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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