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SXSW review: ‘Brewmaster’ documents the passion and culture of beer nerds

Matthew Odam

There may be more wineries than breweries in America, but the discrepancy has shrunk considerably over the last decade. The number has skyrocketed, almost quintupling over the last 20 years to almost 8,000. Driving the movement is a passionate group of beer nerds, almost all of whom seem to have beards Tirola’s documentary, “Brewmaster,” which made its world premiere Friday at the Alamo Drafthouse during South by Southwest, explores America’s thriving beer scene and the history of brewing in America by telling the stories of about a professional and amateur beer makers. The common element of all of these (mostly) men is a curiosity and passion that fuels the tinkering and artistry that is helping quench America’s thirst.

The film highlights a few of the leaders in craft beer, from Boston Beer Company (Samuel  Adams) co-founder Jim Koch to Alagash founder Rob Tod and Brooklyn Brewery brewmaster Garret Oliver, telling their genesis stories in the business, but just as compelling are the stories of the common folks obsessed with brewing.

Drew Kostic practices law by day and spends all of his free time obsessing over perfecting his home brews and devising a plan to create and find his own brewery. Tirola goes along for the ride, as Kostic hits local pubs with friends and takes his brews to tasting events held in gymnasiums, hoping to turn people onto his recipes.

Brian Reed is another enthusiast, a (bearded) man whose love of suds has led him to multiple attempts at passing the Master Cicerone exam, a feat accomplished by only about 15 people.

Tirola bounces between these two men’s stories but wisely does not follow their pursuits with blow-by-blow detail, instead cutting between some light historical documentation and many stories about people’s personal memories and histories with beer.

The history never gets granular and the science of brewing is only touched upon briefly, making the cheery love letter of a documentary accessible to even beer neophytes.

”Brewmaster” screens again Friday at 6 p.m. at the AFS Cinema.