- Janson Media
- The Irish Pub
Cinema has the power to immerse us in an infinite number of worlds—and the world of beer is certainly one of them. From goofy comedies to serious documentaries, the foamy elixir has played a key role in many filmmakers' works. In honor of the City Weekly Utah Beer Festival, here's a roundup of beer-themed movies—some of them likely familiar, others not so much—to get you in the appropriate mood.
- MGM/UA Entertainment Co.
Strange Brew (1983): You know what you're in for when it opens with the iconic MGM lion burping, then takes Dave Thomas' and Rick Moranis' bumbling, beer-obsessed SCTV characters Bob and Doug McKenzie into a plot by a villainous brewmaster (Max von Sydow) to put a mind-control drug into Canadian beer. Aside from showing that one-joke sketches probably shouldn't be stretched to feature length, the film includes a climax where Moranis puts out a fire with his pee after drinking 6,000 gallons of beer, and a flying dog saving the day. Take off, eh, indeed.
- IFC Films
The Saddest Music in the World (2003): Off-beat Canadian filmmaker Guy Maddin delivered a typically out-there narrative set during the Great Depression in Winnipeg, where a beer baroness (Isabella Rossellini) creates a competition to find ... well, what the title says. Anyone familiar with Maddin won't be shocked at the unique, grainy black-and-white visual style, or the deadpan sense of humor crossed with the trappings of silent-cinema melodrama. But this is also a movie that finds some pretty unique places to put its beer, from the brew-filled prosthetic glass legs of Rossellini's character to the giant tubs where the winners of each musical showdown take a celebratory dip.
- Warner Bros. Pictures
Beerfest (2006): Like Saddest Music, it's about an international competition, but otherwise these two beery comedies couldn't be more different. The Broken Lizard comedy troupe tells the tale of five Americans who train to compete in a secret underground Olympiad of drinking games to beat the nasty German team (including Will Forte and Nat Faxon). An "if you try this at home, you would be dead" warning kicks off the movie, so the mass consumption of beer on display is clearly over-the-top satire. Expect the same level of broad, often crude humor from the rest of the story, though it's not every day that you find a comedy that can pull off both a sly Das Boot reference and jokes about masturbating frogs.
How Beer Saved the World (2011): "This is the story of the greatest invention of all time" begins the narration in this lively Discovery Channel documentary positing the role of beer in some of the landmark moments in human civilization. Agriculture? Inspired by the need to grow barley for brewing. The Egyptian pyramids? Beer was the unit of payment of laborers. Germ theory and antibiotics? Developed thanks to experiments on beer. The American Revolution? Born in a Boston tavern full of tipsy patriots. It might just be a fun collection of historical trivia turning beer into the liquid equivalent of Forrest Gump, but you'll have great stories to share at the bar.
- Magnolia Pictures
Drinking Buddies (2013): Chicago's popular real-life Revolution Brewing Co. provides the backdrop for this comedy-drama from writer/director Joe Swanberg about a complicated romantic square: the brewery's marketing and events coordinator, Kate (Olivia Wilde), and her friendship with co-worker/brewer Luke (Jake Johnson) bumping up against their relationships with respective significant others (Ron Livingston and Anna Kendrick). The chummy chemistry between Wilde and Johnson gives a kick to Swanberg's semi-improvisational style, making for an engaging tale of people trying to figure out whether they belong together. Also, if sheer volume of beer consumed on camera were real, everyone involved would be dead.
The Irish Pub (2013): Maybe it's not about beer per se, but a pint of Guinness might as well get first billing in Alex Fegan's documentary about the significance of the local pub as an Irish institution. More than a dozen locations are featured, making it occasionally frustrating that we can't spend more time with the most colorful characters. Yet this gentle portrait is both history lesson—including the role of pubs as places for making wedding matches—and sociology lesson about how important it is to have places where people can gather, talk to one another and be part of a community. "No television, no music, just conversation," one owner says about her place, taking pride in the value of folks bending an elbow at the bar together.
- Janson Media
Crafting a Nation (2013): Director Thomas Kolicko takes a somewhat meandering look at the boom in American craft brewing, traveling from coast to coast to explore how these small enterprises become part of their communities, including supporting local agriculture. The wide net of subjects—combined with Kolicko's fondness for magic-hour landscape shots—makes for a movie that doesn't always feel focused, but there's a compelling center in the story of brothers Branden and Chad Miller attempting to launch their Black Shirt Brewing Co. in Denver. There's nothing romanticized about this portrait of entrepreneurs trying to bring a dream to life; it might give you more appreciation of the long hours and anxiety that went into that craft brew you love.