production, American Beer, interviews the oldest of the old school and the newest of the new school, but this movie happens to be about craft and artisan beer, not extreme sports.
Most beer writers would agree that the United States is the leader in craft brewing in the world, and Im no dissenter. In this film, five guys from New York City set out on a life-changing 40-day adventure to tour Americas most "iconic" and groundbreaking breweries and maybe induce some serious liver damage.
This amusingly titled "Bockumentary" is worth the price of rental to see such craft brewers as Fritz Maytag of Anchor Brewing Company, and artisan brewers like Alan Sprints of Hair of the Dog Brewing Company talk passionately about their products and their struggles in a Coors- and Bud-mentality beer market.
The most enlightening part of this film is the labour of love some of these brewers have gone through for their beer, and the strange and historic buildings these tiny breweries are shoehorned into. One of the most interesting amongst the cast of characters in American Beer is Sam Calagione of Dog Fish Head Brewing Company, an "off-centered brewery for eccentric people" that does everything over-the-top. Calagione talks about his Chicory stout, infused with St. Johns Wort (a herbal antidepressant) to combat alcohol's depressant qualities a beer for those seeking drunken mood equilibrium, among other things.
Having said all that, musical slapstick antics modelled on the The Monkees TV show combined with the drunken let-me-tell-you-this-about-that mentality of five guys on the road for 40 days gets a little tiresome. Thankfully there is no attempt to create a subplot and the booze-fuelled moments of inspiration did hold more interest than Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle, and only one onscreen fart occurred.
All the brewers in American Beer have broken the rules and are changing the beer world as we know it. This DVD will more than likely inspire more people to become brewers, or at the very least take a beer trip to some of these great breweries.