When it comes to beer or the brewing industry depicted on television or on film, the results of the last several years have been disappointing. Some are self congratulatory or look for suspense when none is needed. Quite a few go for the cheap drunkenness jokes.
A notable exception is Bottle Conditioned, a film that released last year that takes a deep and loving look at lambic and some of the revered blenders who have created flavorful, intriguing, and sought-after bottles.
What makes this film stand out among the others? All About Beer editor John Holl asked Jerry Franck, the director, producer, writer, and editor of the film, about the subject matter and what when into making the film.
Franck is an American/Luxembourgish director and producer whose work in both the documentary and fiction space often depicts niche topics that serve as a microcosm for the world at large. Bottle Conditioned is his feature directorial debut.
John Holl: Where did the idea for this film come from?
Jerry Franck: Back in 2017, after our last documentary’s release, I was getting more into craft beer as an aficionado and collector rather than just staying an average drinker. Because of my filmmaking background, I was naturally seeking out documentaries about beer, wine and anything that had to do with a craft culture behind it.
As I watched through every TV episode, film and Youtube video that I could find, I felt unfulfilled by what I saw. I personally felt that most films about beer barely scratched the surface and appeared to be more fan-based content or corporate sponsored videos. I was craving something deeper, more cinematic and intimate.
At first I wasn’t sure what our film was going to be about because beer is such a vast topic, so I turned my attention towards Europe in the hopes of finding an origin story perhaps. It took another year or so to let these initial ideas mature, and a few trips to Belgium before I found myself lost in lambic land for 4+ years.
John Holl: What surprised you from the interviews and experience? Was there something uncovered that resonated with you on a deeper level.
Jerry Franck: Initially I wanted to make a film about the different seasons of lambic production, from brewing to blending, to fruit harvest and everything in between. A bit like wine production. So when we filmed during the brewing season in 2019 and shot our first interviews, we cast a wide net of people and topics. Once we came back form the trip and I started digging through the many hours of footage, I realized that I was only catching glimpses of things, and it overall felt very technical. I got the sense that some of our interviewees were ready to open up further to us.
There were more personal stories, past hardships and opinions bubbling underneath the surface than I had anticipated. When we went back to Belgium that summer, we made a point to get more personal and dive deeper. This opened doors about topics and to people I wasn’t thinking of at first. Some of those people were Jean-Pierre Van Roy and Claude Cantillon, who single handedly saved lambic in Brussels during the hard times, but it came with a lot of personal sacrifices reflected in their heirs now.
Our project slowly started to evolve from a basic beer film to an intimate portrait of people, talking about universally relatable issues.
John Holl: The film has been out for a while now, and about to hit a larger audience. What do you hope it inspires drinkers to think about?
Jerry Franck: With our fast paced world, the influx of content and daily distractions, it can be hard to stop and take a moment to reflect on the past. Lambic is a slow food, and it takes time to understand and appreciate it, but to me it’s also a window into a different time when things were maybe simpler. Trends come and go, and it’s inevitable to get wrapped up in them, but remembering where it all started is important in my opinion. I hope this film inspires people to seek out more original stories like it, and stay connected through film (and beer) on a more human level.
Pull Up a Stool is a regular feature on All About Beer. Reach out to editor John Holl at JohnHoll@allaboutbeer.com with suggestions on brewing professionals that should be featured. And to support our journalism, please visit and donate via Patreon.com/AllAboutBeer