Crafting an Interest
The crew behind Crafting a Nation isn’t just a group of ecstatic beer-lovers, but rather genuine film school grads with eyes for both beauty and meaning in art, and a will to pique curiosity in your average beer-drinker’s mind.
In 2011 they completed the short documentary “Beer Culture the Movie,” released digitally on YouTube, and what had started as director Thomas Kolicko’s class assignment had rapidly morphed into much more. The short documentary went viral, invoking the next step to take the story to national coverage. Beer Culture focuses on the craft beer industry in Colorado (where the crew all attended film school) while Crafting a Nation highlights seven states’ up-and-comers and established craft breweries, all who play a significant role in the industry.
Courtney and I shared an undisclosed number of pints as she regaled me with tales from the road of documentation. Who would have known that a stranger’s cryptic greeting in a bar would actually have prophesied a much-needed interview to occur that very night?! Magic. And missing baggage in one town can be a good thing – it can get you to your next destination for free! Despite a few pitfalls, the crew managed to complete every goal proposed for their film, and got to enjoy great beers in great American cities while doing it.
A Colorado girl herself, Courtney’s romance with craft beer naturally began with Ft. Collin’s own New Belgium Brewing Company, long before her days at film school and Crafting a Nation. The years that lapsed made for no waning of interest, love, or support of the craft world; however, leaving home for a time to live on the east coast proved difficult for her – she couldn’t get a Fat Tire anywhere. Unacceptable.
But it isn’t difficult to enjoy a different craft beer every night in Colorado (nor should it be!). Liquor laws there have resulted in over 1,600 independently owned stores in Denver alone, all selling self-distributed craft beer from the nearly 140 statewide breweries. In other words: a huge selection at any package store. She spoke with ease and in depth about important ways small breweries are affecting American life. One man’s failing farm could be a new brewer’s saving grain. A neighborhood on the verge of decline could be bolstered by the presence of a nearby brewery and taproom, bringing with it jobs and whipping that old economy into shape. Here we are with another chance to taste that American dream, literally.
Crafting a Film
If you ever get the chance to cross the country in a car, do it. There isn’t an America you’ve ever seen like the one from the highway. The film isn’t about that, of course; there are no guard rails whizzing past the camera or stills of odometers racking up the miles, but I couldn’t help but feel connected to each city as if I’d traveled there myself. Crafting a Nation is shot from coast to coast, Oregon to North Carolina. Lush aerial views shower you with golden fields and bluesy bodies of water – you can nearly smell the grain and moisture in the air. Farmland pulls in and out of view alongside the furrowed brow of a concerned brewer. This was the America I know and love and wish to see succeed. I could have watched for hours. It was stunningly gorgeous and expertly shot.
The sound design also deserves an enthusiastic nod. Several viewers commented afterwards on its perfect placement and excellent compositions. I could hear every piece of dialogue and interview without having to strain against background noise. The pacing of the movie is also well-done – I found no lulls or moments of distraction available to me. It’s a work that’s sure to turn heads both outside of and within the craft community.
Courtney made a point that the crew of CAN isn’t here to tell us what to think or what to drink. The film served me as a catalyst for stirring up dorment questions. Why are liquor laws so different in every major city? Why can’t self-distribution be everywhere? Why is it expensive to buy a French Sip at Angel City when I can get a tall boy of PBR for a couple bucks? Why don’t I see these small-batch beers in every beer bar in Los Angeles? Where is Beer City, USA? You get the idea. I didn’t leave feeling angry or anti-big guys; I left with a bit more education under my belt and a thirst to know more.
Crafting an Event
The night wouldn’t have been so complete had it not been for our gracious hosts at Angel City Brewery, of course. They coordinated the event to involve LA Beer Hop (providing a free shuttle to and fro the screening, safety first fist pump!), and of course the Downtown Independent theater for housing the actual screening. LA Beer Hop’s shuttle was also stocked with a new player in Los Angeles: Beer Paper LA!
Despite lower than expected attendance, the screening was wonderfully executed, surely to set a standard for the events to come to LA.
Overall, the whole shebang represented a marriage of art, beer and community so naturally delivered, I wouldn’t doubt the crew may give us another morsel of their talent in another couple years. I highly recommend you check out the documentary (available here for purchase and viewing).