Netlfix is the unofficial global support animal that is helping us all get through our various COVID-19 lockdowns. And if there’s one show that has somehow, bizarrely united the world it is Tiger King – the only thing on TV that is more absurd and unbelievable than real life itself right now. A couple of weeks back, everyone was watching it and the internet was so full of Carole ‘Fucking’ Baskin memes that you had to watch it to be able to follow your own Facebook feed. It was gripping, and although you hated yourself a little for watching it, the seven episodes just flew by, leaving you wondering what you’d focus on for the rest of the quarantine period. And then a new show came along. Suddenly, my WhatsApp chats, whether with people in the beer industry, moms’ groups or family chats, were filled with the question “Have you seen Brews Brothers?”. And I can only assume now, having painstakingly completed the series, that none of them had watched it before recommending it to me.
Warning: there are spoilers ahead.
Brews Brothers is an eight-part sitcom based in a Los Angeles brewpub. Considering you’re here, reading this blog, I imagine that you’re more than marginally interested in beer and that watching a comedy show set in a brewery probably sounds like a great way to spend an evening. I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad tidings…
The show uses the tried and tested “odd couple” formula, focusing on two until recently estranged brothers – one a laidback, slobbish nice guy (Wilhelm), played by Alan Aisenberg the other a ridiculously arrogant caricature of the ultimate hipster beer snob (Adam, played by Mike Castle). The problem is that the characters are unbelievable, unlikable and unfunny.
Whether you’ll find the show amusing depends on your tolerance for frat boy humour. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good toilet joke and wouldn’t necessarily describe my humour as highbrow, but the show is just a stream of dick jokes held together with a generous helping of pee and poop.
But what about the beer?, I hear you ask. Well, there is a little in there for the beer enthusiast. Brewers will likely smile knowingly when two customers enter the bar asking for ‘something that tastes like Bud Light’ and might even chuckle when Wilhelm throws out a stat about the Yakima Valley growing 70% of the world’s hops. “Nobody cares!” replies the show’s most likable character, bartender Sara, accurately summing up the thoughts of the majority of beer drinkers and indeed, probably the majority of the show’s viewers. These occasional “beer nerd” inserts do make me wonder what the target audience is – if it’s beer enthusiasts, I’m a little insulted that Netflix thinks we’d be impressed by a brewer peeing in a batch of beer, a brewer’s initiation ceremony that involves choking down beer filtered through a monk’s ass crack (you can’t make this shit up) or a co-worker apparently about to take a dump in the grain mill.
Perhaps the scant beer facts are sprinkled around are there just in case a beer nerd tunes in (and they are tuning in, though threads on Twitter are suggesting few got past the first couple of episodes). The rest of the time, the brewery is just a backdrop for the kind of behaviour the beer industry would like to distance itself from – bar brawls, regrettable drunken sexual escapades and people puking on the brewhouse floor. I really hope Cele doesn’t watch any of it. The brewing process itself is occasionally referenced, notably in a baffling scene in the first episode where both brothers manage to simultaneously brew competing batches of beer on the same system, seemingly taking three days to complete a brewday throughout the montage (either that or they take a couple of naps throughout the mash and boil).
The show hits an all-time low in episode six when members of a little league football team are seen bottling beer in glass dildos. It’s a scene that has parents reaching for their phones to lodge a complaint, people of good taste reaching for the remote, and people of the brewing world tutting at the use of pale pink glass – I mean, if you’re going to package beer in a glass dildo, the least you could do is try and save the beer from getting skunked…
Brews Brothers does have brief moments when I managed to remove the subconscious “WTF frown” from my brow. Some of the beer names are quite amusing if you’re a fan of puns (half pint of Johann Sebastion [sic] Bock anyone? Or a taster of Willhelm’s Gueuze Down Easily?). I also somewhat enjoyed the ribbing of the beer nerd (“I’m getting hints of douchiness mixed with subtle notes of celibacy and desperation,” Sarah mocks at the “LA’s Best Beer Nose” contest), for we are all guilty of sometimes taking ourselves too seriously.
Perhaps best of all is that they occasionally show the struggles of operating a small brewery – the meetings with distributors, the challenge of getting customers through the doors and ultimately, the lure of a buyout. Then just as you feel like the creators realised what a turkey they had on their hands and had worked out a way to quietly commit it to the “one series wonders” closet, the final episode clumsily sets up a second season. Ultimately, perhaps the show will be good for beer sales – you certainly need to have a couple of IPAs in you to find much that’s worth laughing at.
Looking for something beery to watch that isn’t puerile? Check out one of these documentaries
- Brewing the Republic – A locally produced, uplifting documentary on the South African craft beer scene. (Read my review here)
- How beer saved the world – excellent feature length documentary on how beer is basically the best thing ever
- Beer Wars – 2009 documentary looking at the US beer industry
- Brew Masters – A five-episode series focusing on some of the madcap experiments from Dogfish Head Brewery in Delaware
Got something to add to the list? Drop me a line to let me know!