The sun was out and the most coveted time of the week had arrived: Friday afternoon. With visions of the weekend dancing in our heads, the Flights.com team was eager to learn more about craft brewing in San Diego. So, naturally, we ordered a few cold ones and sat down with two of the creators of the new beer-themed documentary “Kings of the Craft” at (where else?) a brewery.
We were excited to learn about this new series on KPBS because A) supporting local television is good karma; and B) craft beer is delicious. Here is what we learned from Raeanne DuPont (producer) and Steven Moyer (cinematographer/editor) of “Kings of the Craft”:
On the Surge of the Craft Beer Movement
First things first: What exactly makes a brewer fall into the craft category? These guys (and gals) are independent and small, and they have a knack for shaking up ingredients. While some craft breweries have made a statement in their local market, these innovators are not to be confused with the Heinekens or Budweisers of the world (not that you would dare).
So, why the recent surge of craft brewing? As Moyer explained from behind what he sheepishly called his “editing beard” (more on that later), “Something that all of the brewers we talked to for the show touched on is a general farm-to-table movement, and craft beer is a part of that. People want to know what they’re putting into their bodies.” Moyer also told us you can reverse engineer a craft beer to figure out exactly what’s in it.
“Kings of the Craft” centers on the craft beer industry in San Diego, so we asked the filmmakers why our beloved city has seen so much action in the craft beer department. DuPont explained that the accessibility of White Labs, a local yeast production lab, has had a significant influence on the craft beer industry in America’s Finest City. She said, “White Labs creates unique yeast strains, and a lot of brewers in San Diego use them. One yeast strain we’ve heard about was made from a man’s beard… that’s on the more exotic side of things.” When it comes to the popularity of craft beer, she adds, it doesn’t hurt that San Diegan’s palates have become accustomed to IPAs.
On Rooting for the Underdog
As it turns out, stout lovers, the beer industry is not as dog-eat-dog as you might think. As Moyer explained, craft breweries in San Diego are sharing equipment, sharing employees (yeah, say what?), and have an “open-source attitude.” When it comes to building a craft empire, he says, “They’re all in it together to take back market share from the macro breweries.”
Still, before you put an embargo on the big-name beer in your house, consider this: There is also a sense of unspoken respect between macro and craft breweries. Moyer says a macro brewery could, in theory, buy up ALL the hops for an entire season. This would leave craft brewers up a certain kind of creek sans paddle. But, they don’t do it in the name of the greater good.
Despite some tacit support from the big dogs, however, craft brewers are still the underdog. As DuPont is quick to point out, craft brews still make up just a “small sliver” of the industry. She says craft beer accounts for less than 10 percent of the beer drunk around the world, and it’s fascinating how the industry continues to thrive thanks to its admirable community attitude. So you can still sip on that apricot seaweed craft and know that you are supporting the scrappy guy in the fight. It’s enough to give us the warm fuzzies. Or maybe that’s just the hops?
On the Point of the Documentary
So, why make a documentary on the craft beer movement in San Diego? DuPont says “I really love the people doing craft brews, as well as the creative aspect and the artistry. The breweries are beautiful and the beer is beautiful.” On that point, the Flights.com team could not argue.
Moyer added, “I think it would be really sad if these craft brewers weren’t being documented. They are really changing the way San Diego appears to the rest of the world as a beer destination.” People here, as it turns out, are just getting over the idea that things of high quality “must come from somewhere else.” Guess what SoCal, good beer is right in your own back yard!
Getting people to talk about their breweries on camera wasn’t difficult at all, the filmmakers said. While they interviewed 17 breweries, even more people volunteered to be involved since the show gained an air date and some press.
The filmmakers chalk this up to craft brewers’ passion for their industry and desire to tell their story. The bad news for people wanting an interview now is that Moyer is deep in editing mode, with nary a day to spend with his friends or time to pick up a razor. Narrowing 70 hours of footage down to less than three hours is, as it turns out, a difficult task. Who woulda thought?
So listen up beer geeks and people who like to learn new things:
“Kings of the Craft” premieres in San Diego on KPBS, May 21st at 9pm. Everyone else can stalk the KPBS website afterward to watch the episodes online. You can also catch a sneak peek of the documentary right now: