09 Aug Scarlet Lane Beer Makes Its Movie Debut, a Reflection of Craft Beer’s Entry Into Pop Culture
The one certain indication that a fad has entered mainstream Americana is when it gets used in popular culture – in this, case, books and movies. True, a lot of craft beers have taken their names from popular culture, the Brewery Ommegang or St. Benedict’s Brew Works beers named for Game of Thrones are testaments to that. But that’s a one-way street; it doesn’t mean that popular culture has accepted craft beer. However, we are now seeing more craft beer in books, on TV, and in the movies – and Scarlet Lane Brewing is amongst that movement.
Books. I read more books than I watch movies or TV, so seeing craft beer on the books shelves is a nice thing for me. There have been books about beer for years, describing the beers, chronicling beer travels, teaching people how to brew or open a brewery. Michael Jackson started publishing about beer in the 1970s, and gave us books right up until his death in 2007. Other authors have been prolific about craft beer, but what I am most intrigued by is the increase in craft beer references in fiction books.
There have been some books where craft beer plays a large role in the plot, but most still include craft beer only as a plot element or detail. The recent John Lescroart novel with the Dismas Hardy character, called Poison, has characters both coveting and drinking Pliny The Elder from Russian River. The recent Aloysius Pendergast novel (by Preston & Child) also had some craft beer; the inn in Maine where they stayed supposedly had a great craft beer selection.
More recently, I read The Conviction, a David Sloane novel by Robert Dugoni where the bad guy was illicitly growing marijuana in his hop fields and using teen slave labor to harvest everything. Our hero has to save his son from the corrupt juvenile detention center. It was OK, and yes, I read mysteries when not reading historical and science non-fiction. There are even series that feature craft beer, the Brewing Trouble series from Joyce Tremel, the Donovan Brothers Brewery series, and the Sweet Salvation Brewery series of romance novels – No, I don’t read romances, I just know they exist.
(UPDATE: In my reading just today I came across Lucas Davenport [John Sanford character in the Prey series] having a couple of Fat Tires out of a senator’s fridge) AND Virgil Flowers [another John Sanford character in his eponymously named series] arresting a guys for murder because he lost his butt on a brewpub deal.)
Television. Just as with books, there have been some TV shows that are about beer, but usually they are either documentary in nature or like a cooking show. Burgers, Brew, and Que with Michael Symon is a nice example, while at the other end is thedumpster fire of a show called Beerland which is basically an advert for AB-InBev. Somewhere in the middle is the BrewDog beer show, first on Esquire network but now on their own streaming network.
Fictional television shows have had beer off and on, perhaps most famously Duff Beer on The Simpsons. Duff isn’t a real beer, but neither is the beer you most often see on TV and movies. Zach Fowle wrote a very interesting short article called The Most Popular Beer on TV is Totally Fake in which he describes the craft beer TV watcher. I thought I was the only person who tried to identify the beer being held by a character or on the bar, but apparently a lot of craft beer fans do that. Zach explains that most of those beers you see are labeled “Heisler” brand, a fictional beer that keeps producers from getting permission or paying brands to use their images. Check out the article, it’s interesting and I wish I had written it.
But that may be changing in some cases. The list of TV shows that show real brands of craft beer is growing. First and foremost is the pride of Pawnee, Indiana – Parks and Recreation. The producers of the show contacted Upland Brewing during that first season and Doug Dayoff and the people in Bloomington sent them cases of beer, T-shirts, 6-pack carriers, etc. People saw them throughout the series that ended in 2016, catching a glimpse of the old Helios bottle here or there or seeing Dragonfly used in a toast between characters.
New Belgium beer was seen in Breaking Bad, although that show also used several fake beer brands. Stone beers T-shirts were seen in Weeds on HBO several years ago, and Flying Dog’s Raging Bitch was a peace offering between characters on True Blood. In one episode of The Walking Dead, SweetWater, Jailhouse, and Terrapin were all shown during a fight scene in an abandoned liquor store. Perhaps most prolific with craft beer was another show set in Georgia, a Sundance series called Rectify. They had people drinking Monday Night Eye Patch IPA, beers from Jailhouse, as well as a couple of our favorite breweries, Red Hare and Red Brick (now rebranded as Atlanta Brewing).
TV is great for craft beer, we look for craft Easter eggs when we watch any show. But I think movies get a bigger following and more publicity when they use real beers, and this has also increased in recent years.
Movies. Three Floyds is an Indiana brewery that has been seen in a movie – something called Drinking Buddies. Set in Chicago, the two main characters (and eventual love interests) work at a brewery and spend their evenings drinking and flirting. Part of the film was shot at Revolution Brewing and the folks at Three Floyds gave the stars a crash course in brewing, so they might speak their lines with confidence.
Other movies have shown real craft brands, from the comedy Tammy giving us Dales Pale Ale from Oskar Blues, to Quentin Tarentino using Shiner Bock in Deathproof. However, the biggest splash for a beer lately has been Tropicalia and Athena from Creature Comforts, as they were enjoyed by Thor in Avengers: Endgame. He even sported a Tropicalia T-shirt under a white sweater if you look quickly enough.
As with TV, many movies are shot in Georgia, and the production crew became enamored with Creature Comforts during filming in 2016. They would race over to stores when Tropicalia was delivered, and eventually this mania worked it’s way up the chain. The producers eventually asked for a meeting with Creature Comforts and learned their story. They asked for and received some swag and cans, and worked them into the movie. It made a big splash in craft beer crowds when the movie came out in May.
In the most part, Indiana has been enjoying the increase in craft beer in movies from afar (except for the single Three Floyds placement), but now we have a local reason to celebrate – Scarlet Lane beer is being shown in the new Full Moon feature film called Halloweed Night.
Scarlet Lane is long been the “Official Beer of Horror,” yep, it’s trademarked. Co-owner Nick Servies said that Scarlet Lane has always had a bent toward the dark side, “All of us are into horror and the macabre, most of us since growing up. The hearse (to haul equipment) was an early addition to the brewery and the coffin (jockey box) coming soon after for festivals.”
Much of the recent success in increasing Scarlet Lane’s relationship with the horror community is credited to Joshua Hull. He had been writing horror since second or third grade after Jim Davis paid a visit to his school and all the students had to write a small book. His anthology of ten horror stories called Screaming Road earned him an “A” and call home from the teacher. But he kept going, switching to screenplays around the sixth grade and it has continued from there.
Joshua used to be just a taproom regular who wrote horror screenplays. The brewery took notice because they were all horror film fans and the brewery already had that feel. When they had an opening in the brewhouse in November of 2015, they reached out to Joshua. HorrorHound had premiered one of Josh’s movies before he started at Scarlet Lane, so when Josh came on board, he contacted HorrorHound about increasing their relationship. They made a beer for HorrorHound Weekend, and it has grown from there. This year’s HorrorHound Weekend is September 6-8 at the Indiana Convention Center.
Now Josh has been joined by another horror filmmaker in the Scarlet Lane brewhouse, Nathan Erdel. Nathan has worked with Sammy Terry, has made and distributed a horror movie, and is about to start work with The Travel Channel on a show focusing on horror. Josh told me, “We both bring a ton of pre-Scarlet Lane connections to the table and find a way to merge the worlds. It’s really a testament to the culture Elise, Nick, and Jeremy have cultivated over there. They allow us all to bring who we are to the table and instead of pushing it away they encourage and welcome it.”
Together, Nathan and Josh have increased the relationship between the horror community and Scarlet Lane, to the point now that they have many horror events at the taprooms. Josh said, “We did a movie screening series a few years ago where we were responsible for bringing films to Indiana that would have never seen the big screen here. We had great turnouts with The Void and The Autopsy of Jane Doe because people knew if they missed them, they would have to watch them at home. We had a big hand in bringing Adam Green and Victor Crowley to Indiana as well as the Zach Galligan hosted double feature of Gremlins this last December.”
He added, “We’re doing an entirely new series now called ‘The Psychology of Horror’ where we bring in Rutgers psychology professor Anthony Tobia to dissect horror films from a psychological perspective. We did The Shining in May and sold it out. The next one is in September and we’re tackling IT and Derry, Maine.” There are themed parties at the taproom each year with recreations of scenes and characters from horror films, there is horror trivia at Scarlet Lane Old Southside, and there will be more events in the future. “We want Indiana to be a horror destination for people and we’re doing what we can to make sure that happens.”
With this as background, I guess it was just a matter of time before Scarlet Lane ended up in the movies. Recently, Full Moon Features (makers of Puppet Master and Trancer) put out a call for a brewery that might like to have their bottle used in a film. They were in the beginning stages of a project called The Deadly Ten where the films would be filmed back to back – you could even watch the filming live online (www.deadlyten.com). In furtherance of his role as Horror Liason for Scarlet Lane, Josh contacted a friend of his, Heidi Moore, who happens to be the production manager for these films.
Josh sent pictures of the labels and Full Moon chose which ones they wanted. It was just a couple of days before bottles from Scarlet Lane were on their way to the film sound stage. Several bottles were sent, Laughing Water, GHOST, and Fragile Reign. Nobody knows how many or how prominent a role they will play in the final version, but Josh has seen some images of shooting that included Laughing Water being chugged by Weedjie, one of the characters.
Conclusion. Look for Halloweed Night and Scarlet Lane’s bottles to debut on October 21st, 2019, before many of the other movies of The Deadly Ten. Stayed tuned to see if Scarlet Lane does anything special for the release; perhaps having a screening is in order. But more generally, look for craft beer to increase its presence in popular culture. Art is a reflection of society and craft beer is becoming a larger part of society, especially through its mission to build community and be inclusive. Therefore, it’s not particularly astounding that craft beer would be seen more and more in artistic endeavors. The real surprise is that it has taken this long to build momentum.
banner image credit: Scarlet Lane Brewing