Documentaries are increasingly an important part of today’s craft beer scene and films such as American Beer and Beer Wars have all played their own part to entertain and inform while simultaneously spreading the word about craft beer. So when I learned that there was a craft beer documentary about my neighbor state to the north, New Hampshire, coming out next year, I was determined to track the film’s producers down and find out more about their project.
The film is called Brew Hampshire and I recently sat down with Slate Roof Film’s producers Bryant Naro andMeagan Frappiea to learn more about everything that they’re doing and to get the skinny on the craft beer culture in New Hampshire.
A film about New Hampshire’s craft beer scene sounds like a great idea. How did this whole thing start?
The idea started when we left our jobs at a documentary company. We were thinking we just wanted to work on something that was entirely our own project. Bryant’s cousin Chris is an assistant brewer at Throwback Brewery, and we thought that would be a great mini-doc. We love beer, we love New Hampshire, and Throwback is an awesome brewery. Annette and Nicole were kind enough to let us come into their space and film them several times, and we completed a mini-doc about their brewery. But it wasn’t long before we started thinking about expanding the idea and talking to other brewers in New Hampshire. And things really seemed to be snowballing in the craft beer scene at that point, too. Every time we turned around, a new brewery was opening up, or we were seeing news stories about beer tourism. It’s certainly coinciding with a larger craft movement in the country, but New Hampshire has some unique laws and licensing. To some degree, New Hampshire is playing catch up, when you compare it to Vermont or Maine as far as breweries per capita and enthusiasm about those breweries, but I don’t think it’s going to take long. We’ve talked to some people who see the entire craft movement as playing catch up. Prior to prohibition, the neighborhood brewery was a standard institution. It’s taken us eighty years to get back to that idea.
What can you tell us about Brew Hampshire?
It’s a documentation of the rise in craft brew popularity in the Granite State. There are many elements to the film. We’re interviewing people from every angle of the industry: brewers, distributers, resellers, home brewers, and reviewers. We’re reflecting on the past craft boom of the 90s, and asking the experts how today is different. New Hampshire’s nanobrewery license is still relatively new, and craft beer is definitely enjoying a bigger part of the marketshare these days, nationwide. We’ve talked to brewers who used to be engineers, pipe fitters, contractors, you name it, and they’re repurposing farm and dairy equipment or maple syrup tanks, or just customizing used and new brewing gear to make it their own. New Hampshire breweries are in industrial parks, former used car dealerships, garages, and on farms. There doesn’t seem to be a right or wrong way to do it, and we’ve really enjoyed getting to see how everyone is doing their own thing. The nicest surprise about shooting this project is that not a soul has said no to us yet. Everyone has opened their doors to us.
The other angle we’ve been trying to explore, aside from the beer, is what is unique about New Hampshire. You look at New England, and when you hear ‘Vermont’ or when you hear ‘Maine’, you have an image in your mind immediately. What’s ‘New Hampshire’? Tax free shopping? The home of the primaries? It is, but it’s also a place where you have access to the ocean, and can go skiing and hiking. We have, I think, the fourth largest legislative body in the world. There’s a lot about New Hampshire that’s unique and we’re trying to hone in on that.
What’s the most interesting thing you learned about the craft beer industry in New Hampshire that you didn’t know prior to making this film?
Every time you do a documentary, you learn so much, which is why it’s obviously so important to do it on something you’re interested in. I really didn’t know too much about beer in general before we started this, other than that I liked it, so I’ve learned a ton. One thing we’ve learned is that the craft beer industry is a pretty friendly one. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of cutthroat attitudes. They’re all willing to help each other out with supplies and troubleshooting. Several times we’ve been at one brewery and met someone from another brewery. It seems like a pretty supportive industry.
What is it about New Hampshire’s craft beer scene that made you choose it as the location of your documentary?
It’s local to us. Bry is a New Hampshire native and we bought a house in Keene, NH. Sometimes folks ask us where we’re staying while we’re up here filming or something like that, not realizing that we’re local, too. We love New Hampshire and it seems like something is happening here and we just want to follow it. Selfishly, too, we are relating to a lot of the stories. A lot of brewers have told us they left their jobs to follow their dreams of owning a brewery. As two people who left their jobs to pursue their dreams of starting a documentary company, we’re pretty invested in watching these folks succeed. It’s really inspirational and it keeps us going.
When can we expect Brew Hampshire to be released and where will people be able to find it?
We’re hoping to have the film released in a year. We’ll have DVDs and blu-rays for sale, and we hope to have the documentary on streaming services, as well. We also hope to do some local screenings.
If you could have a dream six-pack of beer only from the breweries that you visited while making this film, what six beers would be in your six packs?
Meagan: This is a tough and awesome question. It’s hard to pick favorites, and with many breweries, not every beer they make has been available when we’ve been there, and we didn’t even get a chance to taste at some breweries (and not every place distributes, so we can’t go pick up a bomber at our local craft store). But Smuttynose Old Brown Dog is always amazing, and now that I’ve tasted it fresh off the bottling line, I like it even more. Throwback’s Dippity Do is another favorite brown ale. I’m going to pick two from Throwback, because we’ve spent so much time there–their seasonal Chai Porter is super tasty. I also really love Henniker’s Working Man’s Porter. Able Ebenezer’s Auburn Ale is going to be really popular when they open, I think. It’s a really tasty, drinkable beer. For Earth Eagle, it’s a draw for me between the Black Adder Milk Stout and the Witching Hour Black Saison. The Black Adder has some anise in it, so it gives it that licorice flavor that I love, and the Witching Hour was just really spicy and cool.
The other thing about this question is that you really can’t get a six-pack of so many New Hampshire breweries. Smuttynose,Tuckerman, Redhook, and Woodstock Inn all produce bottled six packs, but it’s a price-prohibitive endeavor for most places. You can buy 22oz. bottles of a lot of nanobreweries, but some breweries only sell on-site in growlers. There are a lot of breweries that really only serve their community and you have to seek them out to get a taste. But that’s part of the model and it makes your experience at those places unique. Sure, I wish I could buy a six-pack of Earth Eagle at my local craft beer store, but it would change so much about how they brew and how they do business.
Bryant: Definitely a tough one, I don’t want to leave anyone out because I really appreciate every NH brewery, but I do have some favorites. I’m not a hop-fiend, so you won’t see any intense IPAs in my pick. Smuttynose Old Brown Dog Ale would definitely be there, because it’s so reliable, and such a solid, smooth taste. Throwback’s Chai Porter would be up next–it’s a brilliant blend of two of my favorite flavors. I really like Antoinette, Earth Eagle’s catnip gruit (I’ve never experienced a flavor like that!). Able Ebenezer’s Auburn Ale is so fantastic, that would be in there too (I can’t wait to start buying it when they open in June). Canterbury Aleworks’ Murphy’s Red Friday would be in there. It’s difficult to choose just one from that brewery, but I was really impressed with the red ale, which I don’t see too often. Last but not least, I’d include White Birch’s Berliner Wiesse, which is great for summer (or pretending it’s summer as we sometimes have to do in New Hampshire).
Will there be other films about the craft beer scene in other states in the future and if so, would you consider including me in it?!?
Meagan: It’s a great idea! Every state is going to have its own culture and personality, and delicious beer to go along with it. I’m from Vermont originally, so I’d be happy to scoot next door and cover their craft beer scene…But one thing at a time.
Bryant: I would absolutely work on another craft beer film, but probably not out of my own passion, as New Hampshire means a lot to me and is what drew me in to the subject. I’ve always dreamed of working on a travel show, so I think if I did anything beer related again in the documentary world, it would have to be an international endeavor. And yes, you are more than welcome to come along for the ride (just let me know what languages you speak).