Wednesday, June 9, 2021

|Podcast| Brewmance - Christo Brock

Photo Content from Christo Brock

Christo Brock is an American Producer, Director, and Editor best known for directing and producing the iconic swim documentary Touch the Wall, the sports films Spirit of the Marathon and Hood to Coast, and the craft beer documentary BREWMANCE. Originally from a farm outside Philadelphia, Christo studied drama at Dartmouth College and filmmaking at the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts. After graduating Christo was Associate Producer on Mark Harris’ Academy Award winning documentary The Long Way Home. He mentored under the legendary editor Kate Amend, and worked alongside filmmakers Joan Churchill and Nick Broomfield, among others.

As editor Christo cut together fiction features Blunt and Memphis Bound and Gagged and documentaries Boobs: An American Obsession, Living Liberal in Kansas, Spirit of the Marathon, and Hood to Coast, in addition to numerous projects in television working as producer, director, and editor. 

Touch the Wall, a film about Olympic swimmers Missy Franklin and Kara Lynn Joyce and their journey to Olympic glory, debuted in 2015. After selling out theaters across the country, it went on to screen on Oprah’s Winfrey’s OWN network, iTunes, Netflix, and Amazon. It’s since become an iconic film for swimmers worldwide. 

BREWMANCE follows two sets of accomplished home brewers looking to open their own craft breweries. The film is interwoven with a Greek chorus of Craft Beer pioneers and gods to tell the amazing story of craft beer. It’s available everywhere you rent movies. 

Christo lives with this wife and son in sunny Long Beach, California.

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A few years ago my friend Tom was getting into homebrewing, and he told me of a home-brew club meeting he had attended. It had been an open forum for sharing and tasting, and the mood was genuinely brotherly. Tom also told me of one of the home-brew club’s members was going to open his own brewery in Los Angeles. We visited that brewery (Smog City) just after they opened, and my mind was blown. Even though I considered myself a foodie, I hadn’t ever experienced the spectrum of flavors and tastes that these beers could be. I was hooked. 

And so began my years-long fascination with the story of craft beer. 

After research, I began to see the connection between the restless soul of the Homebrewer and the professional craft brewer. It became increasingly obvious that one begat the other, and the story of it would make for an interesting documentary. 

But just as craft beer is a living, breathing thing, I knew the film couldn’t and shouldn’t be one of those interview-and-pretty-pictures kind of films. Those types of films mostly bore me - they make the action feel as though it’s happened in the past, and this story was very much alive. So, I undertook to find homebrewers who were in the process of transitioning to craft brewer, and I found them at the Long Beach Homebrewers club of Long Beach, California. Dan and Jesse Sundstrom (Ten Mile Brewery) were serious, award-winning homebrewers who wanted to make the leap to professionals. They were an intriguing story as well - a father/son team who’d weathered Jesse’s turbulent teenager years and had bonded over making beer in the back yard. 

Dan led me to another group, the Liberation Boys - Dan, Eric, and Michael. Dan had been a rock musician for most of his adult life, the trombonist in the ska band Reel Big Fish. Dan had toured the world and tasted the nascent craft beers that were just emerging, and he was looking for his next stage in life. His friend Eric came from a food family, and the two teamed up to make a plan. They later added the business-minded Michael to stabilize the business. 

I saw these main subjects as walking in the footsteps of giants - those giants who’d pioneered the craft beer movement. And so I added the greats of the craft beer movement to the film - Charlie Papazian, Fritz Maytag (Anchor Steam), Ken Grossman’s (Sierra Nevada), Jim Koch (Sam Adams), and others. Turns out, it’s a great American story. 

Beer was incredibly boring in the US for many decades, culminating with bland, generic beers in the 1970s that were dominated by large industrial giants. It was in this climate that several intrepid homebrewers - led by the impish Charlie Papazian in Colorado - started brewing beers that they couldn’t find anywhere else. And so began a revolution that could have only happened in America. 

Over the three years and 600+ hours of footage I gathered I found some unexpected discoveries. Firstly, craft beer is a uniquely American story. It could only have happened in a land that values independent, out-of-the-box thinking, and anti-authoritarianism. It’s a product made by people used to working hard, not giving up, and persevering through the impossible times. It’s also a story of entrepreneurship, one driven by innovative capitalists who saw a way of giving the people something they didn’t know they wanted. And most of all, it’s a story of people who honored and respected each other, and redefined the laws of competition to include collaboration. Craft beer is a better place to be, and we are all better because of it. 

This, I hope, is the story of BREWMANCE. It’s a story that continues to be written.

The American Craft Beer movement began with a group of restless homebrewers searching for something genuine and flavorful. Today it’s evolved into a redefinition of beer and an international cultural phenomenon. That uniquely American spirit of rebellion and innovation survives in two groups of homebrewers from Long Beach, California who are looking to open their own breweries and bring their beers to the world. These include a Christian father-son team who grew close over making beer and a retired ska band rock star (Dan Regan, Reel Big Fish) looking for the “quiet" existence of a brewery owner. 

With the insight and commentary of legendary brewers Ken Grossman (Sierra Nevada), Fritz Maytag (Anchor Brewing), Charlie Papazian, Vinnie Cilurzo (Russian River), Sam Calagione (Dogfish Head), Jim Koch (Boston Brewing) and others, BREWMANCE reveals the soul of craft beer in the heart of America.

Jesse Sundstrom (Ten Mile Brewing) in Christo Brock's BREWMANCE.
Liberation is absolutely devoted to local craft beer. Opened in 2018 by three former mild-mannered chaps born and raised in Long Beach, CA, Liberation is forged from equal parts Mos Eisley cantina and a Tom Waits fever dream. A safe haven for workers, story tellers, shamans, down-n-out detectives, street samurai, graffiti artists, revolutionaries, punks, drunks, con artists, and pirates.
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