I knew Florentine Films, which is the Ken Burns’ documentary film production company, was working on a film on the history of craft beer but I didn’t know exactly who was doing it or what it was precisely. There are four directors at Florentine Film. In addition to Burns, there’s also Larry Hott, Roger Sherman and Buddy Squires. A PA had contacted me looking for old pictures of Bert Grant and some other very early craft brewers. My photos didn’t go back as far as they needed so I put them on to the Celebrator’s photo archive, which does. The depth and breadth of who they were looking for was very impressive and certainly inferred they had done their homework. I was eagerly anticipating a high-profile film about the history of our peculiar industry. Between that and Beer Wars, which was shot last year and is apparently being edited now, it seems like we may be on the brink of some wonderful opportunities for people to find out what craft beer is — perhaps for the first time — and maybe seek it out and drink it in, literally.
Surprisingly, I discovered when a press release via e-mail appeared in my inbox that in fact the film American Brew is being sponsored by “Here’s to Beer,” the A-B sponsored effort to educate people about beer. I have, of course, not been won over by that effort and have said some very harsh words about it. Just look at the post before this one for a flavor of my discontent. But every thing about this film that they’re sponsoring looks great. The people involved seem beyond reproach. Roger Sherman, who is directing the film, is no stranger to film-making and has several awards under his belt to prove it. And many of the people listed on the film’s teaser poster I count as my friends. So unlike, say Beerfest, everything I know about this movie is positive and I’m looking very forward to actually seeing this one.
The one niggling thing about it is that essentially Anheuser-Busch paid for what at least appears to be a film that at first blush doesn’t seem like it will do them any favors. Maybe I’m missing something here, but a film that finally shows the history of innovative, small authentic craft beer would by contast not show the big breweries in a particularly flattering light. I certainly want to believe that A-B’s influence on the project will not extend to the substance and content of the movie, but it’s hard not to speculate. The trailer will be debuting at GABF and it will be interesting to see it. Let’s hope we’ll all be able to say, without reservation, “Here’s to American Brew.”