Documentary Film
6:09 pm
Thu February 20, 2014

In 'Michigan Beer Film' Craft Beer (And The People Who Love It) Take Center Stage

Director Kevin Romeo takes a break during filming. He's the creator behind the Michigan Beer Film, a documentary that traces the rise of the craft beer industry in the state.
Credit Courtesy of Rhino Media

While several national brands like Kellogg, Whirlpool, and Domino’s Pizza call the state of Michigan home, there are even more “Made in Michigan” products that can be found in our refrigerators, on our shelves, and even in our soap dishes.

Beer is no exception. And, as Kevin Romeo confirmed, Michiganders knows their beer.

"I think the stat right now is that there's 2600 breweries in the United States, and there's about 150 in Michigan. So out of the 50 states we're accounting for a little less than 10% of the breweries in the country, which is pretty awesome, and Michigan is starting to compete on that national level, and when people think about that regional craft beer style, Michigan is definitely becoming one of the regions in itself," he says. The Michigan craft beer scene is very strong."

Romeo isn't far off on that statistic. According to the Brewers Association, Michigan ranked fifth in the nation in craft breweries in 2012. Bell's Brewing Company in Kalamazoo/Comstock was ranked seventh and Founders Brewing Company in Grand Rapids was ranked 29th among the nation’s 50 largest craft breweries.

He's the director of the Michigan Beer Film, a documentary that travels around the state discussing each facet of producing craft beer - from growing hops to making the business work.

Romeo owns Rhino Media in downtown Kalamazoo, which produced the film. He also raised funds through a Kickstarter campaign that helped bring in an additional $34,000 to complete the editing process. 

The documentary crew began filming in January of 2012. Romeo and his skeleton team conducted interviews with beer production facilities all over the state, including sites in Detroit, Bellaire, and even Kalamazoo’s own Bell's. The story goes deeper than just the end product - you'll hear anecdotes about the process, find out about successes and failures, what it takes to get the beer to the people, and how to create a legacy around a product. With a soundtrack full of local musicians like The Soil & The Sun, Andru Bemis and The Crane Wives, the film sets itself up as an entertaining, educational experience.

Naturally, when you are working with a subject as varied as craft beer, a little testing is to be expected, says Romeo. He stuck to buying only Michigan-brewed beers during the course of filming and tried as many brews as possible, which helped to reinforce the authenticity of his work.

"It got to the point where I was having 1- 2 beers about every day. It sounds funny but it really helped in our credibility. Now that it's done I've definitely scaled it back," he says.

In the film, Romeo is trying to show that there's more to beer than just, well, beer. It's more about the celebration and pride that can grow out of crafting one great local product.

"The story of Michigan beer is about people and their passions. What I get really excited about - people who don't make excuses for what they can't do, and just do stuff. And that's what I wanted to see. Hop farmers taking chances, putting everything they have into making this stuff grow. That's what gets me excited."

The film made its debut back at the State Theatre in September and has been since been premiered all over the state. On Monday, Goodrich Theaters will show the film in Michigan, Illinois, Missouri, and Indiana as part of its documentary series.

The next screening of the Michigan Beer Film will be held at the Kalamazoo 10 Movie Theater on February 24.