Beers of Joy
Review by Mark Schwab
April 4th, 2019
I think I can make this official statement; Gravitas Venture's BEERS OF JOY is the definitive documentary on all things beer. This 118-minute love letter to beer is so comprehensive that I doubt I'll need to see any more docs on the subject ever again but that isn't a bad thing. Through the efforts of co-directors Scott Owen and David Swift, you'll learn the history, the manufacturing process, the tasting notes, the passion that goes into making it, the cultural influences which...anyway, you get the idea.
I think most people would agree that two solid hours of beer immersion might not be most folks' mug of tea but fortunately, Owen and Swift have a nice ace up their sleeve when they pull back the curtain on the challenge of becoming a "Master Cicerone" - the highest designation in beer mastery (only 13 people in the world have achieved it). I had never heard of this and as the filmmakers follow two individual beer makers in their quest to pass, I was fascinated by watching them prepare for this very difficult examination. Obviously, I have no intention of revealing what happens but I will say that it was easy to get emotionally invested in whether or not they'll pull it off in the end. The Master Cicerone "plot" was by far the most interesting for me since it involved tension, conflict and no way to predict how it will resolve while also really teaching me something new.
The other roads explored by the doc are all perfectly shot and edited - this is a studio-level production with no indie whiff to it - but I think your enjoyment will depend a little bit on your interest in beer and the brewing process. The skillful filmmaking held my interest throughout but I found myself hoping to get back to the Master Cicerone storyline a little sooner rather than later.
BEERS OF JOY is always cheerful about its thematic and on-camera subjects - you can't help but like everyone here and they obviously love their jobs as much as they love drinking and making beer. If you are a beer fan or budding at-home brewer then this is an absolute must-see. If you're a documentary fan in general, then this should satisfy nicely since it rates very high in production and educational value. If you are a casual viewer, BEERS OF JOY is a pleasant and undemanding journey into a world of barley, hops and history.