PLYMOUTH — Atop a metal staircase in a back corner of Mayflower Brewing Co., two men stand at the mouth of a massive silver cylinder of boiling water. One hoists a large canvas sack full of hops into both hands while the other positions himself, and his video camera, to document the pour.
While the small grains descend into the tank, videographer Shane Uriot shouts questions at the brewer, asking how the hops’ flavor factors into the taste of the brewery’s pale ale. Uriot holds his camera steady at the kettle’s opening until the brewer fastens the lid shut. No one yells “cut,” but Uriot looks at the footage and smiles ear to ear.
The film will be part of the documentary-style Web series “American Brewed,” which will air online in seven episodes and feature a different New England-based microbrewery in each 10- to 20-minute segment. With his partner and best friend, Jeremy Quaglia, 25, Uriot, 24, hopes to provide an authentic look into some of the region’s home-grown brews. “There is an honesty in it — in making [a Web series] that showcases the differences in an industry,” says Uriot, a senior film student at Emerson College.
He and Quaglia, who graduated from Emmanuel College in 2012, are no strangers to home brews. Uriot learned to make beer with his grandfather, experimenting with tastes and ingredients at his granddad’s house in Rehoboth. Quaglia co-owns Homestead Hard Cider, a home-brewed cidery based in Attleboro that he started with another friend in his basement.
The craft beer Web docu-series idea came to Uriot in 2010, but the Attleboro native didn’t pay much attention to it for almost four years. In March, over a couple of beers with Quaglia, he decided to show him a notebook full of episode layouts and filming ideas. Quaglia loved the concept and the two got to work. “It wasn’t until recently that I felt I had the means to do the project justice,” Uriot said.
A key element in moving forward with “American Brewed” was challenging the conventional ways beer was being depicted — that it’s never “about the beer,” but the drama going on around it. “Both of us are tired of reality television and, thus far, that has really been the only representation of beer on film with the exception of documentaries,” Quaglia said. “So we wanted to do something different that focuses on the real people and the craft that goes into brewing.”
After Quaglia and Uriot hammered out the details of the series, they started pitching to microbreweries across New England.
Jack Hendler, owner of Jack’s Abby Brewing in Framingham, says the pair’s enthusiasm about craft beer was what persuaded him to sign on. “[Uriot and Quaglia] had a bit of a different perspective and weren’t trying to script us in any way,” said the brewer. “They let us say what we wanted to say and showcase how we do things.”
The duo began production in June, spending two days at every microbrewery, including Foolproof Brewing in Pawtucket, R.I., Newport Storm Brewery in Newport, R.I., and Grey Sail Brewing in Westerly, R.I., along with Blue Hills Brewery in Canton and Wormtown Brewery in Worcester, in addition to Jack’s Abby and Mayflower.
Highlighting a wide range of New England breweries was pivotal. The pair didn’t choose their list just because they enjoy the beers, but because they saw unique practices in the group. “Every person and every beer has its own stories. There are different ingredients, different balances, and they all come out differently,” Quaglia said. says.“There is also a completely different experience and different personality to every single microbrew.”
Jack’s Abby, for instance, only makes lagers. The level of precision involved in brewing several flavors of the same style of beer was worth documenting. “The lager process is a labor of love,” said Hendler. “You have extra equipment, you need to keep the beer twice as long in the brewery to age it, and there are extra steps from a process standpoint to get the beers out to market.”
Others, such as Mayflower Brewing Co., focus on different practices. Mayflower founder and president Drew Brosseau says his brewers zero in on what makes classic beers great. “In the 30-odd years since the craft beer boom, there is a variation or a twist on every sort of beer imaginable,” he said. “Traditional routes of brewing beer are being ignored and that is what we stick to.”
At Mayflower, in a room adjacent to the brewery, Dr. Dre blasts on the sound system while workers fill kegs and manage the bottling. More brewers are working with metal tanks in the main brew room as Uriot documents the process.
One of the brewers brings Quaglia and Uriot two glasses of beer, showing the difference in coloring after fermentation. One of the beers looks topaz while the other has a golden-yellow hue. The brewer explains the difference in taste, noting the distinction between the pale ale’s hoppy notes in each beer.
“This is what it’s all about,” Quaglia says.
“American Brewed” will air in early September without charge at www.americanbrewedtv.com.