The Art of Brewing

Bev Blackwood - What happens when you give a brewer a camera.

I shoot photos and last week as part of a class assignment, I spent part of a day at Saint Arnold Brewing Company just north of downtown Houston.I chose the brewery because when I worked there I carried a camera in my pocket the whole time and frequently found interesting images that I would post to the Brewers Blog.It also allowed me to document equipment in need of repair or replacement, the condition I found shipments in, and moments of brew house hilarity.(Obviously this was before everyone’s phone doubled as their camera.)

My goal this time was a bit different.I was out to capture the art of brewing, the compositions of hoses, stainless steel, grain silos and whatever else presented itself.It’s not as easy as you’d think.Breweries are built to be practical and efficient, not photogenic. 

They can be dark, cavernous places where the massive tanks block out the light, meaning long exposures, requiring tripods and flashes. Photographer Ruth Bernhard once said, “If you can’t find something worthy to photograph within forty feet of where you stand, you are not seeing.” I am a firm believer in that maxim. The challenge is making the image itself memorable, which is where the photographer’s skill and talent come into play. The same is true when Michael goes out to visit a brewery for the show. They all share a process, they all share similar ingredients, yet each brewery is different. The key is finding that unique character and it’s up to Michael and the Beer Geeks team to bring it to you.

There’s an obvious advantage to having a brewery as one’s topic for a TV show or a photo shoot, since when you’re done, there’s beer!I wasn’t lucky enough to get the first pours of Saint Arnold’s Christmas Ale, which will be released any day now, but I was able to try their Fresh Hop ale, which was made with 420 pounds of Equinox hops, flown directly to the brewery after harvest.A 5.2% ABV single hop IPA, it had a combination of citrus and tropical fruit in the nose with that herbal/grassy flavor typical of a fresh hop beer.It was a delight and I had two pints during my lunch at the brewery.As I was leaving, the brewers I had been working with got off their shift and I couldn’t leave without sharing a beer with them, so I had a small glass of Pumpkinator.I know that pumpkin beers are both loved and hated in the craft beer community, but there’s a lot to like with Pumpkinator, starting with the hefty 10% ABV (hence my small glass) and the restrained use of pumpkin and spice that makes it very drinkable (actually dangerously so!) I had a great day hanging out in the brewery and will be headed back to shoot more in the weeks ahead.I’ll be sharing a few more beers from my future brewery photo shoots here, along with the images I take!

The Author:

Bev Blackwood II is the Southwest Brewing News Contributing Editor for Texas and has been covering Texas beers for 17 years An award winning home brewer, Bev has also brewed professionally at St. Arnold Brewing Company and was part of the team that brought home Saint Arnold’s first Great American Beer Festival gold medal in 2007. A long time member of Houston’s premiere homebrew club, the Foam Rangers, Bev teaches their Beer Judge Certification Program course and has also taught at Rice University’s Glasscock School of Continuing Studies.

The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author's alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of Ora Media, LLC, its affiliates, or its employees.

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