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Film Review: Crafting a Nation

CAN they do it?
by Carrie Dow on Jun 24, 2014 in Beer

Regis University was the site of the Denver screening of the documentary film Crafting a Nation or CAN, get it? The film shows the hard work and dedication of the people who brew craft beer for a living. After viewing the film, our hats are off to these people.

Director and Executive Producer Tom Kolicko was on hand to give a short presentation about his labor of love to the audience. A graduate of the University of Colorado, Denver, he and his crew spent over a year filming some of the stories featured in the film and he compared how the making of the film was like starting up a brewery. There were ups and downs, productive days and days with no cash flow. Kolicko said that Matt Cutter of Upslope Brewery in Boulder became a bit of a mentor to him during the making the film. Kolicko would often talk to Cutter about issues that cropped up during filming. Most of those issues involved money. When Kolicko couldn’t get the funding to continue, Cutter would describe some of the things he did to raise capital for his brewery.

Kolicko also talked about why he focused on the craft beer industry. He wanted to show an industry that is creating a growing cultural and economic movement, especially after the effects of the Great Recession.

“It’s about wanting to support your neighbor and wanting to know where your money goes,” he said. Kolicko chose the brewers he did because to him they represent those who have the most passion.

Part of the story of Crafting a Nation follows brothers Brandon and Chad Miller of Black Shirt Brewing Company in Denver. The film starts with their construction efforts turning a 100-year-old warehouse into a brewery and tasting room in a section of Denver called River North. Doing most of the work themselves, the brothers had to jump through a lot of hoops along the way. Chad and his wife Carissa had an infant son during this time and both brothers leveraged everything they had to follow their dreams. However, at every turn, issues with the building, the inspectors, and the equipment continually interfere. Will they finish before the money runs out?

Interspersed throughout the film are interviews with craft brewers throughout the country. Some brewers are old timers like Dan Kopman of Schlafly Beer in St. Louis and Jim Koch of Boston Beer Company, both of whom have been brewing for decades. Then there are the interviews with new breweries such as Urban Chestnut in St. Louis, Freetail Brewing in San Antonio and Fulton Brewing in Minneapolis. Along the way the film explores various themes such as craft brewing vs. the “big guys,” how small neighborhood breweries are bringing communities together and the farm to keg movement.

From Chico, CA, to Asheville, NC, the film scoured the country interviewing brewers who share that passion for making quality beer for their friends, family and communities. Did Black Shirt Brewing make it to opening? Viewers will learn that this isn’t a career path for the faint of heart.

Crafting a Nation is available for download on iTunes and will soon be available on Hulu and then available to Netflix subscribers later this year. The film is also making the rounds at colleges and breweries around the country. Check the CAN website or Facebook page for the latest screenings. 


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