On Thursday night, the Northwest Film Center brought local filmmaker Alison Grayson to the Whitsell Auditorium for an encore screening of her 2011 documentary The Love of Beer. The film offers an intimate portrayal of the passionate and determined women carving out a place for female brewers, distributors, and educators in the male-dominated craft beer industry.
With a strong emphasis on two particular women (award-winning brewer Tonya Cornett from Bend Brewing and beer bar proprietor Sarah Pederson of Saraveza), The Love of Beer is more concerned with celebration and storytelling than presenting a persuasive argument or call to action. Viewers are taken along a two-year journey that provides a very behind-the-scenes perspective, including Pederson’s poignant adjustment to life as a mother/publican and Cornett getting dressed in her hotel room before collecting multiple medals at the Great American Beer Festival in Denver.
The NWFC’s screening fittingly coincided with Portland Beer Week, although it wasn’t officially a part of the festival—at least not this year. The film premiered at the Bagdad Theatre during last year’s inaugural weeklong festival, with a raucous crowd of 300 giving it a standing ovation. Since then, Grayson has sent her film out for screenings across the country, occasionally accompanying it for an in-person introduction or Q&A. In April, The Love of Beer won the Feature Documentary award at Colorado Springs’s Indie Spirit Film Festival, but Grayson has found warm receptions much further from home.
"I was amazed at how many craft beer lovers live in Arizona, and how excited everyone was about the film," Grayson said. "The craft beer movement is growing throughout the country, and many beer lovers look to the Northwest for inspiration."
Although Grayson is busy preparing for a trip to Mexico City for her next documentary—a look inside the world of competitive roller derby, of which she’s a Portland participant— her brew movie isn’t entirely in her past. On the film’s website, DVDs are available for $10, and all sizes of groups can arrange for their own screenings.
One suggestion, though: future organizations should target pubs or other beer-friendly venues for their viewing parties. After over an hour of Grayson’s vibrant imagery (think fields of fresh green hops and cascades of copper-hued ales flowing from Saraveza’s taps), the audience at the concession-free Whitsell Auditorium was understandably thirsty. The post-screening Q&A appropriately closed with Grayson’s expert recommendations on where the attendees should head for a good beer.