Now that the Discovery Channel‘s “Brew Masters” has a few episodes under its belt, we have a pretty good picture of what it will be. Sam Calagione, founder and owner of Dogfish Head, talks about the inspiration for his beers, the methods behind creating them, and delves into the history of brewing traditions around the world.
There have been four episodes so far. Two of them seemed like pilot episodes—the actual pilot, about Bitches Brew, and the Punkin Chunkin episode—almost to the point of feeling like an incomplete product, but the others have been quite good. My speculation is that the Punkin Chunkin episode was supposed to be the pilot, but they chose to run it for Thanksgiving, and wanted a more interesting episode for the pilot.
The general premise of the show is following the creation of a special Dogfish Beer, including everything from the inspiration, to Sam’s travels to a foreign land to research authentic brewing methods, all the way to the actual workings of the factory. The two pilot-esque episodes have spent a little too much time focusing on the “OMG things are going wrong in our factory!” aspect, dumbing the show down to a standard workplace docu-drama, rather than focusing on the parts that are actually, you know, interesting.
However, the Chicha episode was a step in the right direction, and if the show wants to succeed, it needs to focus on what makes it different than everything else. The inspirations and history of each beer, and Sam’s travels to research them, should be by far the focus. If the producers want to focus on the “characters” who work at the brewery, that’s fine, but “Oh noes, our machine broke” and “crap I spilled glue” and “uh oh, quality control error” warrant barely more than a passing mention. Forced drama = bad, information = good. The workplace stuff just isn’t interesting, and if the show fails, that will be its downfall. Even in the most recent episod,e the drama was brewing-related and informative rather than drama for drama’s sake.
Also on the information end of things, the discussions of the brewing process are interesting, but they’re over-referenced (as I mentioned above, I think part of this might be due to airing two “pilot” episodes so far), and there either needs to be one small segment per episode where the whole process is discussed. We shouldn’t see the hokey CG graphics breaking down the process each time it’s discussed.
Alas, it doesn’t seem as though the show is drawing good ratings, as it’s already been shuffled around the Discovery Channel’s lineup, starting on Sunday nights, then appearing on Monday for one week, and currently moved to Thursday. I think the show is just starting to hit a stride, so canceling it anytime soon would be doing it an injustice.