The Love of Beer opens with voices – women who talk about selling, making, and promoting beer. As we hear these interview snippets, we get a montage of brewery equipment. This smart opening immediately engages you – the machinery itself is hypnotic, and the quotes are used smartly. The beginning has a leisurely pace, but this 72-minute film takes you straight through its subject in an efficient, well-crafted way.
After the intro section, we see two women describe how they started in the beer industry. One woman found her curiosity suddenly turned into a lucrative apprenticeship. Another woman found a drink that grabbed her attention and wouldn’t let go, giving her a drive to own a bar that promotes smaller, local breweries.
Alison Grayson is a smart director. The material is put together very well, and it does a good job of exploring its subject. Even more, it tackles a potentially caustic issue – institutional and societal sexism – without ever becoming over-bearing.
The secret to this balance is simple: as much as TLoB is a documentary about females in a male-dominated industry, the picture keeps its focus where it belongs – on people who love beer and are drawn to working to create, manufacture, and sell it. In that context, even those who are resistant to sexism issues can understand this problem: having a passion for something that people don’t expect you to understand or care about. As a “feminist documentary,” Love distinguishes itself neatly because it deals with women’s issues that really apply to everyone.
The two stories I described at the start aren’t tales of female empowerment – they’re tales about people who, gender aside, realized that they have a special connection to a good pint. These stories simply come from people who happen to be women.
After establishing this background, the doc uses interviews and text to explain that women have been society’s brewers for a very long time, and there’s no reason to think of beer as “men’s business.” It’s at this point that we learn some of the needless obstacles or faced by females who want to make beer.
I used to be a COBOL programmer. At the end of the day, what I did never made anybody happy. Not even me.
Then again, maybe The Love of Beer works so well because it chose its subjects so well. The people we meet on-camera are all dedicated to beer. The interviewees are not all women – but those that we do meet are successful people who know how to talk about their interests. I assume that Grayson didn’t need to use much text or infographics because she captured most everything she needed in video. Many times, someone would make a personal statement or drop a relevant fact, and I’d think, “wow, they said exactly what the director would’ve wanted audiences to hear.”
Watching this picture, my intuition told me that the director must have shot a lot of footage. The material used here is so on point, so good, I wondered if she must have simply filmed everything. It’s hard to imagine she could otherwise have captured so neatly the exact moments and interviews that she needed to make this movie say what it had to say.
In addition to giving a new perspective on a familiar topic, TLoB promotes the micro-breweries that have become so popular in the last 30 years. Through this, we see that Grayson is interested in the story of the unlikely champion, the underdog – the small business side of beer, the inspired soul who starts a successful brewery, or the person who enters a profession that’s not society thinks isn’t right for them. Whatever you’ve got between your legs, most everyone has been told that they can’t do something for superficial or bigoted reasons.
I really liked how this film was shot. Time-lapse footage is employed nicely, as well as montage shots and well-timed “breaks” like between the acts of a play. Often, we’re at a pub, or a beer competition/seminar; the audio might not sound completely clear, and the video might not be perfectly-smooth. It’s just a natural consequence of the what the crew needed to film. As a critic, I understood these limitations – but the photographer in me loved the composition in the footage that was shot under more controlled circumstances.
I also had a good reaction to how the picture followed the lives of some of its subjects. While you get to see one woman go to competition and succeed, you also see another woman juggle her business (and passion for beer) with the fact that she’s pregnant. The during and after scenes do a great job of showing what a pub owner and craft beer enthusiast has to go through when she has a baby on the way.
I enjoyed The Love of Beer quite a lot, and I think you will, too. It’s a fine documentary that does a great job of developing its subject. TLoB is available on iTunes, Amazon, Vudu, Xbox, CinemaNow, and YouTube. Check it out soon.