With the current abundance of good will toward craft beer, opening a brewery seems a bit like printing your own money. Though there are a zillion of them already (I counted), it's rare to find a new brewery having trouble moving beer or filling taproom stools. According to the Brewers Association, 615 craft breweries opened last year nationally, and just 45 closed. Of course, breweries are not immune to the financial and bureaucratic difficulties plaguing every business. And in Blood, Sweat, and Beer, a documentary that premiered locally during Pittsburgh Craft Beer Week, that struggle comes to the big screen.
The film follows two breweries as they step into the roiling waters of American craft beer. Though filmmakers Chip Hiden and Alexis Irvin hail from Washington, D.C., one of those breweries is Braddock's own Brew Gentlemen. The couple met founders Asa Foster and Matt Katase at an exam to become beer's equivalent of a sommelier. "They were the youngest people we had ever met who were starting a brewery," says Irvin. Once Hiden and Irvin learned of the Brew Gentlemen's mission to revitalize the "beautiful ruin" of Braddock, they were hooked. "We knew we had our story," adds Irvin.
The filmmakers followed the Brew Gentlemen, filming the long hours of planning, building and worrying that go into opening a brewery. (Brew Gentleman opened last May.) They also tracked the story of Danny Robinson, whose Maryland brewery Shorebilly became mired in a trademark lawsuit. All in all, Hiden and Irvin shot more than 500 hours of footage, including interviews with the nation's top brewers, and whittled it down into a snappy, 70-minute glimpse into the world of American craft beer.
Blood, Sweat, and Beer just wrapped a run at Rowhouse Cinema. "The response to the screening was amazing," said Irvin. "We had tons of positive feedback." If you missed it, not to worry: Follow the project online (bloodsweatbeermovie.vhx.tv) for future screenings and news on the official release, slated for late 2015.