Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Brew & A: From Grain to Growler VA brewery film

The Better Beer Authority recently reached out to Megan Troy and Aaron Stanley from Take A Penny Productions of Alexandria, VA to find out what the driving force was to create From Grain to Growler - A Virginia Craft Beer Documentary.  With a recent successful Kickstarter campaign, they are now ready to put the finishing touches on the project.

All photos courtesy of Take a Penny Productions

Better Beer Authority (BBA): Who was the driving force behind SB604? What restrictions are still in place for craft breweries that need further legislation?

Take a Penny Productions (TAP): SB604 was supported and lobbied for by the Virginia Craft Brewer's Guild. Now more breweries have been able to get started, at a smaller level, because of the revenue they can generate in being able to sell the product on-site in a tasting room.   Another important bill was SB430, which concerns the definition of a "farm brewery."  This bill allows breweries to have the same rights as wineries in Virginia, and Lickinghole Creek CraftBrewery and Rusty Beaver Brewery are both taking advantage of this, by growing a combination of hops, barley, fruit, etc. on their brewery land, and using it in their product.  These two pieces of legislation have been pivotal in the Virginia Craft beer industry.  

BBA: Once the film is complete and ready for distribution, how do you plan to distribute it?  

TAP: Right now our distribution model is purely digital - and our initial plan is to release the film in September, after we screen it across the state for VirginiaCraft Beer Month in August.  Those who donated to our Kickstarter campaign will get an earlier release for being early supporters of the film. 

BBA: How did you become a fan of craft beer? 

TAP: Aaron: I learned about craft beer in college at James Madison University.  My first Virginia craft beer was Starr Hill's Amber Ale.  From there, I started to get more exposure to different styles like IPAs and stouts, and that was pretty much it for me.   Since then, I've been to tons breweries across the US and abroad, trying new beers and learning as much as possible about the industry.  
Megan: Craft beer was something that I really enjoyed as soon as I was introduced to it.  I was lucky enough to live in Charlottesville, where we had a craft brewery and a lot of availability in bars and pubs. A few years ago I was diagnosed with Celiac disease, and thus have to have gluten-free beer. We homebrew different gluten free beers and try to experiment with different styles. I'm hopeful that in the future we will see more craft breweries releasing gluten free beers soon.  

BBA: I’m sure you have sampled many beers from all of the breweries you are featuring; are there any beers that stick out among the rest?  

TAP: The great thing about Virginia craft beer is that each of the breweries has it's own following and niche - and there is a lot of diversity in the styles of beers being brewed.   One of the places you see this is Virginia's great beer festival culture - it's an opportunity to try a lot of beers, and figure out which styles and breweries are the most suited to your palette.  One brewer we interviewed said it best - "my favorite beer is the one in front of me!"

BBA: Growing up in Northern Virginia, there was a disconnect with the rest of the state.  After going to college in Richmond, I saw the disconnect from the other side. Is there that same disconnect in the Virginia brewing industry?

TAP: I think that before SB604 it was much harder to open a brewery.  Now that so many more have been able to open, it seems like the community has grown bigger and stronger, and that geographic restrictions don't really apply. All of the brewers travel across the state to meet the other brewers, collaborate on new beers, and help those that are just starting out.  

BBA: Which Virginia breweries do you see becoming regional and potentially national brands within the next 5-10 years?

TAP: It's hard to say what each of them will do, because so many are finding their place in the market. I think that quite a few of them have the potential to become big brands. As you can see from the medal count at the Great American Beer Festival, Virginia beer is up-and-coming.

BBA: Why make a documentary about Virginia beer, what sets it apart, from say, Michigan, Oregon, where there are documentaries about their longer standing beer culture beer cultures?  

TAP: We saw a great story here in Virginia when it comes to craft beer.  I think in a lot of ways, Virginia has lagged behind other states, but if you look at the way the industry has grown, they are making up for lost time.  I saw some figures the other day that showed an increase of craft beer drinkers nationally of around 22% from 2012 to 2013, whereas Virginia's number was above 50%.  I think the breweries are creating great jobs, giving back to their communities, and creating great local products for their consumers - and it's a story that needed to be told.  

To see the Grain to Growler Kickstarter campaign, click here.

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Monday, June 23, 2014

Sixpoint RAD Blind Taste Test

Sixpoint sent the BBA a 4-pack to do a blind review.  See what the guys think of this radler style beer.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Brew & A with Lance's Beer Tour

Lance in New York City (All photos courtesy of Lance's Brewery Tour)

Like most people who found out about Lance's Brewery Tour, it came across our social media feeds.  The Brew & A sessions give us an opportunity to share interviews and thoughts with people from all over the beer industry, not just brewers.  We are pleased to present an interview with Lance's Brewery Tour director and nephew of Lance, Aaron Rice. There are a few short days left to help with their campaign to help fund this project, you can help here.

Better Beer Authority (BBA): An uncle/nephew relationship is a unique experience.  In this case, you take your uncle on an incredible 25,000 mile beer journey.  How difficult was it to get Lance to face his phobias and start that first mile?

Aaron Rice (AR): Lance was thrilled to begin his journey. Like a kid waiting for Christmas, he counted down until the day we left – Lance's Brewery Tour was his lifelong dream and it was coming true. He knew challenges were coming but those didn't translate into fears until we were face-to-face with his phobias.

BBA: In the various news pieces about Lance, his old can collection is prominently featured.  At what point in your life did you notice them, and at what point did you realize there was an accepting culture within the beer community to people with differences or disabilities?

AR: I noticed Lance's can collection when I was 2 or 3 years old. Obviously I didn't know what they were as a toddler but that collection has always been a part of my life (I accidentally knocked over a wall of cans when I about 5 years old - not a good day for a kid.) 

I've been a craft beer fan forever but it wasn't until we began cold calling breweries to tell them about my uncle's gift for beer history and his dream that I realized the beer community was accepting of people with disabilities. From day one breweries said things like, "what can we do," and "yes bring him here... this is amazing!" 
Part of Lance's can collection
BBA: What were the breweries before the trip started that you and Lance were most looking forward to?  Which breweries that were not on your initial plan stood out?

AR: When we began we couldn't wait to go to Great Lakes Brewing Co., which is Lance's "hometown" brewery in Cleveland, OH, and D.G. Yuengling because of it's incredible history. As Lance's journey grew more breweries than we can count opened their doors to Lance's dream. It's easy to say all of them stood out – because each one did in their own unique ways. A few that were special to me were Rogue, Potosi Brewing Co. and the National Brewing Museum and Sierra Nevada. They each were part of landmark moments for the Lance's Brewery Tour story.

Lance meeting Dick Yuengling
BBA: What styles of beer does Lance enjoy drinking the most.  What about you and the rest of the crew?  What are some of the beers that you drank on the trip that stuck out the most to you?

AR: Lance's go to styles are porter, stout and IPA. I'm a huge fan of IPA and anything called "Belgian" with words like  "quadruple," "quintuple" or "hand anointed by dancing monks" afterwards. The best way to put it is that we're all craft beer die hards. A few beers that stuck out: "Beard Beer" from Rogue. Trying New Holland Brewing Co.'s "Dragon's Milk" while it was still in process. “Utopias" from Samuel Adams (had that at about 9AM because of our shoot schedule). Sampling Allagash's barrel Room in general. "Three Philosopher's" from Brewery Ommegang. This list can go on for quite some time... I should probably stop here for the sake of time.   

BBA: As a film maker, it seems like you had a plan to visit breweries in the Midwest, then #Beer.Autism.Hope seemed to have an organic take off.  At what point did you realize that this journey was bigger than a nephew/uncle life-achieving trip?

AR: By now most people know Lance's journey grew from a 3-4 week trip to a 25,000 mile nationwide tour. The point I realized Lance's dream might become something bigger than we imagined within beer was when Jack Joyce, the co-founder of Rogue in Oregon, called my cell phone to ask what it would take to get Lance to the Pacific Northwest. At that point we didn't know how we were going to get from Cleveland to Pennsylvania. 

The point I realized Lance's story was something that could change the world was at the Christian Moerlein brewery in Cincinnati, OH. We had been filming less than 3 days and at a public support event for Lance, families with children with autism showed up at the brewery just to meet Lance. That was touching and life changing for Lance, me and the entire crew – that moment influenced the rest of our project. 

ed note: sadly Rogue co-founder Jack Joyce passed away last week. Memories and condolences can be left on Twitter with #JackJoyce

BBA: Has there been any backlash with the movement because to some people alcohol is a taboo subject?  I’m also thinking of an ignorance that may be out there that people can’t see how beer helps. 

AR: There is only one that I can think of. A brewery in Chicago posted about a "Beer Autism Hope" event. A Chicago newspaper shared it online and some left a comment about the evils of alcohol. We're hoping Lance's story helps educate people as to the giving and openhearted nature of craft beer people and the brewing community. Brewing culture and real beer is still largely misunderstood. 
Aaron (l) Lance (r) @ Southern Tier

BBA: Lance went from living at home in Ohio to completing this trip and is now working on his book in LA.  It sounds like it was a great therapy for Lance.  What have people in the Autism community taken from Lance’s Brewery Tour? 

AR: The autism community regards Lance's story as a miracle. He did all this at an age when most people think development and growth is a near impossibility. His film is not only a story of hope it's a rare look at half a century of autism. We already have autism organizations requesting Lance's documentary as a resource for education and inspiration for families touched by autism. It's truly incredible how much Lance will impact the world.

BBA:  Please list ways people can find out more about Autism and Lance’s Brewery Tour. (ed note:  All links also copied below)

AR: People can support the BeerAutismHope movement at They can learn more about Lance's story at, which also has links to our charity and resources to learn more about autism. 

BBA: If Lance were to collaborate on a beer, what style would it be and would there be any special ingredients?

AR: He'd probably go with something "historical" like a Belgian Ale or a stout, because stout is one of his favorite styles. Special ingredients, that's tough. I would say coffee and chocolate in a stout. Lance loves coffee and rarely passes up good chocolate. 

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