Sitting at home to watch Beer! A Love Story in what I believed to be the waning days of the pandemic, the movie evoked nothing so much as a deep sense of melancholy.
Hey, maybe that means it’s art. It certainly looks like art.
It’s a pleasure to watch—if you love beer. The film is 90 minutes of beer, brewhouse, and hop-field porn, gorgeously shot down to the texture of condensation on lagering tanks, freshly picked hops bouncing along on their way to be dried, and many, many wiry beards.
Much of the story is told from the perspective of Bierol, an Austrian brewery that exists in a country that happens to be full of great beer but is, perhaps, less culturally inclined to reward infinite variety—less indulgent of wanton experimentation. Inevitably, there is much fetishization of the American craft-beer scene from European brewers who, as usual, don’t seem to realize how good they have it in their own backyards. That’s normal. That’s human. Don’t we do the same thing when we look at Pajottenland, Prague, Bamberg, or so many other places where beautiful beer is made differently than ours? The grass is always greener in the other yard. We just happen to have a much larger yard in America.
While watching the beautiful scenery and mostly beautiful beers, you get all the lovely crinkly sounds of malt bags and hop rubs, of foamy beer and clinking glasses, the sniffs of people sticking their noses into glasses and preparing to verbally decode what they’re sensing. Along the way, you see Austrian Alps, an Italian barley field, a sour-beer fest near Parma, the coolship at Boon, the chapel of foeders at Rodenbach, deer leaping through the foothills above Fort Collins, Brooklyn, the Hudson Valley, the abbey at Orval, the cellar of the Grote Dorst lambic café, the hop fields of Yakima, and much more. There is always plenty to gawk at—and if you like hearing people talk with feeling about beer, what is there to complain about? Beyond a few segments where you may be submerged—via foreign eyes—into the familiar effectiveness of the Brewers Association sales pitch.
One of the more insightful moments comes not from Boulder or from Vienna, but from Manchester, England. That’s when Cloudwater founder Paul Jones pretty succinctly explains the “craft” product.
We are not in the business of “beer alone,” he says. “I think people come here because they want to drink our values. And they want to drink the values that they hold dear, too. So, these values of independence, of community focus, of ethical business—these things and more, are what people are really consuming.”
$14.99 rental, $24.99 purchase; beermovie.org