Beerploma was recently approached by Alexis Irvin, who along with her partner, Chip Hiden, have directed and produced an independent film entitled: Blood, Sweat, and Beer. The feature documentary is about craft beer growth in the U.S. and the dramatic journey of two specific start-up breweries. After self-funding this project and a successful Kickstarter campaign to put the finishing touches on the project, they wanted us to help them get the word out about their project.
Beerploma: What was your initial inspiration for this movie?
Alexis: Chip and I both love craft beer! We travel a lot, screening our first documentary, The Dream Share Project (www.thedreamshareproject.com) at colleges across the U.S., and our favorite thing to do after an event is find local breweries or fun beer bars to check out. We noticed such fast and exciting growth in the craft beer world, we thought there had to be some good stories to tell.
Beerploma: How did you arrive at the two breweries that you featured in the movie?
Alexis: We knew from the start that we wanted to find passionate people and brewery stories with a narrative arc-we wanted brewers that were pursuing a big goal, or going on some sort of journey. We thought interviewing start-ups would be a good place to go looking for these stories. We first interviewed Danny Robinson from Backshore Brewing Co. (formerly Shorebilly Brewing Co.) on the day that he cut the ribbon to open his brewery. We really liked his passion and enthusiasm for beer and entrepreneurship and how candid he was on camera, so we decided to keep checking-in with him and capture his first year of business as he pursued a distribution deal. A few months after that, Danny’s story took an unexpected turn when he was hit with a trademark lawsuit over the name Shorebilly and was forced to change the name of his brewery.
We first met Matt and Asa from the Brew Gentleman Beer Comany at a Cicerone exam in Washington DC. We were instantly intrigued by how young they were (22 years old at the time) and how big their ambitions were. A few months later, we decided to check out their under-construction brewery in Braddock, Pennsylvania.
When we first entered Braddock, it was like driving onto a post-apocalyptic film set. Homes and historic buildings were boarded up or falling apart. Ivy crawled over front doors. Trees grew through front porches and roofs. The streets were empty and most of the businesses were shut down. We learned that Braddock was once a bustling steel town and had been left for dead many years ago. Now, led by the efforts of renegade mayor John Fetterman, Braddock is struggling to make a comeback-and Matt and Asa want their new brewery to help liven up Braddock and bring new manufacturing jobs back to the area.
Beerploma: You interviewed so many experts in the craft beer world, whom were you most excited to talk to?
Alexis: The governor of Colorado, John Hickenlooper! We were so nervous before the interview-we had ten minutes to ask our questions! But, he had a great story about starting up the Wynkoop Brewing Co. in 1988, and how the brewery helped revitalize lower downtown Denver-which is now a bustling part of town, filled with local businesses!
We also loved chatting with Joey Redner and Wayne Wombles from Cigar City (I’m kind of obsessed with Cigar City beer and so is Chip!), had a great time with Matt Brynildson, David Walker and Jemma Wilson at Firestone-Walker, and loved chatting about food and beer with Ting Su at Eagle Rock in L.A.
Beerploma: I am a huge fan of Charlie Papazian and have read several of his books. Is he as energetic in person as he comes off in his writing?
Alexis: We had a fun experience meeting Charlie Papazian! Chip and I filmed in Colorado and up and down the West Coast for six weeks this past February and March. We lined up our interviews in Colorado first, and sent an e-mail request to Charlie in early January. The same night we sent out the e-mail to Charlie, we attended a DC Homebrewers Club to film the homebrewers sampling each other’s beer.
An hour into the meeting, the excited whispers started . . . Charlie Papazian had walked into Bluejacket Brewery and had spend the next few hours hanging out at the DC Homebrewers Club meeting. Needless to say, the homebrewers were super excited!
We then introduced ourselves to Charlie, he gave us a look and said, “Hey, its you guys! I just got your email for an interview request today!” Small world in craft beer. We interviewed him in Colorado and he was great. He is someone that truly values and appreciates the strong community surrounding craft beer, and has worked so hard to foster that community over the years.
Beerploma: Are the Beer Chicks, Christina Perozzi and Hallie Beaune (authors of The Naked Pint) truly as engaging in person as they are in their book?
Alexis: Christina and Hallie were so fun! We met them at Hallie’s house, where they promptly cracked some beers for us before we got to filming! I would love to drink another beer with them (or maybe two. . . ) with them in the future.
Beerploma: The pathos of what the brewery in Braddock means to its community is very strong, even in the trailer. Could you speak to craft beer’s role in lifting the spirits, and possibly the economy in places like Braddock? Is this something that could possibly benefit other communities from a positive economic standpoint?
Alexis: I think that a brewery is a great way to revitalize a neighborhood. You’ve got a community space for people to hang out and celebrate or catch-up with friends and family. A brewery draws locals into their community and brings new visitors to an area, which can stimulate revenue for other businesses. A new brewery brings new jobs and tax dollars to your town and state. There’s pride in having a delicious, handcrafted product created in your own backyard. And, craft beer as a whole is massively contributing to the U.S. economy-craft brewers contributed $33.9 billion to the U.S. economy in 2012, and the industry also provided more than 360,000 jobs, with 108,440 jobs directly at breweries and brewpubs. Craft beer is a true American small business success story.
Beerploma: What were the biggest challenges in bringing the project to fruition?
Alexis: This project was 100% self-funded until we reached our Kickstarter goal a few weeks ago! It was also the work largely of two people-Chip and myself-which truly made this a labor of love. But, we feel very strongly that the stories we found were meant to be shared, and the next step, now that the movie is almost complete, is to share this film with as many people as possible.
Beerploma: What was the biggest unexpected joy you experienced as you were making this film?
Alexis: Making this movie was truly a dream come true for us. We traveled all over the country and got to talk to so many brilliant, hilarious and creative people about one of our favorite topics-beer! I feel like with the explosive growth of the industry right now, we were able to capture some really unique footage of a burgeoning industry, and grab a little slice of a very special time for American craft beer.
And, I am still amazed with the warmth and candor that Danny Robinson (Backshore) and the Brew Gents (Matt, Asa, and Brandon) showed us as we followed them around with cameras.
Beerploma: As a craft beer fan, this film is something I would want to see anyway. How do you get someone who isn’t a craft beer fan to want to see this film from a marketing perspective?
Alexis: Although this is a movie about craft beer and two breweries, it is also a story about the entrepreneur’s journey. Our film explores what happens when you have a dream, put it all on the line, and decide just to go for it. The risk-taking, optimism and hope of these entrepreneurs should interest anyone who has ever had a big idea-whether or not they enjoy craft beer.
Beerploma: Do you plan to have showings of the film in some of the up-and-coming craft beer markets? Where will you be releasing the film for people to see in theaters?
Alexis: Our plan is to release our film in early 2015. We would like to do events and screenings in great beer towns like Minneapolis/St. Paul, St. Louis, Portland, Austin, Seattle, Chicago, Boston, etc., as well as at film festivals around the U.S..
The DVD and digital download of our film will be released later in 2015.
Beerploma: How can someone purchase the film?
Alexis: Go to www.bloodsweatbeermovie.com and pre-order your digital download of the film for just 4.99 today! We also have pre-orders for a physical DVD, and a special edition DVD, which will feature content from interviews that we didn’t have room for in the film.
Learn more, get interviews + new content at:
Beerploma: Why will a craft beer fan love this movie?
Alexis: We hope that Blood, Sweat, and Beer, isn’t just about beer-it’s a movie with narrative arcs with true stories to tell. I think Danny’s case of dealing with a trademark lawsuit gives you a unique, behind-the-scenes look at a hot issue in the brewery world right now. The Brew Gentlemen choosing to open in Braddock is fascinating-Braddock has truly been left abandoned, and it’s so inspiring to see three young people decide to invest in a community and hope they can, in some way, help bring it back.
Beerploma: Could this movie help convince someone who isn’t currently a craft beer fan to take the plunge into the craft beer world?
Alexis: I think it could! Most of my girlfriends are more into wine and spirits-but the past few times I’ve been out with my best friends, they’ve all ordered beer! I think that after watching the movie, and seeing the excitement and passion these breweries put into their beers, it makes you curious to learn and taste more.