STU grads brew up documentary

Two St. Thomas University graduates are working on a documentary that hopes to put the maritimes’ craft beer scene on the map. Shauna Chase and Alex Vietinghoff are the brains behind Beerocracy, a feature-length film chronicling the history and current state of craft-beer making in the province.

“We’re asking three questions: Can N.B. handle any more breweries? Does N.B. have the potential to be a beer tourism destination? Is the brewing industry a potential job creation tool in the province?” said Vietinghoff. “We want to know the landscape of New Brunswick’s craft brewing scene.”

Chase graduated with a double major in english and philosophy at STU – Vietinghoff, a major in journalism and minor in french. Chase went on to study Book and Magazine Publishing at Centennial College in Toronto. After STU, Vietinghoff worked for a video production company in Fredericton. Since then he’s continued producing multimedia projects and video for several outlets.

The pair met in 2014 and realized they worked well together – leading to the making of New Brunswick’s hilariously noteworthy satirical website, The Manatee, which is still in operation.

They also had something else in common: craft beer. Chase said the idea for a documentary on the subject was brewing for a while. Now, with over 70 hours of work put in and countless interviews later, the story of N.B.’s craft beer industry has stretched miles longer than the pair had expected when they started filming in November.

“It surprised me how interested people are in what we’re doing – already people are behind us and helping us out,” said Chase. “We didn’t really know what the community was like. Brewers actually share everything with other businesses like ‘hey, do you have some extra hops I need for this brew?'”

While researching New Brunswick’s liquor laws and legislation, Chase came across a story that recently made headlines in the province when a man was charged with illegally importing beer and spirits from Quebec to N.B. The ongoing case went to court as the man tried to fight the fine against him for the cross-border purchases.

“We realized we didn’t have a documentary or film about beer in N.B. – that’s all that came up. If you Google ‘N.B. craft beer’, the top hits are about that court case,” said Chase.

The project is completely self-funded at this point but Vietinghoff and Chase have applied for several financial grants at both the provincial and federal level already. The application process can be tedious, but Vietinghoff is confident. He said regardless of this aspect, the film had to be done.

“We didn’t really have a choice – we just needed to jump on it while it was happening,” said Vietinghoff. “We started filming right away because there’s just so much going on in the news and so many breweries popping up.”

Vietinghoff created an interactive map of breweries across the province on their Beerocracy Facebook page with the count currently sitting at 29 (30 – if you include N.B.’s most prominent brewery, Moosehead). Vietinghoff said they originally wanted to interview every brewer – until it seemed they were finding a new one literally every week.

The film questions whether N.B. could support this unique economy, but it goes beyond economics – it’s a culture.

“Craft beer is a social activity – people like to talk about and compare the beer and its flavours. Brewers love to hang out with other brewers – a lot of them get along really well in N.B. and they don’t really see each other as competitors,” said Vietinghoff.

The Beerocracy team has traveled outside of New Brunswick and said it’s blooming across the maritime board. The film’s tagline, “Be(er) in this place” is a play on New Brunswick’s license plate motto and testament to an expanding spotlight on craft beer in small places. Chase hopes the market is able to flourish enough to provide jobs for N.B.’s youth.

“I’d like to be able to stay here – I’ve always been struggling to find work as a writer and editor. I’d like it to be more secure for young people living in N.B.,” said Chase.

Neither Vietinghoff nor Chase expected to be doing something like this after graduation, but they couldn’t be more excited about creatively making a difference in their home province.

“I had this specific idea of what success would be and how I would have to achieve it,” said Vietinghoff. “It wasn’t what I’m doing now but I’m way happier than if I was trying to sill follow that. We want the full story of the industry.”

Beerocracy is set to be released this Spring, but not before the annual Fredericton Craft Beer festival on March 31 – which will be included in the documentary. Chase and Vietinghoff encourage everyone to check out the Facebook page under the same title as well as their website beerocracymovie.com.

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