Blood, Sweat, & Beer: A True Taste of Craft Beer Struggle and Triumph

When it comes to beer, we spend a lot of time focusing on what’s in our glass. After all, the end product that satisfies our thirst for an adult beverage is what it’s all about, right?

But one thing most craft beer enthusiasts will vouch for is their care for what it took to get that beer in front of them. Too often in this world, we take things for granted. But craft beer drinkers are a different breed. We always ask questions such as “what’s the ABV and/or IBUs in this?” and “What kind of hops did you use again?” or “Exactly how many of these can I drink before you have to call me a cab?” We care about the little things that gives the contents of our glass an added flair.

Blood, Sweat, & BeerIt’s an attention to these details that makes craft beer more than just beer. It’s an entity that provides a little something extra. It gives us all something to look forward to. It gives us all something to talk about. It gives someone like myself something to write about.

It gives Chip Hiden and Alexis Irvin something to make a documentary about.

On March 1st, 2015, the world premiere of “Blood, Sweat, & Beer” took place in our nation’s capital at the D.C. Independent Film Festival. This highly-anticipated documentary follows the plight of two start-up craft beer breweries and reveals the real-life struggles involved with making an impact in this industry. Without question, it’s a story that illustrates the true definition of entrepreneurial drive…sacrificing so much to transform a vision into a reality.

The two breweries featured are The Brew Gentlemen Beer Company, located in Braddock, PA, a once-booming steel town that’s fallen on hard times, and Backshore Brewing Company in Ocean City, MD, located right on the boardwalk and creating an environment perfect for beach side beer consumption. Both breweries boast a unique story that put them on the map and, for those of us who love a good anecdote about how a brewery’s beer came to fruition, these ones redefine the term “page turner.”

Brew Gentlemen and Backshore

Both Brew Gentlemen and Backshore exemplify the fight that’s required to earn relevance in an extremely competitive world. Paired with their stories throughout this documentary were facts surrounding the growth of craft beer, statistics showing the impact its growth has had on the beer industry overall, and commentaries that define how craft beer has risen to prominence over the past quarter-century. Chip and Alexis’s ability to tie all this together in one informative, entertaining, attention-grabbing narrative is a true testament to their skills and, much like our favorite brewers, unwavering dedication to their craft.

Emotional investment. That’s what makes you care about the characters in a movie. Do you relate to their story? Does their struggle resonate to a point where you’re captivated to see if that struggle ends in triumph? What in the hell else can these guys possibly endure before they discover their happy ending?!

Blood, Sweat, & Beer will find you asking yourself all these questions and then some.

The Brew Gentlemen founders Matt Katase (left) and Asa Foster (right) pour craft beer at the Blood, Sweat & Beer world premiere pre-screening beer tasting.
The Brew Gentlemen founders Matt Katase (left) and Asa Foster (right) pour craft beer at the Blood, Sweat & Beer world premiere pre-screening beer tasting.

Whether it’s Backshore Brewing owner Danny Robinson’s legal battle against big business over his brewery’s name or the literal sacrifice The Brew Gentlemen’s Matt Katase, Asa Foster, and Brandon Capps made to see what started as a college project become a fully-functioning production brewery in the heart of a town left for dead, it’s a guarantee there’s something within this film that’s going to hit you right in the feels. What it took for these guys to persevere through everything they faced will elevate your level of appreciation the next time you sip not only one of their beers, but a craft beer in general…because so many other brewery start-ups mirror similar struggle and triumph.

I walked away from Blood, Sweat & Beer feeling the emotions of pride, fulfillment, and inspiration. Pride because I’ve gotten to know Matt and Asa over the past year and thought I had an understanding of what they did to launch their brewery. This film made me realize I knew nothing and gave me a brand new perspective on their accomplishments. Fulfillment because, after doing everything I could to help Chip and Alexis promote Blood, Sweat, & Beer from my little corner of the craft beer community, the film ended up being everything I hoped it would be.

And, finally, inspiration because what I just watched reminded me of a quote I heard years ago: “Success is worth the sacrifice.” Blood, Sweat, & Beer taught me that no vision is worth abandoning if you truly believe in it. Keep your eye on the prize and learn from every experience that comes along the way and great things will happen.

I had the pleasure of attending this premiere and being in the corner of The Brew Gentlemen as the movie went live. The way I saw it, a brewery I’ve drank at, written about, and partied with the founders of wasn’t going to have a documentary made about it every day. Naturally, a four-hour trek from the ‘Burgh simply had to happen.

Q&AThe pre-screening beer tasting was great, the movie was outstanding, the audience reaction to the film was tremendous, the Q&A session after the film demonstrated how invested the audience was, and the after-party at Bluejacket Brewery (complete with a private tour that would’ve led to the tapping of some barrel-aged beers had we had our way…or a hammer…just kidding, guys.) was an absolute blast!

My hats off to Chip and Alexis. Your years of dedication to this project have truly paid off and the craft beer community will be watching Blood, Sweat, & Beer for a long time to come.

And to Danny, Matt, and Asa…we owe a debt to your contributions to the craft beer world. Thank you for taking on the behemoths, whether they be big business or epic struggle against seemingly insurmountable odds. You’ve shown us all what triumph’s all about.

ABBREVIATED REVIEW: When Blood, Sweat, & Beer gets to a theater near you…go see it.




Jason Cercone

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