Chip Hiden and Alexis Irvin are big beer fans. Making a documentary on the craft beer industry was a topic right up their alley.
The Silver Spring residents, who grew up in Howard County, have found welcoming fans in film festivals for “Blood, Sweat, and Beer.” The 70-minute documentary centers on two main venues — Backshore Brewing Co. in Ocean City, Md., and the Brew Gentlemen Beer Co. in Braddock, Pa.
Along the way, the couple interviewed representatives of more than 100 other breweries across the country to supplement the two main subjects. Those included others in Maryland, such as Flying Dog Brewery in Frederick.
One of the more surprising aspects they learned during the two-year project was how difficult it can be to start and operate a brewery, said Hiden, 27. Recent changes in laws have allowed craft breweries in Montgomery County to distribute their beer directly to other venues rather than through the county, he noted.
“They don’t just make beer and sell it,” Hiden said. “There are a lot of challenges involved, including dealing with legal roadblocks and lawsuits.”
Danny Robinson, founder of Backshore, changed the name of his brewery from Shorebilly Brewing Co. in the midst of a federal trademark infringement lawsuit. The owners of Teal Bay Alliances filed the lawsuit in 2013, claiming they had trademarked Shorebilly to sell T-shirts.
In January, U.S. District Judge Marvin J. Garbis ruled that Teal Bay had “no right to interfere” with Robinson’s use of the Shorebilly name, according to federal court records. The case is under appeal.
The Brew Gentlemen provides a compelling story since the founders are trying to help the town of Braddock near Pittsburgh make a comeback from lean economic times, said Irvin, also 27.
“It’s a town that lost thousands of residents after the steel industry collapsed,” she said. “The founders hope to provide jobs and do their part to revitalize the town.”
The filmmakers said they have learned much of their craft on the fly and through experience. Hiden majored in history at Washington College, while Irvin majored in journalism at the University of Maryland, College Park.
They purchased a “decent” camera and have found a big aid through technology while handling duties such as on-air interviews, filming and editing. They raised money on Kickstarter.
“We have a crew of two,” Hiden said.
The beer film debuted in March at the DC Independent Film Festival. They were greatly pleased with the reception.
“It was sold out. There was a line of people who couldn’t get in,” Hiden said.
Screenings followed in other cities, such as Milwaukee, Pittsburgh, Seattle, Chicago and Anchorage. Others are scheduled this summer, including at the SouthSide Film Festival in Bethlehem, Pa., June 11 and 13, and at the Flix Brewhouse in Des Moines, Iowa, June 18. They plan to release the film through various platforms in the fall.
In 2010, Hiden and Irvin quit their desk jobs and did a documentary, “The Dream Share Project,” on how certain people pursue careers they love. They wrote a book, “Build Your Dreams: How to Make a Living Doing What You Love,” published by Running Press.
“We have ideas for another documentary, and another book,” Hiden said. “But right now, we are focusing on marketing this current film.”