If the regionals offer a telling tale of contemporary American business, the smaller brew pubs are the heart of the film. Here we find a colorful cast of characters, including Mike Hale of Hale's Ales in Seattle, who demonstrates his suds from an English double-decker bus turned rolling pub, and Ray McNeill, whose McNeill's Brewery in Vermont is built in a fabulously creaky 19th-century police station. "My standing joke," he recites while getting sloppy on his own hops, "is that the village drunks used to sleep here, and now they all work here."
Some owners are eccentric businessmen who want to put their stamp on an industry; others are eccentric individualists who feel the need to stand apart from the daily grind; most are simple eccentrics content to own a business that lets them guzzle taddy porters every day. Beer may or may not be your drink, but this tale can still intoxicate. More than just lagers and stouts, "American Beer" is an amusing film, lifting a mug to the current enthusiasm for everything independent. Wayne Melton
Letters to the editor may be sent to: email@example.com