Craft brewers could be the next "must-see TV" if a Texas producer and Boulder's Warren Miller Entertainment have their way.
Warren Miller Entertainment has partnered with Fort Worth-based Studios 121 to launch "Beer America," an eight-episode TV series that would showcase the stories and characters behind six U.S. craft brewers and then follow them in their efforts to win medals at the annual Great American Beer Festival in Denver.
The producers have sent a production reel -- which centers on Longmont's Oskar Blues Brewery's history, rapid growth and its founder's laid-back and light-hearted approach to the business -- to at least three TV stations.
The 8-minute, 28-second video also recently picked up some steam in the social media realm after Oskar Blues officials promoted their involvement.
"We're just hoping that by having a strong social media presence and having this be out there and really rousing the troops ... we really need them to help sell this show," said Ginger Sheehy, manager of program development for Warren Miller Entertainment, which is best known for its ski and adventure sports films.
The series evolved out of a pet project of Studios 121's Paul Leone, who originally wanted to launch a travel series about craft brewers. However, Leone was too early to the game.
"I came up with the concept in 2003 and shot a trailer (with Sam Calagione, of Dogfish Head)," Leone said. "Nobody was interested in talking about (the series) ... I think programmers still thought beer was keg stands and funnels."
Leone has since created BeerAmerica.TV, a video blogging site with 160-plus short videos on craft brewers.
Nearly 10 years after Leone's first pitch, the biggest obstacles to launching a new show are that beer-related travel series have been done and that other brewing shows have not fared well, Sheehy said.
The programmers don't want to see a show about how "brewers brew beer," she said, adding that the concept behind "Beer America" was tweaked to be focused around a competition and about the people behind the beer.
"The key to the success of a show like this is it has to be entertaining first and about beer second," Leone said. "There are shows about storage lockers. All of those shows are on TV because there's interesting characters involved."
To epitomize the characters behind the brews, Sheehy and Leone tapped Oskar Blues founder Dale Katechis to share his company's story -- doing so with humor, humility and a sailor's mouth.
"Dale Katechis is a classic example of the American beer culture," Leone said. "The most successful brewers I've met have all been fun-loving, had no boundaries and are creative."
If "Beer America" gets picked up, Oskar Blues very well could be one of the six brewers selected for the first season, Leone said.
And if that is the case, Katechis said, he'd be willing to go along for the ride. The week last fall when Leone and Sheehy followed around the Oskar Blues crew to film inside the home of Katechis' mom went smoothly for the typically camera-shy Katechis.
"Obviously, (this) being a Warren Miller production, it caught our ear real quick," he said. "We get a lot of calls like this, and several of them hold some water and you just don't know which ones are for real. They were the real deal. They basically moved in with us during the (Great American Beer Festival) and became friends and family."
The character- and story-focused format also pairs well with the approach of Oskar Blues and others in the craft beer industry, he said.
"We built our business and our company on the engagement of people," Katechis said. "Lucky for us, beer is the thing that brings us all together."
Contact Camera Business Writer Alicia Wallace at 303-473-1332 or firstname.lastname@example.org.