#HomerSimpson famously said, “...alcohol: the cause of, and solution to, all of life’s problems.” That was Homer’s loving tribute to his favourite drink...beer. And Beers of Joy is David Swift and Scott Owen’s own tribute to the nectar of life. A riff on the well-known phrase, ‘tears of joy’, Swift and Owen’s #documentary delves into the history of #brewing and explores our centuries-old love of #beer through four individuals, whose lives revolve around the craft.
“I have to taste some #beer, I’m studying.” An excuse I’ve used more than a few times in my life, rarely has it ended well. But when Ryan Daley says it as he prepares for the prestigious Master Cicerone exam (the #beer equivalent to wine’s Master Sommelier), he actually means it. That's right, Ryan Daley and fellow Master Cicerone hopeful, Joe Vogelbacher, actually have to sample #beer as part of an examination. But don't envy them too much, this particular exam is one of the hardest in the world, and has a 99%-100% fail rate.
We’re also introduced to Tonya Cornett (an American brewer) as she embarks upon a pilgrimage to Germany and Sean Z. Paxton (a #beer chef) as he plans a meal centred around traditional cooking techniques and #beers. Both of these individual’s “adventures” are a studious look of the anatomy of #beer throughout the centuries. Cornett, during her travels, examines the ancient history of European #beer craftsmanship, visiting a monastery which has been #brewing #beer for one-thousand years; whilst Paxton explores the more recent history of American #brewing during the pilgrim-era.
The film cuts across these four characters throughout, occasionally interjecting short segments of the everyman and woman explaining their own particular love of #beer. But despite this back-and-forth, the film never felt confusing and never lost my attention. Editor, #MikeCooley (also producer and cinematographer), has done a great job of keeping the film in good order; ensuring the flow of the film remains unhindered and true. The film’s juxtaposition of the history of German and American beer-making and of these two fundamentally different individuals, as they go through the same examination, at the same time, is really well judged and brilliantly realised.
The only not so well-judged issue here is the movie's apparent glorification of a well-known and addictive drug that has devastated people's lives. By its very nature, this is an issue which will bother people to varying degrees, largely based on their own personal experiences. For me, it wasn't a huge problem. But there are moments which seem a little inappropriate in today's climate, and it will be a problem for some people, so it's worth bearing in mind.
With all said and done, I found Beers of Joy to be a well-made, entertaining, informative and – in spite of the aforementioned issue of propriety – a well-intentioned piece of film-making. At almost 2-hours in length, it's a long film. But not once did it lose my attention, nor did it ever feel disordered or abstruse. Beers of Joy is well worth a viewing, just be sure to have a few cold #beers in the house when you do!