The title said it all – Blood, Sweat, and Beer. Who wouldn’t be instantly intrigued?
On Wednesday, October 14 University Program Board (UPB) treated students to a free screening of the feature documentary Blood, Sweat, and Beer, alongside a Q&A with the directors Chip Hiden and Alexis Irvin afterward.
The documentary explored the rise of the craft beer industry while highlighting the stories of two start-up breweries, the Brew Gentlemen Beer Co. and Shorebilly Brewing Co. (now Backshore Brewing Co). As craft beer enthusiasts, directors Hiden and Irvin took notice of the gradual craft beer revolution and wanted to get to know the people behind the pint. But what hooked and convinced them to film the documentary were the entrepreneurs’ dreams and journeys.
The directors and crew followed the three 23-year-olds behind Brew Gentlemen Beer Co. in Braddock, Pennsylvania as they raced to create delicious, unique beer while painstakingly renovating and readying their brewery for customers by their grand opening. Meanwhile, down on the boardwalk in Ocean City, Maryland, they documented Shorebilly Brewing Co. owner Danny Robinson’s experience facing a trademark lawsuit over the name of his brewery in his first year of business.
The surging popularity of handcrafted brew has taken a toll on the stocks and sales of big breweries, and as a result, they began to imitate craft beer products and invest in the successful craft breweries. But even in a rapidly expanding and booming industry, there are struggles to survive and thrive, as portrayed by the two breweries featured in the film.
“UPB strives to bring entertaining and educational events to the JMU and Harrisonburg community…the documentary screening and workshop seemed like a great opportunity to incorporate multiple aspects of UPB’s mission,” UPB Film Committee Director Brittany Boyer said.
“I would like students to take away knowledge of the struggles and benefits of starting their own business,” as well as “ways to create unique films and advertise and promote start-ups,” she added.
As an organization that constantly seeks to bring diverse events to campus, UPB thought showing the documentary would be a unique opportunity that would appeal to potential filmmakers and entrepreneurs. And appeal it did. Many students showed up not for just the documentary, but also to pepper the directors with questions afterward.
“Craft beer has really taken off near me, so I was really interested in seeing this tonight,” said junior business management major Nathan Carnevale. “It was really informative, and pretty cool how the film compared craft breweries to big time distributers. But I really liked how it didn’t shy away from the rough side of working in this industry, it was a realistic image. I hope UPB does something like this again.”
“I’m mostly here for the entertainment factor, but also because I’m interested in the business side of the industry,” said senior business management major A.J. Logue. One of Logue’s business classes required him to submit a well-researched, feasible business plan, and Logue proposed creating biodegradable beer bottles, so “this documentary really brings it home for me.”
Meanwhile, junior Becca Calhoun was more interested in the creative aspect of the documentary, saying, “I wanted to see what approach [Blood, Sweat, and Beer] would take, because each documentary uses a different artistic approach and I was interested to see what lenses they would use to talk about their topic.” The WRTC major finds documentaries extremely interesting, and expressed an interest in possibly creating one herself in the future.
She paid close attention when the directors doled out advice to future filmmakers, advising students to “just start out by filming their interviews, and that the story angle will present itself eventually.”
“If you can make a living doing what you love, as these guys did, then you’re golden,” the directors emphasized. “If you can figure out how to do that, then you’re set.”
Needless to say, UPB hit a home run with this one. That night, students left educated, entertained and inspired, eager to return for more.