When Craig Noble first started research for his documentary "Craft," about the second-wave craft beer explosion in the U.S. that he noticed took off in the last 10 years, he was a filmmaker and homebrewer intrigued by all the innovation and promise he’d seen during brewery tours in San Diego and elsewhere.
Now, he’s almost as knee-deep in hops and malts as many of the brewers who blazed the trail to good local beer. While making the film, he apprenticed at a brewery, received his cicerone certification in Vermont and developed a farmhouse ale recipe many of the breweries he explored ended up making on their own systems. He’s also gearing up to become brewmaster at a Vancouver brewery currently in the planning stages.
One of his brewery stops for the film was Austin’s Hops & Grain, which will have Noble’s saison ready for tasting at a "Craft" viewing party 8 p.m. on Tuesday at Banger’s Sausage House & Beer Garden. There, in addition to watching the film and trying out the Farmhouse Ale (Hops & Grain’s version is shown in "Craft"), you’ll also be able to devour a special sausage Banger’s made to pair with the beer. Noble will be in attendance for a Q&A following the 53-minute screening.
Both Hops & Grain and Banger’s were among the craft beer-centric spots that he visited when in town to shoot for "Craft."
"Austin exceeded my expectations," he said. "I came to Texas specifically because at the time you had the laws that really inhibited the growth of Texas craft beer, and I talked to Josh (Hare, founder of Hops & Grain) about that and it was going to be in the film, but then the laws changed. Regardless, Hops & Grain is a great brewery and a great representation of Austin’s independent spirit."
The state laws he was referring to – namely that Texas craft breweries couldn’t sell their beer onsite, while conversely Texas brewpubs couldn’t distribute their beer – changed over the summer.
Noble also features the Lost Abbey, Allagash, Funkwerks and 12 other breweries around the U.S. in the documentary, exploring why these and hundreds of others have done so well in local, regional and – in many cases – national markets.
"(Craft beer) is all regionally different," Noble said, noting that the film showcases some of the differences in the country’s various beer scenes. "But it doesn’t matter where you are; people will push ABV or add strange ingredients. There’s also a huge Belgian influence in America right now."
Noble is premiering "Craft" in cities known for producing lots of craft beer, starting with Portland, Ore. on Thursday. A June tour will show the film to three Canadian cities, including Vancouver, where he lives when he isn’t filming or promoting his movies. He noted craft beer hasn’t quite exploded in Canada the way it has here, although Vancouver will see six new breweries open up in April.
"We don’t quite have the population to support it as in the states, so it’s been slower to grow," he said. "But now there’s a lot of momentum on both sides of the border."