In Germany, the purity law, Reinheitsgebot, declares that beer can be made only with water, barley and hops. Likewise, the new documentary, Beer Y'all, can be broken down into three parts: beer, music and the road.
"It represents a confluence of things that we enjoy," says Asheville's Curt Arledge, one of seven guys who piled into a cargo van in July 2008 to embark on the North Carolina voyage that became the documentary Beer Y'all.
Arledge and company traveled from the mountains to the ocean and back again, visiting Carolina microbreweries from Heinzelmännchen in far-western Sylva to the Weeping Radish compound in Jarvis, which is about as out as the Outer Banks get. That's a German brewmaster at each end of the state. The beers along that path offered impressive variety, from English and Belgian brews to mega-hopped IPAs and the inimitable Duck-Rabbit Milk Stout. While visiting as many breweries in a week as possible and engaging the personalities behind the beer, the crew found the statewide industry encouraging from a business standpoint, too.
"It was a lot more energetic and active than expected," Arledge says of the state's beer industry, noting that the trip unfolded about a month before the economy tanked. He hopes that all the breweries are still going strong. "Everybody was adding on to their facilities and planning for expansion and growth."
Arledge and his brother, Will, play in the self-described "bluesy garage band" Rat Jackson, along with Durhamites Steve Oliva and Rusty Sutton. The band had wanted to take a week off from work for a border-to-border tour, so a handful of shows were factored into the trek. The places they played—a restaurant, a club, a beer store and a basement among them—became as varied as the beers they were collecting. As a result, there's plenty of performance footage to go along with the brewery backstages, with a host of Rat Jackson friends—The Dry Heathens, The Future Kings of Nowhere, Gap Civil, Pink Flag, Red Collar—showing up in the film and on the soundtrack.
Musicians aboard, the road trip part wasn't a stretch: "Plus," offers Arledge, "I think it's something that comes naturally to early-20-something guys: just hop in a van and survive on the road for a while. It's in our DNA." The posse fell into their movie-making roles almost as easily, using borrowed cameras from URTV, Asheville's public access channel. "We bought a box of 100 tapes and kept the cameras rolling and the batteries charged," recalls Arledge. "When we got into the van, it was, 'Shotgun!' And when we went into a brewery, it was, 'I've got primary camera!' 'I've got B-roll camera!'"
The Beer Y'all Seven taped 72 hours of brewery and band footage and another 10 hours of interviews with North Carolina beer experts. It took Arledge six weeks to comb through all the footage. After six months, he had a rough cut completed. The finished work plays out day by day, a travelogue that takes the audience on the trip with the guys, tracked by an animated, Indiana Jones-style map of the state's brew pubs and rock clubs.
"All the people that we met are really good people making really good beer," Arledge offers in a tagline-ready summary. And, he might have added, really good music.
The Triangle Brewing Company (918 Pearl St., Durham) hosts a screening of Beer Y'all Saturday, June 27, complete with food and music. The event starts at 6 p.m. Pink Flag and Gap Civil play, followed by a documentary screening at 9 p.m.. Tickets are $7. For more information on the documentary and the screening, see www.beeryall.com and www.trianglebrewingcompany.blogspot.com.
Should you decide to embark on your own statewide brewpub crawl, here's a 12-pack of songs to get your soundtrack started.
"AMERICAN BEER," THE SWAGGERTS
The Swaggerts spun out of the Blasters-ish Big Bad Johns, and this is their most memorable tune on a not-always-memorable topic—unless you're talking craft beers.
"BEER, BEER, BEER," THE CLANCY BROTHERS
Clink your pint glasses and sing along: "A barrel of malt, a bushel of hops/ You stir it around with a stick/ The kind of lubrication/ To make your engine tick."
"BEER FOR BREAKFAST," THE REPLACEMENTS
In Westerberg and company's hands, this throwaway plays like a documentary.
"BEER MONEY," YOUNG FRESH FELLOWS
An eager-to-sell-out, appropriately hopped-up blast from the past, courtesy of Seattle's once-and-always best.
"BEER RUN," TODD SNIDER
A crucial function and a reminder to be smart about who takes ownership of the keys.
"COLD BEER HELLO," THE V-ROYS
A greeting that many of us can relate to, plus a deliberately painful guitar solo that approximates a hangover.
"EN EL CIELO NO HAY CERVEZA," FLACO JIMENEZ
An unthinkable concept in any tongue: If you insist on an English-language version, try Frankie Yankovic's or Brave Combo's.
"I DRINK BEER," DAN REEDER
Declarative statement as song from a singer/songwriter who's somehow able to be both quirky and straightforward. (Possible substitute: Tom T. Hall's "I Like Beer")
"IT WAS A VERY GOOD BEER," HOMER SIMPSON
What? You don't like Duff?
"POP A TOP," JIM ED BROWN
A honky-tonk ode to suds from the days when the pull tab was king. (Alternate version: Mike Ireland & Holler)
"SHINER BOCK AND VICODIN," GRANT LANGSTON
From the upcoming album by West Coaster Langston, a cautionary tale about mixing the Lone Star State's second-favorite brew and pharmaceuticals.
"WHAT MADE MILWAUKEE FAMOUS," JERRY LEE LEWIS
From when Lewis decided he'd done enough for rock 'n' roll and turned his attention to making killer country. (Alternate version: Flogging Molly)