Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Beer Traveler: Creating a New Brand of Beer Television

While putting together a few thoughts for Growler Fills' third anniversary post I reflected back on what's made this endeavor worth it.  The answer was clear: the people. Good beer turns strangers into friends faster than anything else I know.  From brewers to distributors, to bloggers and fans, I've met a lot of great people over the past year who are connected to craft beer. Two of them are Charlie Herrin and Duke Geren.

I met Charlie and Duke at the 2012 Beer Bloggers Conference and enjoyed visiting with them over food, beer, travel and fun in Chicago and Indianapolis. Charlie has spent the last year (and more) putting together an ambitious project to create a new documentary series combining craft beer, food and travel called The Beer Traveler. Duke serves as the consulting producer on the project, among many other jobs.

The Beer Traveler will take viewers on an excursion to a different city each show, featuring the local craft beer, local chefs who incorporate beer into their food, and a bit about the city and scenery itself.  Currently in pre-production, you can catch some teasers at their YouTube site

I caught up with Charlie while he was preparing to shoot an episode in Hood River, OR, for an interview.

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Growler Fills: Tell us about The Beer Traveler.

Charlie Herrin: The Beer Traveler is a show about craft beer, and a whole lot more. Being a fan myself, I’ve watched shows that attempt to showcase craft beer as the main component not last more than a year.

I felt I knew the reason why, and that is that the shows were too craft beer focused to capture the interest of the people that weren’t craft beer drinkers. Only 6% of the drinking age population are even interested in craft beer, it just wasn’t enough to support an episodic show. I wanted to create something that went after the forgotten 94%, but would somehow still be of interest to the 6% that loved their craft beers. I accomplished that goal by adding a couple of topics that go right along with craft beer. I wish that I could say it was all pure genius on my part, but it wasn’t. It was a lot of late nights doing research. What the research told me was that travel and food were my answers.

What started me thinking along these lines was watching television with my wife. I love shows about craft beer, my wife not so much. What my wife and I could agree on were travel shows and food shows. Along with the rest of America, we are absolutely food and travel nuts.

GF:  How is The Beer Traveler different from other beer related television projects?

CH: We are not a show that is built solely around beer. We will have amazing food, beautiful scenery, and hopefully a few laughs. I wanted the design to appeal to a larger audience, yet still be exciting for the beer geeks out there. I am also a major beer geek, so getting to create a show about my favorite subject has definitely been incredible, and a lot of fun.

GF: How did you get started with The Beer Traveler?

CH: I really feel that to be successful in the television industry you have to build a product that caters to more than one small group, such as the craft beer drinkers. I wanted to build something different. I am a craft beer drinker myself and while I love this group of people, they are not a large enough audience to support an episodic television series. That meant I had to put together a show that would be interesting to those that are of drinking age, yet who are not enjoying craft beer, while still being of interest to the current craft beer drinkers. To accomplish this I turned to a couple of my other loves, travel and food.

GF: What have you enjoyed the most/least so far in putting together The Beer Traveler project?

CH: Man that’s a loaded question if I’ve ever heard one, so I will tread lightly. Just kidding! It has been great, but as we all know, anything worthwhile that you do that always comes with challenges.

What I’ve enjoyed the most is the crew I get to work with on the show, they are the most talented group I have had the pleasure to work with. I wanted to include them here because The Beer Traveler is this group:

Will Nelson - Editor, Director, Camera
Duke Geren - Consulting Producer, (BTS) Behind the Scenes photos, Asst. Director, Tech Guy
Marcus Warner - Sound Engineer, Camera,
Andrew Owen - Head Camera/DP, Lighting, Tech Guy, BTS Photos
Taylor Jones - Sound Guy, PA
Gigi Goodrich - Makeup Artist

We have run into a few bumps along the way and it’s definitely taken us longer than we’d hoped to get involved with a major network. Thankfully, that has not deterred us one bit, because we know we have the right combination for our show.

GF: What can we expect to see from The Beer Traveler in the coming months?

CH: We have begun to put up teasers from already filmed episodes on our YouTube channel, and on our Facebook page. We are hoping very shortly to have our website up and running so we can also link everything from there. Currently, we are shooting an episode in Hood River, and after that will be Seattle, the Oregon Coast, Northern California, and soon the rest of the country.

GF: On a more personal level, how would you describe your relationship with
craft beer?

CH: I would hope people would see it as happy and fulfilled. I love craft beer and all it has to offer. To me, it is one of the most historically relevant products that we consume on a regular basis. Beer helped establish farming, the pyramids, the Catholic church, and on and on. Without beer, who knows where we would be today. With all of that, who wouldn’t want to pursue a relationship with this wonderful elixir we call craft beer?

Honestly though, the best part of this incredible adventure has been all of the people I have met and friends I have made. When you sit down at a brewery, taproom, pub or any local establishment providing craft beer, you meet some of the most unique people from all over the world, and almost instantly you’re friends because you have that common interest, and a sure fire conversation starter.

GF: So far, The Beer Traveler has focused on the Portland, OR, area. Do you have plans to venture out? Will we see you in Montana?

CH: That is actually the plan for this show, to eventually travel to every state. We are excited about what we see happening in Montana, so we will definitely be out to partake. Plus, who would pass up an opportunity to spend time in Big Sky country. You have some of the most beautiful scenery in the country, and craft beer and beauty go hand in hand.

GF: Closing thoughts?

CH: Whether you’re a craft beer drinker or not, there is something for everyone on our show. At the end of the day the goal is very simple, to introduce viewers to craft beer they might not have known about or have been hesitant to try. We want them to hear the stories of the brewers and how they continue to build this incredible industry, learn what they are doing for the economy, see how much they love what they do and the pride they have in their job. We sincerely hope our show will showcase the breweries and that a one time viewer becomes a devoted supporter, eager to see where we will take them next.

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Charlier hopes to have The Beer Traveler website up and running shortly.  You can also find The Beer Traveler on facebook, twitter and YouTube.  Here's a clip of Charlie's interview with Rob and Kurt Widmer:

Pictures courtesy of Charlie Herrin/The Beer Traveler

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