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The Independent Critic

Ryan Daley, Joe Vogelbacher, Sean Z. Paxton, Tonya Cornett, Charlie Bamforth, Eric Flanigan, Max Bakker, Ray Daniels, Pat Fahey
Scott Owen, David Swift
118 Mins.
Gravitas Ventures

 "Beers of Joy" Gets Gravitas Ventures Release  
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Even if you don't declare yourself to be a lover of beer, it'll be pretty hard for you to not get swept up in the enthusiasm of Beers of Joy, a feature doc about all things brew recently picked up by indie distributor Gravitas Ventures that is currently available on-demand through all your usual distribution channels. 

Co-written/directed by Scott Owen and David Swift, Beers of Joy is practically a love letter to the world's most famous brewed beverage centering around four people, in particular, who've largely devoted themselves to beer and brewing. 

The first two, and probably the most compelling, are Ryan and Joe, two young men seeking certification as Master Cicerone®, an ultra-elite certification indicating "an exceptional understanding of brewing, beer, and pairing." It's the highest level of certification within the Cicerone program that begins with Certified Beer Server and includes Certified Cicerone, Advanced Cicerone and, finally, Master Cicerone, a title that, at the time the film was made, had been awarded to only 13 individuals. 

Indeed, ultra-elite. 

Beers of Joy also centers around Tonya, a brewmaster who travels to Italy and Germany seeking ancient brewing techniques and to further improve her own Berliner Weisse. Finally, there's Sean, a brew-inspired chef who explores the historical origins of beer as he prepares a historic feast. 

Beers of Joy compellingly follows all four stories, Ryan and Joe providing the meatiest material here as the more intense, zealous Joe provides an interesting contrast to Ryan's more laid back nature. Both are followed in their preparations for the two-day, high-pressure exam that occurs 1-2x annually in Chicago. While I certainly won't spoil the results here, there's little question you'll have your own guesses along the way and might even be a little surprised. 

The stories of Tonya and Sean are less intense and more entertaining. Tonya's simply a likable human being and watching her travels around Europe are lightweight but entertaining. Sean, on the other hand, is a charismatic and enthusiastic human being whose knowledge of all things beer helps to provide the film with a little more substance. 

Beers of Joy isn't quite the definitive primer of all things beer and brewing, yet it most likely is the ultimate doc for beer lovers and those within the world of brewing. It's at times a bit too breezy, but it's a genuinely entertaining way to spend a couple of hours with people you grow to enjoy and journeys in which you become invested. Mike Cooley's lensing is pristine throughout, while the film weaves in a variety of musical accompaniments that help to add spark and energy to an already lively, entertaining production. 

For more information on Beers of Joy, visit the film's website linked to in the credits. 

Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic