FREDERICTON – The founders of New Brunswick’s satirical news website The Manatee are getting serious about the province’s craft beer scene in their new film.
Alex Vietinghoff and Shauna Chase’s upcoming film Beerocracy will look at the growing craft brewing scene in New Brunswick, the significant barriers it faces and its huge potential as an economic driver for the province.
The idea spurred from, well, drinking a lot of beer.
“Alex and I both really love craft beer, and last summer and fall were frequently checking in on ‘Untappd,’ an app that lets you log which beers you’ve tried and where, and see what your friends are drinking. Our friends were drinking lots of local beers and rating them; sort of along with that we started noticing just how many breweries were cropping up in NB– 29 at the time,” Chase says.
“We wondered how it would be possible for such a small province to sustain that number of breweries, especially since we have 10 in Fredericton alone. We wanted to investigate the brewery phenomenon and find out how they were all seemingly succeeding alongside each other, so we decided to launch into a documentary.”
But as they started travelling around the province, they discovered it wasn’t all peachy for these breweries. They are facing some challenges, but not the kind you might assume.
“A lot of the brewers are in the position where they really want to be able to grow their business and there’s a lot of demand because quite a few of them are in locations where there’s no other nearby craft breweries,” Vietinghoff says.
“But some of the challenges that they told us they’re seeing is a lot of the regulations that are in place are just not up to date with the current demand and popularity of craft brewers.”
There have been some policy changes recently. In April the provincial government eliminated the requirement for a brewer to have their retail outlet open for a minimum number of hours per day. They also now allow brewers to sell other beers made in New Brunswick from their own stores. Still, current regulations are far from ideal. The film will take a particular look at NB Liquor, the government crown corporation that regulates all liquor sold and made in the province.
“We’re not really trying to talk about how NB Liquor is terrible,” Chase says. “We just want to be able to discuss and examine their policies surrounding craft beer and craft beer producers, because they do have a lot of control in it.”
NB Liquor declined to be interviewed for the documentary on camera, but did allow the filmmakers to film in some of their locations and provided them with their policies and other documents.
“Whether they like it or not, they are the ones in control. They are a big part of the story,” Vietinghoff says. “If they’re not going to speak to media, to journalists, to documentary filmmakers like ourselves, they still need to be spoken about because they are the ones controlling everything that happens.”
The film also compares the province’s fairly new craft brewery scene to those in other Atlantic Provinces and Maine. New Brunswick is clearly behind, since other provinces and states have had more time to lobby for favourable rules and develop quality products.
“So in New Brunswick, we’re at a point right now where we could go that way. If the brewers are given a bit more leeway, we have the potential to be a real hotspot for beer tourism,” Vietinghoff says.
“At the same time, if they’re aren’t allowed to grow, there might end up being nothing happening here and another nearby province or state will beat us at being an East Coast beer location.”
With filming finished, Vietinghoff and Chase are in the editing and postproduction phase–and they’re looking for your help. They’ve launched an Indiegogo campaign to help cover the costs to get the film onto the screen. At time of publication, they’ve made it more than halfway to their goal of $10,000 with one week left.
Vietinghoff says they hope the documentary will educate people about the province’s craft brewing scene, how it started and where it’s heading. They also hope those in power, whether it be government or NB Liquor, can watch the documentary and see the potential of craft brewing in the province.
“We’ve got a poor economy, but these craft breweries can be used as potential job creation tools. The money being spent isn’t just people buying beer, but also the breweries spending money in transportation, spending money in agriculture for hops and yeast…the money is going around,” he says.
“We believe it could be a really good venue for New Brunswick to help tourism and the economy.”