By DCBeer contributor Jessie Szalay (Ed. Note: Apologies to Jessie, it's editorial indolence that this is going up so late after submission.)
Move over, France—the 9:30 Club became the location of the real Festival de Cans on March 28. Flying Dog Brewery, Ball, and Reyes Beverage Group got together to sponsor a beer-themed film festival that rivaled Cannes in entertainment, if not in evening gowns.
Doors opened at 8 p.m. and the masses rolled in to purchase cans from the featured brewers on the main floor or, for those with magic wristbands, to indulge in unlimited cans until about 10 p.m.—and tuck them in cool koozies.
In addition to film, the Festival appropriately celebrated the great, deceptively simple, affordable, portable, chillable can. Many breweries have taken advantage of the practicality of cans, and the event organizers brought together an eclectic and representative mix of craft breweries from across the country that have embraced the can—and filmmaking.
After mixing, mingling, and popping the tab on some new brews, we turned to the big screen and to the colorful commentary of comedian Doug Powell. The organizers wisely decided to warm the crowd up with a history lesson that took the form of hilarious vintage beer commercials.
Not surprisingly, they focused on mainstream brewers (the Budweiser frogs were definitely in appearance). The audience cracked up watching Patrick Swayze dance for PBR and an early ‘90s Miller commercial with so many zig-zagging neon lines that Powell joked it “looked like the Saved by the Bell opening.” But possibly the most memorable and laugh-inducing was Bud Light with Lime’s “Get It In the Can” commercial. The vintage commercials also provided insight into the history of film in the world of beer, giving the craft brewers’ new films a podium on which to stand.
After history class, it was time for the audience to put on their film connoisseur trucker hats for high-quality short biographical films about the breweries, carefully and lovingly made by the brewers. Watching them, we learned about Brooklyn founder Steve Hindy’s amazing former life in Lebanon—and how the country’s alcohol ban turned him onto home brewing. We appreciated the risk that Sierra Nevada took back in the ‘80s, paving the way for the craft beer distribution we appreciate today. Revolution took a cheeky turn, animating their cans and bringing colorful characters like the Anti-Hero and the Bottom Up Wit to life.
We saw a lot of gorgeous footage of barley and hops, of mountains (because the craft brew revolution really did begin out West), and, most inspirational of all, of people loving beer.
Cans were present in the films, too.
Most featured brewers, like Flying Dog, Brooklyn, New Belgium, The Brewer’s Art, Sierra Nevada, and Starr Hill, package their beer in cans, bottles, growlers, and more. But some, like Oskar Blues, Golden Road, Half Acre, and Maui have gone full-can. While cost certainly plays into the brewers’ decisions to go for the can, most breweries emphasized the environmental benefits of cans.
After everyone cheered for the last film, Escort took to the stage and rocked the house. The Brooklyn-based band is described as “contemporary disco,” but Saturday Night Fever was never as hot as this 17-member ensemble’s fun, funky, and wonderfully danceable tunes that never felt in the slightest bit old. We all danced late into the night, fully understanding why Rolling Stone named Escort one of the top releases of 2012.
So, in the end, those who walked the plaid carpet of the Festival de Cans discovered new stories, new tastes, and new music—talk about opening a can of worms.