Victoria’s microbreweries return to prime time television in Melbourne tomorrow night, as a new series takes viewers on a light-hearted pilgrimage to find the state’s craft beer treasures. It’s part of an ambitious project for two beer lovers who are on a crusade to visit the microbreweries of Australia and, maybe one day, the world.
The new TV show, Craft Beer Crusaders, was born in early 2012 when beer blogger Mark Iscaro started a conversation on Twitter about creating a craft beer focused TV show for Australia.
“I was watching Oz & James Drink to Britain and thought it was really cool and interesting, being about beer and wine, food, scotch and vodka, but there wasn’t really anything on craft beer,” explained Mark.
“So I was thinking, someone should really do something about craft beer because it’s getting pretty big.”
“I put a tweet out there and Dan [Hanna] responded saying that he already had a script for a craft beer show.”
“His idea was for a technically minded show though, really for the craft beer geeks. I wasn’t sure if that was going to work. It needs to be fun, light-hearted and educational.”
“We got our ideas together over beers at Mrs Parmas in May last year and it’s just grown from there.”
Craft Beer Crusaders traces Mark and Dan’s hunt for the best craft beer in Victoria and will ask viewers to vote of which beer they like best.
The show’s concept has been built around any opportunity they could find to visit local microbreweries, drink beer and talk to brewers. Both Mark and Dan have full time jobs outside of beer, so they have been filming in their spare time and learning how to create a show on the run.
“The aim is to educate people who don’t know about craft beer while also showing people who are into craft beer what else it out there.”
“For example, there’s many people who haven’t been down to Forrest Brewery, so we can show them what’s down there.”
“There’s also our personal journey, the crusade, to find our favourite beer and brewery.”
The first season of the show, subtitled ‘The First Crusade’, begins airing on Tuesday, April 30, at 9pm. Melbourne residents can tune in to analog station Channel 31 or via DigitalTV on channel 44. Those outside of the limited broadcast range will be able to view the show on the Channel 31 website after it airs. The Crusaders are also working on an app to allow anyone with a smartphone to download full episodes for a small fee.
The show has been self directed and produced between the co-presenters Mark and Dan, along with Mark Ramet from Small Business Videos a corporate video production company in Melbourne.
“The first season will be very newbie, but we’re getting better and better as we go.”
“It’s been a challenge, not having any money. We only have three mics, two cameras and very limited time.”
The result has been one-take scenes and the occasional off-mic speaker, but their amateur efforts have been fervently welcomed by Melbourne’s community TV broadcaster, Channel 31, who has expressed their excitement in airing the show. The station previously aired The Beer Frontier.
Keen to cover every microbrewery in Victoria, their filming escapades have involved day long road trips visiting up to five venues per day. Filming across western Victoria took in Forrest Brewing, Prickly Moses, Southern Bay and Odyssey Tavern. An 18 hour day allowed them to take in Victoria’s High Country Brewery Trail with Black Dog Brewery, Bridge Road Brewery, Bright Brewery and Sweatwater Brewing.
“My favourite filming experience by far has been visiting the Moon Dog brewery. The guys are hilarious and just crazy, we had to treat it something like a Twilight Zone episode,” laughed Mark.
“From a craft beer nerd point of view, the most exhilarating part so far has been an unplanned lunch at Bridge Road Brewers with Ben Kraus and Kjetil Jikiun (founder of Norway craft brewery, Nøgne Ø), which included a side by side tasting of their Aurora Borealis and Aurora Australis collaboration beers.”
“Kjetil had some really interesting things to say about the Australian craft beer scene, which might offend some, but others may say that it’s about time someone said that. We’ll see what happens when it airs.”
The Craft Beer Crusaders have been delighted by the open access afforded to them by Victoria’s brewers, with some even willing to reschedule their brew day activities around filming.
“Mildura brewery were so excited about the show that they decided to fly us up there, because a weekend away was just not viable for us at the moment.”
“We’ve already been contacted by breweries in America and the UK saying that they’d love for us to visit.”
Mark admitted that the potential to head overseas with the infant show is a long way off at this stage, with such endeavours requiring extensive external funding first. Their desire is to complete the first season and then pitch it to commercial networks.
No doubt it will be an extremely difficult pitch to an industry that has continuously turned down beer focused programming over recent years. TV is dominated by the advertising dollars of well resourced and protective multinational brewing empires. Recent professional efforts of passionate advocates for craft beer on television have been ultimately squashed by sponsorship conflicts and the lack of a market for craft beer’s niche audience.
Nonetheless, Mark and Dan have been overwhelmed by the interest from within the beer industry generated through their social media interactions.
“The whole thing has come about through social media,” noted Mark.
“We’ve had a couple of breweries want to do collaborations with us for a Craft Beer Crusaders beer and events.”
The Local Taphouse, at which the first episode of the show begins, is onboard for several special events with Craft Beer Crusaders, including an end of season dinner that will feature 20 beers that viewers can vote for via the show’s website, following each episode.
A concept for a second season has already been developed. To be called “The search for the Holy Grail”, Mark and Dan hope to visit every state of Australia with a microbrewery, but that will rely on commercial interest in the show.
“Right now we are looking for sponsorships for 30 second ads during the show. So we’re seeking breweries, bottleshops, bars, restaurants and the like.”
“If there’s any musos or bands out there, we’d love music for the show too, for which we can offer marketing and exposure by having their music played and credits in the show.”
Next up on the filming schedule are sessions at the Great Australasian Beer SpecTAPular in May and then an afternoon at Holgate Brewhouse in Woodned on Saturday 1 June.
The first episode sees Mark and Dan visiting Black Heart Brewery, 2 Brothers Brewery and True South. Some viewers may struggle with watching two guys just eating and drinking for several minutes at one point, but it’s only the start of their learning curve in creating content for TV.
The show is a journey the Mark is increasing excited about and eagerly anticipating the reaction after the show airs next Tuesday.
Is he apprehensive about the series premier?
“Nup, I’ll be celebrating the first episode with a bottle of Holgate’s Millennium Falcon.”