Like many of you, I watched the premiere of Brew Masters last night with a craft beer in hand and a big smile on my face. And like many of you, I enjoyed the show because I’m a fan of Sam and a major beer nerd. Even if it was a bit of an infomercial, it was great to get a peek behind the scenes, and they did a great job of capturing the renegade spirit of Sam and his gang at Dogfish Head.
But as I watched the show I began to feel a little uneasy. I had to ask myself, can this show last? Did they make beer interesting enough to capture an audience of people who aren’t into beer the way I am?
Here’s what has me concerned, in no particular order:
Watching last night’s episode was a lot like watching Ace of Cakes. – can Duff/Sam finish his cake/beer in time? The thing is that cakes are visual, which works well on TV. When Duff whips up a 3D recreation of the Millennium Falcon, you can see it and appreciate how cool it is. On the other hand, when Sam brews an awesome beer, all you see is liquid in a glass. It’s much harder to appreciate the end result because beer just isn’t visual. That will get old quick, especially for non-beer nerds.
- Sam comes across as a really nice guy. Maybe too nice. Last night was all smiles – there was no interpersonal conflict, an essential element for a “reality” television show. People didn’t watch American Choppers just for the bikes (which are visual BTW, like cakes) but also for the tension between Paulie and Paul Sr. Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations is fueled by Tony’s biting wit. Shows like this need moments that make you cringe a bit, and there weren’t any last night. Sam seems to want to be everybody’s buddy, which is a great way to live, but can make for flat TV.
- There aren’t enough beer nerds out there to keep this show on the air. Many of us will watch this show just because it’s about beer, but cable shows need bigger numbers than that to stay afloat. The reason there are three or more (I’ve lost count) shows about logging on TV is because there’s danger, conflict and the possibility for catastrophic failure. It’s not because people like logs.
I loved last night’s episode, but realize that part of it was because I love and support craft beer. I’m not sure my mom would watch a second episode. Like the rest of America, she needs drama, conflict and suspense to draw her in. Sam has a magnetic personality and is great on the screen, but I don’t think that charming smile is going to be enough to keep this train rolling, especially when she has no idea who he is.
But it’s early. Sam traveled the world while filming, so hopefully his adventures will infuse some excitement into the show. His friendly demeanor might play well against rude Romans and curious African kids. Plus shows like this really thrive when they explore another culture. It was cool to see Bourdain eat his way across Vietnam, and it might be just as cool to see Sam navigating the bazaars of Cairo and haggling for cardamom.
As beer fans, it’s wonderful to see the world’s greatest beverage being celebrated on one of America’s premiere cable channels. It shows just how far craft beer has come in the last 20 years. Hopefully Brew Masters will find its legs and stick around for years to come.
What did you think of last night’s episode? Do you think non-beer nerds will be back for another round?