The last few weeks have been exhausting. So many things have happened both good and bad that it’s been more numbing than anything else. There’s been failures, work related and personal which have left me asking existential type questions like, “What am I doing with my life?” Cue obscure Strong Bad quote, “I’ve been thinking of taking up male modelling!” I’m a social worker, and I’m trying my hardest to turn this blog into a money making machine. Most of the time I find both very fulfilling and meaningful work. However, the last few weeks it’s been like they’re water and oil. In my estimation most social workers and entrepreneurs have had similar experiences. There are so many high’s and lows of working with people and trying to grow your business that it can, at times, leave you emotionally numb. When you hit that low, you have two options, either dig deeper and push through or give up. I hit that low this past week and all I wanted to do was drink beer and eat wings. The good news is that this isn’t the first time I’ve hit that low and have learned that, more often then not, some one or something will encourage you to pick up your big-boy-boot-straps and keep marching on. For me this came from watching ‘Crafting a Nation’ documentary.
I’ll be upfront and say that I loved Crafting a Nation. This documentary wasn’t what I was expecting when I was scrolling through Netflix looking for something to watch. I thought it was going to be a documentary about beer, instead it focused on the development of the craft beer industry and the craft brewers themselves. It told the stories of the struggles and successes these entrepreneurs have had opening and maintaining their business. I guess this should have been obvious from the title after all the documentary isn’t called Crafting a Well Balanced Beer, but Crafting a Nation. I’m thankful for that because I needed it! One brewer featured in the film encapsulated the directors and producers vision for the film perfectly when he said,
“I think it's the same thing that my dad taught me, that hard work brings success… My family means a lot to me and I wanted there to be a connection between the beer and the business and my family. I bring the family to work on the weekends, were doing stuff, kids are running around, Megan helping out and Roland doesn't see us drink a lot of beer he sees us working in the brewery, filling kegs and talking about a 15 barrel brewhouse and the ingredients that we’re working with. So it's not about consumption it's about a family business.”
This documentary chronicles a growing and thriving industry and the people that make it happen, not about brewing and consuming the product the industry produces. As a home brewer I loved that, because I already understand the brewing process but I didn’t understand what it takes to open a craft brewery. Through Crafting a Nation I now have a better idea.
Another thing I loved about Crafting a Nation was the diversity of brewers they interviewed. They told the stories of brewers who were just opening their doors to those who have grown their breweries to larger and more complex operations. It’s great to see that the directors understood that the craft beer industry incorporates bigger breweries like Sam Adams and not just small local brew pubs. I think this helps casual viewers see that the industry isn’t as small or unapproachable as they might think it is. Craft beer isn’t just for 20-something bearded hipsters. The industry is large and has a place for every type of beer drinker. If you like light beers, there are craft breweries that are producing amazing light beers! All you have to do is be willing to explore and try to find one you like! I think this helps the documentary from falling, like so many craft breweries have, into pretentiousness.
Now, it isn’t completely free from all pretentiousness because it does come across as preachy in places. Especially, when they talk about buying local. Just because your beer is local and you’ve put a lot of hard work into it doesn’t mean that your beer is good, or a good enough reason someone should support you. The product actually has to be good. Here is where the documentary should have talked a little more about the styles of beer these brewers are making. I think that would have only added to their case to support local business because making beer is deeply personal. I’m a home brewer and know that developing a recipe requires you to think about your own personal tastes and preferences. You make decisions based of that which makes your beer different from every other brewer out there. That’s why there can be 1000’s of different breweries and recipes of the same beer style. There are so many variations that make each brewery stand out that it would be worth knowing what makes their beer different from everyone else. I believe this would have only added to the story of struggle these craft brewers face as they look for their own identity in an industry that’s quickly becoming over saturated.
I certainly recommend watching Crafting a Nation. It tells a comprehensive and compelling story of the rise of craft brewers around America. And remember the craft beer industry is more than just consumption, it’s about family, it’s about community, it’s about a culture. The men and women who own, operate, and work at these establishments are the key holders and therefore shaping the industry that all of us enjoy. It's important to hear their stories of struggle and success not only because it helped and encouraged me to keep pursuing my dream as an entrepreneur but because their story is worth hearing. If you haven’t seen it yet go watch it already! It’s on Netflix so no excuses!
P.S. Any one want to open a craft brewery with me?