Brewmore: Inspiration through beer and film

March 20th. The first day of spring. A century or so ago Baltimore breweries may have been busy brewing a Märzen, or March beer, which was traditional German beer brewed at the end of March with plans to be drunk at Oktoberfest.

Courtesy Digital Cave Media
Courtesy Digital Cave Media

It seems appropriate that a German Oktoberfest beer would have been brewed on the same day writer/director Nick Kovacic unveiled Brewmore. His new documentary about the Baltimore brewing industry past and present was received very well last night at the Brown Center in the heart of the Maryland Institute College of Art.

Given the harsh winter we’ve endured in Baltimore, welcoming spring with this movie was a wonderful treat. I’ve never been to a film premier before. Just not the kind of circles I run in. But I imagine the usual audience of a film premier to be significantly different from what Brewmore drew.

This was a crowd which was as excited by the characters of the film, as the film itself. You see most of the characters were available for purchase in 12oz portions. And they all hailed from Baltimore.

Even though it was the potable characters that lured many people to see the film, it was the real flesh and bone characters past and present that kept their eyes glued to the screen.

Brian Strumke - Founder of Stillwater Artisanal - Courtesy Digital Cave Media
Brian Strumke – Founder of  Stillwater Artisanal – Courtesy Digital Cave Media

The film creates a journey through Baltimore’s rich history with beer. Weaving from past to present we get to learn much about how important Baltimore was for beer around the world. Historian Maureen O’Prey expertly guides us through the dramas of brewing in 19th century Baltimore all the way through to the demise of the brewing industry in Baltimore around turn of the 21st century.

O’Prey tells us how Baltimore’s brewing culture was brought from Europe as part of German culture making its new home in America. The Port of Baltimore fueled what was to become home to many innovations in brewing and industrialization. We learn that the debt the world owes to Baltimore brewing extends far beyond beer.

The film features many, although not all, of Baltimore’s newest set of brewers. While it features insightful interviews with each, the content is seemingly less than the enthusiasm in which it is delivered.

Every person that was involved with this project, not only loves beer, but they love Baltimore, which is refreshing to see. Baltimore is often mentioned in the same sentence as Detroit when people are talking about failing blue collar cities. But this film makes you excited about Baltimore. It makes you see potential that Baltimore has. Seeing a company whose focus is workforce development renovate the American Brewery building, provides a symbolic metaphor, and builds on the theme of potential in the film and in Baltimore.

bookcoverWhat this film really does best is celebrate the resurgence of Baltimore in brewing, makes you proud of our past, and excited for our future. Everyone that I spoke to after the film was excited about Baltimore, and excited about beer.

When the film ends, it feels much like the introduction to something much larger. It’s like it is setting up some grand adventure that is just beginning. Maybe I’ve had a beer too many, or I have been waiting for something to make Baltimore something more than it is.

If you are intrigued by this, check out the upcoming screenings of Brewmore. If you saw the film last night with me, you might want to check out Maureen O’Prey’s book Brewing in Baltimore. This book provides a deeper look at Baltimore’s brewing history.