Documentary hopes to shine light on New Brunswick’s “Beerocracy”

Alex Vietinghoff and Shauna Chase are the co-founders of The Manattee, a New Brunswick-based satirical news site (think an Atlantic-Canadian version of The Onion). They’re also beer drinkers. When the duo, who share not only a sense of humour but also a taste for the province’s local beer, realized there was a story to tell about the struggle their local brewers were facing, they decided to take that story to the big screen.

Beerocracy is the duos feature-length documentary about the history of alcohol in New Brunswick and the ways that the province’s bureaucracy, high taxation, and complicated policies are proving to be a barrier to growth for the small province’s 40+  craft breweries. Alex and Shauna recently took a break from submitting their film to festivals  recently to talk with Ben’s Beer Blog about their film, New Brunswick, and what they’re drinking these days.

Ben’s Beer Blog: Where did the idea for this documentary come from? What was the breaking point at which you realized this ought to be material covered in a documentary?

Shauna Chase: We were both huge craft beer fans and breweries were cropping up all over the place, especially in our hometown and the capital, Fredericton. We started to explore whether or not such a small place could sustain the number of breweries now on the map.

Alex Vietinghoff: We started conducting interviews and realised that there was a lot more to the story than the question of “Can NB handle this many breweries?” Our interview subjects were talking about job-creation and the economic and tourism potential of breweries and how much of a boon that could be for New Brunswick given our poor economy and high unemployment rate. We realized this was something worth exploring in-depth to see if New Brunswick could ever become “The East Coast beer destination.”

BBB: What’s the best thing about the beer industry in New Brunswick?

SC: The best thing to me is that because of its small-ish size, if there’s a new beer available, a nearby bar will have it on tap right away, and because of the phone app Untappd you can immediately get reviews from your friends who’ve tried it. It’s still a small community so everyone is always collectively waiting for the next tasty and innovative beer.

AV: I was surprised by how much the different breweries work together to help each other grow. I assumed that they would see each other as competition, but many of them lend each other their equipment, give recipe advice, go in on shipments together, and even lend brewing space to help new breweries start up. It’s great to see the breweries working together to further the industry for everyone.

BBB: What’s the biggest hurdle to craft brewers in New Brunswick?

SC: The biggest hurdle in New Brunswick is probably the perception that beer is just something to be used to get drunk. Craft beer isn’t really about that–or at least not exclusively. I think if ANBL [the New Brunswick Liquor Corporation] loosened its control over craft brewing instead of slamming brewers with outdated regulations, the market would follow — the quality would improve because lower-quality products would be pushed out and the best breweries would flourish. People would start to see craft beer as the community that it is here.

BBB: When and where can people see this film?

AV: We’re still waiting to hear back from festivals over the course of the next few months, but  Beerocracy got licensed as a four-part series by Bell Media and can now be viewed on Fibe TV! Ch. 1 / 401 in the VOD store “Lifestyle” section.  We’re aiming to havescreenings all over Atlantic Canada (and hopefully the rest of the country), as well as DVD sales and video-on-demand platforms.

BBB: What are you drinking?

SC: I can’t get enough Hammond River, which is located in Quispamsis, just outside Saint John. Available only on tap in New Brunswick bars and pubs. “Nut Your Everyday Red Ale” is delicious. I also love everything by Grimross (Fredericton); they do a lot of Belgian and farmhouse styles. Their Cheval D’or is a great — it’s sort of peppery and citrusy.

AV: I really enjoy Big Axe Brewery’s Shakespeare Chocolate Oatmeal Stout. Big Axe has really nailed the dark beer styles – they are thick, strong, but not over the top and they have their own unique flavours. Also, Patagonia Pale Ale from Fredericton’s Gray Stone Brewery. It’s a pale with a lot of flavour but it doesn’t blast your tastebuds, and it’s very refreshing.

Check out the official trailer for Beerocracy below.

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