Head to Head: Brewing up a hit

Posted: September 19, 2014 by Luke in Uncategorized
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Editor’s note: For more on this story below, you can visit Paul at his own booth at Hopfest this afternoon. His booth is located on the south wall of the main ballroom, next to the Dukes of Ale and Pagosa Brewing. — Stoutmeister

In the craft beer industry, homebrewing, professional brewing, and competition are all part of the same universe. Many professional brewers started off as homebrewers, and many homebrewers aspire to become professionals, but regardless of official status or aspirations, it all boils down to one thing — brewing great beer. That’s why both the pro brewer and homebrewer regularly compete for ribbons, medals, and bragging rights. Competition is a friendly way of challenging each other to make better beer and keep the craft of beer fresh. And, I suppose it’s also nice to say, in a friendly way of course, “My IPA can beat up your IPA.”

Brewer vs. brewer on TV sounds a lot better than another show about cooking. Or pawn shops. Or rednecks.

Brewer vs. brewer on TV sounds a lot better than another show about cooking. Or pawn shops. Or rednecks.

One way of bringing the collective industry together, the homebrewers, the breweries, and the beer drinkers, is through the magic of television. We’ve all seen “Brew Dogs” and rejoiced at the idea of beer on TV. But where it shines brightly in some areas, it leaves others dim as the dark side of the moon. Specifically, the exciting competitive side of beer. (Except for that one episode about the homebrewers. That was great. But that’s my point.)

Cooking competition shows are already wildly popular. Everyone loves a good battle in the kitchen because that’s how you really see how something is made and all the blood, sweat, and tears unwritten into each recipe. Whether it’s over cupcakes, foie gras, or baby back ribs, it’s fun to watch real people compete with real passion and creative ideas, all the while producing something we’d actually consume. It sure beats watching people starve on an island. Ahem.

One man recognized a need to see the brewing side of beer paired with the competitive side of human nature. He wants to see real brewers throw down in a casual cage match, which will showcase, above all, the passion and creativity that unarguably drive the art of craft brewing. I had the opportunity to do an email interview with expert homebrewer and fellow Bullpen writer Paul Grunewald about his exciting new TV venture and how he plans to get his idea from grain to glass, so to speak. And I suppose I’ll say it first, as we’ll all be thinking it half-way through. “Man! Why didn’t I think of that first?”

DSBC: What can you tell me about the concept for the show “Head to Head?”

Paul: Head to Head is a (respectful) competition show that has home brewers and pro brewers making beer under the same set of constraints. The beers will be judged by trained judges and then sampled with a live audience.

DSBC: Who came up with the idea for Head to Head?

Paul: I had the original idea and brainstormed with other beer lovers. The team at New Mexico Film Resource (NMFR) then helped me refine it.

DSBC: How did you come up with the idea?

Paul: There were a couple of things. In addition to brewing , both my wife and I do a lot of cooking so we watch cooking shows including “Top Chef” and some of the other shows. I was disappointed in both “Brew Masters” and “Brew Dogs.” One night, I was channel surfing and saw a show called “Airplane Repo.” I figured if there was a market for a show about people getting their airplanes repossessed, there’s got to be a bigger market for craft beer!

DSBC: I have to agree with you on that one. What features will the shows include?

Paul: These constraints might be style, ingredients, or other challenges. It will be different every week. There will not be a lot of contrived drama. The tone of the show will be similar to “BBQ Pitmasters” combined with “Movable Feast.”

DSBC: What sets this show apart from other competition shows or beer shows?

Paul: One, the host will not be swearing and screaming at the brewers! Giving them the time needed to brew a beer. The way the show is shot will be unique, but I can’t say too much more than that just yet. “Brew Dogs” is about beer, but it’s not the same vibe we think is needed for “Head to Head.” Our hope is to have each season in a great beer town including Portland, San Diego, Raleigh, etc. (not just a new city each episode as in Brew Dogs).

DSBC: Who is your target audience?

Paul: The audience is anyone that loves craft beer, and there are a lot of them. The demographics are very wide. Craft Beer grew at 18 percent last year, and over 1,000,000 people brewed at least batch of beer last year!

Beer can be a competitive sport. Well, brewing can.

Brewing as a competition. How novel.

DSBC: That would definitely include the Brew Crew. Where will the show be shooting?

Paul: We want to shoot the pilot here in New Mexico. Where the episodes are shot depends on who picks up the show. My hope would be to do season one here.

DSBC: Who will be involved with filming/production?

Paul: Again, it depends on how the show is financed. The deal can go anywhere from the idea being purchased, to “here is a chunk of money, bring me 13 shows and everything in between.”

DSBC: That makes sense. So, to which channels do you plan to pitch the idea?

Paul: I would want to start with the usual suspects, Esquire, Spike, Food Network, Discovery, National Geographic, etc. But I’ll talk to anyone who will listen to me!

DSBC: I think there is definitely a market for this kind of show. So, Paul, how are you going about getting this ambitious project off the ground?

Paul: I contracted with NMFR to shoot the promo video with my own money. They have done a number of crowd-funded projects already.

DSBC: Why did you choose Indiegogo over say, Kickstarter?

Paul: Because I’m using NMFR and they are a non-profit. If we reach our goal, Indiegogo will not take as large a percentage leaving more money to get the pilot done. Kickstarter tends to be an all or nothing proposition, whereas even if we don’t hit our full goal, we might have enough to start.

DSBC: How can craft beer lovers help get this show on TV?

Paul: The Indiegogo page is here. We will also be at Hopfest on Saturday at Isleta. We have a number of contribution perks. If anyone wants something different, please contact me.

DSBC: When is the deadline to donate or sponsor?

Paul: The campaign runs through Oct. 16, 2014.

DSBC: Paul, is there anything else you’d like to add?

Paul: I want to thank the people who have contributed time and money to this already. New Mexico is a beer mecca as well as having the film and TV resources to make a professional show. We have some great brewers and breweries here and I would like to show them off to the world! Special thanks again to Ken and Kaylynn at Nexus for their help with the promo video.

DSBC: Thanks Paul! Looking forward to watching Head to Head soon, pint-in-hand.


— Luke

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