Camden Watts didn’t become a hardcore beer nerd until she started hanging out at a local brewery and began dating a guy who was seriously into craft beer.
“It’s hard not to be passionate” about the whole craft beer scene, says the director of “Brewconomy,” a documentary about the booming brewery scene in North Carolina, which is one of the highlights of this year’s 10th Carrboro Film Festival. “It’s the romance and adventure that goes into every pint,” she says. “It’s also about community; when you drink a craft beer you talk to a bartender about why you should choose this beer, and the different flavor profiles.”
“Brewconomy” shows how the last five years or so have been a real boom time for craft brewers, and have made Asheville in particular an internationally recognized brewing center. The push really began around 2005, when a new state law lifted the 6 percent by volume alcohol cap on beer, allowing brewers to start manufacturing Belgian ales, IPAs and other beers with a higher alcoholic content. All of a sudden, a state that had a handful of independent breweries in 2005 jumped to over 100 in 2015.
Watts says she became interested in making a film about this phenomenon because “I was hearing a lot of conversations about when are we going to hit the tipping point? Would it get too popular, and I wanted to explore that.” She also wanted to find out how smaller breweries would be affected when larger brewers like Sierra Nevada (which is now operating in the Asheville area) moved into the state.
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It turns out, she says, that “the larger breweries are not stepping on anyone’s toes, and we have not reached a tipping point yet.”
In fact, North Carolina has more breweries and brew pubs than any other Southern state, which translates to an industry that has $800 million in economic impact and creates 10,000 jobs – farmers, truck drivers, wait staff, brewery workers, even people who run brewery tours, and more. “That was another reason I wanted to explore this,” says Watts. “We made this for the people who are passionate about craft beer, but anyone can walk away with knowledge about the economic picture.”
And there’s this: Watts’ film emphasizes that the craft beer community is not “just a group of kids pounding beer. Our audience for this film is college educated, with a disposable income. And instead of buying a six pack of lite beer, they have one good craft beer.”
Ultimately, Watts hopes that folks who see her film “will see the connection between what’s in their pint and what it does for the state and the community. So maybe they’ll buy a local pint and step outside of their comfort zone.”
What: The Carrboro Film Festival
When: Saturday and Sunday
Where: The ArtsCenter, 300 E. Main St., Carrboro
Cost: $15/one day, $20/two-day pass