Pauric Brennan’s The Crafty Irish is not what I expected in many, many ways. I’ll start by saying, the documentary is made for a specific niche audience. First, the title refers to the craft beer phenomenon sweeping the world, but specifically Ireland. Irish craft beer, you ask? Please don’t walk away because it’s a foreign film, as it’s a comprehensive discussion of small businesses that could apply to any setting, especially the United States.
Like most low-budget docs, the majority of it is talking head interviews. The writer and director spotlights four craft breweries in Ireland. Brennan transitions conversations with each breweries’ owners with related stock footage. Before I could unplug from all this craft beer talk out of disinterest, I found myself drawn into their stories (Full Disclosure: I don’t drink alcohol of any kind).
Running at just under two hours, The Crafty Irish gives you the lowdown on Irish craft brewing. Discussions include the history of craft brewing in Ireland and how all of the ingredients harvested in Ireland create a specific brew and taste. There’s even a segment that discusses water quality as the city transitioned its natural hard water to a soft water system without notifying its citizens or breweries.
“…gives you the lowdown on Irish craft brewing.”
The film then continues down the checklist of issues. I mentioned ingredients, now add acquiring proper equipment, cleaning the said equipment, finding the right brew, secrets to scaling production, marketing, distribution, competing with the big brands, exporting, and how COVID almost (if not) destroyed the industry. The director wisely shows how daunting it can get, while still showing the upside of owning a small business.
Even though I’ve never had craft beer, nor tasted craft beer, I was fascinated with the stories of these businesses highlighted in The Crafty Irish. These are men and women who turned what is considered a hobby by most into a full-time business. Success never comes easy, and survival demands resourcefulness as in 2020, trying to survive a pandemic not only shut down bars and restaurants but stifled a significant source of their revenue in tourism.
I found it intriguing watching universal principles of growing a business in a context that’s not American. I am so grateful this film was not about the American craft brew industry. It would most likely come across as overproduced and academically sterile. It’s the small/local business approach that I found valuable. I would show The Crafty Irish to any entrepreneur or small business class.
"…I would show The Crafty Irish to any entrepreneur or small business class."