Hardship and Homebrew: ‘Beerland’ Season Two Tackles Race, Disability, and Other Challenging Themes (With Beer)

Meg Gill Beerland Season 2

Meg Gill critiques a brew in Beerland Season 2. / Photo credit: Viceland

I recently had the chance to, once again, interview Meg Gill, co-founder and president of Golden Road Brewing and star of Beerland, a television show on Viceland that follows Gill’s travels across the country as she meets some of the nation’s most interesting, unusual and fervid homebrewers.

After a successful debut last spring, Beerland has been renewed for a second season, and its five episodes tackle a  cornucopia of themes just in time for fun family discussions during the holidays: among them, race, immigration, poverty, disability, illness, and the call to utilize one’s talents and capabilities to better the larger community. Continue reading

Advertisements

Thoughts on L.A. BEER, the new webseries sitcom now streaming on YouTube

I take a positive tack on beer related ventures, so I’m not going to say L.A. BEER is terrible. All sitcoms are terrible. These guys and gals are trying though, and if it’s in the name of getting beer making in front of the masses, then I can try, too. The problem I have is, there’s hardly any beer making. Fair enough, but if we’re to assume the show is casting a wide net to catch viewers, then they’re missing the mark on two counts. For the beer nerds, there’s definitely not much going on in the beer knowledge department. For the vaguely beer curious, it’s unclear what these people are doing in their office every day if it’s not brewing.

In the five webisodes released in time for American Craft Beer Week, we see the struggle of fictional Los Angeles microbrewery, Silver Screen Brewing (how cute), in five quick and disheartening stages. In episode one, “New Brew,” the latest beer fails because it was made with a stinky Asian fruit (durian) in the brewer’s futile attempt to make something exotic (if that’s a reference to Ex Novo brewmaster, Jason Barbee, who brewed a Jacked Up Saison with one hundred cans of jackfruit, it’s only a compliment).

In episode two, “Silverlake Strawberry Ale,” another beer fails and is protested against by an angry mob of flannel-wearing mothers due to its kid-friendly label art (because hipster moms). In episode three, “Straight Up Shandy,” the boss fails to recognize one if his employees is homosexual, and said employee fails to stand up for himself (because being gay is hard and older white men don’t get it). Episode four, “Culver City Crowdfunding,” chronicles a Kickstarter campaign to can a beer gone wrong (because millennials) and episode five, “Fairfax Beer Fast” (where exactly is this brewery, anyway?), takes us through the lovely journey of the female employees attempting a juice cleanse that makes them go crazy to the point of becoming demonic, while the men have fun doing a beer cleanse (because girls are insane and think beer makes them fat).

Basically, these first introductions show nothing but failure in every corner of the brewing industry, from the launch of the brewery to the flagship beer to the marketing and distribution. Mix this in with a few staid personality types (the marketing bitch, the internet-and-approval-crazed intern, the gay guy and the clueless boss), a few lesbian and hipster jokes (or lesbian hipster jokes, as episode two would have it), and a few jabs at #craftbeerproblems and you’ve got yourself a sitcom. I guess?

The five episodes streaming right now total about 25 minutes all together, so it’s fair to say the production had to cut to the chase in terms of telling us who’s who and setting up their struggle. Fine, it’s your plot. But the parts that reinstate social assumptions like girls not drinking craft beer—even when it’s literally their job—leave room for improvement.

Some things the show is correct in portraying is that starting a brewery is hard, that the craft beer business involves a myriad of stages and issues and departments outside of the brewing itself, and that even brewers struggle to keep up with beer styles and sex appeal in a social media saturated market. But is it realistic? I don’t know, I’ve never worked in a brewery. My initial question still remains, though: Where’s the beer?