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Filmmaker Joe Swanberg’s Thoughts on Craft Beer

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Increasingly, indie movie writer/director Joe Swanberg is becoming known for his love of craft beer, an enthusiasm he shares in his films. Drinking Buddies (2013) was set at Chicago’s Revolution Brewing, and two episodes of his Netflix series, Easy, revolve around the “Brewery Brothers,” a pair of siblings who start an underground brewery. While it centers on a gambling addict, his new Netflix film, Win It All, is similarly sudsy.

“There’s something that comes of the freedom of doing something because you love it, not because you intend to get rich from it.”

What do you find most compelling about the craft-beer movement?

I love that it’s one of the most successful, anti-corporate, Mom-and-Pop businesses in America. In pre-Prohibition Chicago, there used to be a brewery in every neighborhood. Post-Prohibition, we were left with a few massive corporations. Now, we’re very excitingly getting back to that idea of the neighborhood brewery. On a neighborhood-by-neighborhood basis, the beer that’s coming out of an area has the vibe of that area.

You’ve gone from shooting movies with nonactor friends on no budget to working with A-list actors like Anna Kendrick and Brie Larson. Do you see any parallels between your career and the craft-beer world?

The breweries [that] were early to the game are experiencing a level of growth that nobody could have predicted, sort of like the indie film that becomes a breakout hit at Sundance. You start with honest expectations, and then suddenly, everything’s happening at once. There’s something that comes of the freedom of doing something because you love it, not because you intend to get rich from it.

Director’s Cuts

“Naturally drawn to the Midwestern stuff,” Swanberg picks his top hearland breweries.


Half AcreRevolution


3 Floyds


Founders, Bell’s


Great Lakes

Do you keep track of brewing trends?

For me, the most exciting development in the last few years is that a lot of these breweries are making lagers. [Many] now are big enough that they can commit to the lagering process and experiment with that. That’s been really cool as we push the outer boundaries of crazy triple IPAs, superhigh alcohol, crazy-hoppy beers. I really like hoppy beers, but I don’t like being put on my ass by a 12-percent [abv] triple IPA. Basically, you have a few sips of it, and you want to go to bed.

When people drink beer in your movies, they drink an awful lot of it. Is it really beer?

That’s always up to the actors. Some actors want to, other actors don’t. I always try to have good beer around. It’s nice to have a beer at lunch break. The movies are always fun opportunities to take actors around and show them what’s going on in the beer scene.