With Brewmance, director Christo Brock gives a quick but entertaining introduction to the world of home and small-batch brewing.
Craft beer gets a bad rap in popular culture. Seen as the domain of mustachioed hipsters and consumers who base their bar choice on vibes, it’s easy to forget that the current craft beer trend has its roots in American DIY-homebrew culture and in the garages, sheds, and laundry rooms of everyday people across the states. Christo Brock’s documentary Brewmance attempts a return to the foundations of craft beer, building its way up from the bare-bones science behind brewing all the way to the squabbling between major players and the tension of industry award shows. It’s an ambitious scope to say the least, and Brock frames his efforts through the journey of Liberation Brewing Co. and its troubled road to opening, documenting everything from the company’s construction process and legal issues to their role in the local brewing community of Long Beach, California.
With a relatively slim runtime of only 100 minutes, Brewmance packs a lot of punch. In its whistle-stop tour of an entire industry, Brock touches on America’s processed food revolution, the actual science and process behind brewing, the micro-communities that have sprung up across the country around the craft, and even the anti-establishment potential of home-brewing. Brewmance barely has time to catch its breath as it flits between different characters of the home-brewing world, and the film seems to divide itself into two halves — the first, a rapid-fire introduction to the basics, and the second, a more leisurely look at the journey of Liberation Brewing Co. and its founders. As a primer for beginners, the documentary cannot be faulted, but for anyone more familiar with the world of craft beer, the whole affair might scan as just a bit too basic. But it’s in Brewmance’s second half that Brock seems to really find his footing, and the film’s early establishment of craft-brewing as an inherently collaborative and even somewhat utopian craft helps the emotional beats of its late going truly land. The flip side of this topical sweep is that the film sacrifices depth, and this can become especially frustrating as it gives short shrift to the more interesting nuances of the subject matter. But as Brock at last weaves together all his various threads, Brewmance takes the final form of a documentary that is ultimately better than the sum of its part.
Published as part of Before We Vanish | April 2021.