Making of the Great Beer State Documentary

by | Oct 15, 2022 | Beer

Great Beer State Documentary

A talk with the creators of the Great Beer State documentary, which celebrates 25 years of the Michigan Brewers Guild.

Great Beer State Documentary

To celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Michigan Brewers Guild, Fred Bueltmann (This Craft Nation, Red Horse Center for Collaborative Leadership) teamed up with Seth Thompson (Green Frog Photo) and Kyle Bice (KAB Studio) to create the Great Beer State documentary which tells the stories behind the formation and evolution of the Michigan Brewers Guild as well as the beer industry and culture in Michigan.

The documentary was released at the Michigan Brewers Guild Summer Beer festival. It is currently making the rounds at various viewing parties across the state. There will also be a special showing to mark the actual anniversary of the Michigan Brewers Guild, which will take place on October 22, 2022. This just happens to be the same day as this year’s Detroit Fall Beer festival.

Recently I spent time talking with Fred, Kyle, and Seth to learn more about the Great Beer State documentary and get some insights from the creators. 

You can view the full interview here:

A Story of Michigan Beer

Our conversation started with a brief summary of what I believe the Great Beer State documentary is all about, and asked Fred, Kyle, and Seth to confirm. 

Fred Bueltmann: “Yeah, I think that I would say our intention. It’s involved a couple of different guild engaged projects, and I think our intention is to tell the story of sort of the modern Michigan craft brewing movement through the lens of telling the story of the Michigan Brewers Guild, which is then told through telling the stories, sharing stories from Michigan breweries. So it’s sort of all three of those things held lightly or loosely.”

I mentioned that the Great Beer State documentary is based on Fred’s book, A Rising Tide: Stories from the Michigan Brewers Guild, Vol. I released in 2019 as well as interviews in the Great Beer State podcast which features Fred along with brewers guild executive director Scott Graham.

Fred Bueltmann: “That was the beginning of this process, really. Scott, executive director of the Michigan Brewers Guild, and I had been conspiring or waxing for a long time that we wanted to begin to document and capture some of the stories of the people that made up our community. We had a recognition that it was an important time to do so, both before the community changed or we lost people or what have you and lost track of that story and what had happened over the last, at that time, 20-some years and now 25. 

(Photo of Scott Graham) 

Because it’s a remarkable change in landscape. Now, there are whole other stories that can be told if want to look at pre-prohibition or prohibition or the early days of brewing, and that’s kind of where I was framing the lens. Is that our look really meant to celebrate from 1997 forward, when the guild came to be. And by doing that, we kind of start in the…as early as 82 when we start talking about Chelsea Alehouse, Real Ale Company, Sorry.

And Bells and Kalamazoo Brewing Company and the people that kind of were moving into commercial brewing before the license changed. That happened in 92. So our stories from 97 to now, it starts with a little precursor of “here’s how these characters had a running start into 97.”

Formation of the Great Beer State Documentary Team

I wanted to loop back and learn how Kyle, Fred, and Seth ended up working together.

Fred Bueltmann: “So I’ll field that one again to get started and then love to hear you guys share your perspectives on what it looked like from your point of view. Kyle and I, you know, kind of met through his wife Natania, and I was looking for an illustrator at New Holland (Brewing Company) when I was there as a partner and responsible for the marketing.

And we started working together and became deeper collaborators and then started working on individual projects together. Kyle can share his background, but there was a bit of a hybrid between illustration work and photography and videography coming in. And that crossed over to a lot of my pursuits as well.

And so we worked on a project together called This Craft Nation. I had begun doing a lot more interview-style stuff, both with New Holland and then as This Craft Nation. Seth and I met through another collaborator Jeff Hage at Green Frog Photo, who had been doing a lot of beer and food photography with me. 

And eventually, Seth’s on a shoot. And our interests align in an interesting way. So when we had designs on This Craft Nation, it is up as a podcast, and it was a book project that hasn’t quite completed itself yet. We crossed the country to talk to makers to talk about what’s the difference; why go through the trouble of continuing to defend independent makers of things? What does that look like, and what’s the story there?

We would bring the Green Frog crew in when we wanted to support with video, but we didn’t have a budget to video the whole thing. Or really, we didn’t have the grasp yet. So from there, I think relationships and strengths, and interests were discovered.

(Kyle Bice and Fred Bueltmann)

When we did A Rising Tide. We did, what was it, 35 or so interviews at four or five different locations. And at that time, it was a book project, but I was using audio to record interviews so that I could be present and not take notes. And Kyle was, his primary responsibility was stills (photography) for the book.

Then we had the instinct to say, “Well, let’s put everything we can in the vault. Let’s try to record audio quality that could be used later,” which has been in the podcast (The Great Beer State podcast). Even though we don’t really have the budget for it, let’s try and capture some video. 

So from there, when this idea came for the Great Beer State documentary for the 25th (Michigan brewers guild anniversary), we had all that footage that had been being put to work in the podcast, but we decided to create a little different structure and bring Seth on board, both as you know, a videographer with a different level of experience. We really leaned on his editing as well as shooting and capturing. So I’ll hand it off to you guys to see what it looked like from your point of view and if I missed anything.”

Seth Thompson: “I was trying to remember how we met, and it must have been, I mean, I remember that was kind of a tumultuous time in my life, so it’s not surprising that I don’t remember details. But was that, maybe, the Nashville trip for This Craft Nation, the first time we met?”

Kyle Bice: “Yeah, it was. It was Nashville and Louisville, right at the same time, like that same stop in Detroit?”

Fred Bueltmann:  “Detroit was first when we did Third Man (records). But I had met you, Seth, on a previous shoot. We just hadn’t really worked independently on a project together. So Detroit and then Nashville, Louisville were your first intersections with Kyle? I think.”

Seth Thompson: “Yeah. That was.”

Kyle Bice:  “Seth came in sort of after my New Holland days and as we were starting This Craft Nation, so the birth of This Craft Nation, like right when we were getting on the, for that trip.”

(Seth Thompson and Fred Bueltmann)

Fred Bueltmann: “I’ll share a little bit of the why there. That might be a good story in terms of why and how we got together. I think with this type of work, both this audience and maybe this type of work in general. I’m sure there’s different styles of shooting and capturing, for lack of a better word, but we’re heading into areas, especially when we’re near or adjacent to a festival.

Sometimes we’re a little more planned, but certainly, with This Craft Nation, we don’t know where we’re gonna be shooting. We may know who. But there may be more. We may get an idea or meet somebody that changes the course of the story. So the story of our process is changing as we try to uncover the story that we’re there to find.

I think there’s a certain recognition between people. I recognize it from music as well, which is, there’s a recognition when you see people with a similar appetite and willingness to go into the unknown and say, “Quick, we gotta move over here. Reset stuff up.” We don’t have this, We don’t have that. We’re starting at a disadvantage. There’s a certain kinship when you see people whose eyes dig into that and lean into it instead of lean away…I want them on my team. At least I do.”

Seth Thompson: “Yeah. Certainly, in the filming world, that scenario you just described is panic-inducing for a lot of people. And, I’ve noticed even people that otherwise are fun to work with. That level of “who even knows what’s about to happen” really throws people off. And even if you pull it off, you can kind of tell later that the crew was having chest pains the whole time. And that’s, well, for me, there’s not only that technical aspect that Fred and Kyle. There’s no problem with just jumping and hoping your parachute opens. That’s fine. Actually, maybe that’s even preferable. 

I think this is true for all three of us, but I notice it most with Fred with interviewing is that…He’s not gonna just throw you softballs so that you can practice your talking points. We’re going to talk about who you are as a human who also works in a beer industry. And that, to me, that’s everything right there. Cause I don’t give a shit about the talking points. I hate when you can tell someone has practiced what they want to say. Cause you’re gonna get marketing. You’re not gonna get a real story. And Fred’s good at pulling that from people who came with their talking points.”

Highlights of Making: The Great Beer State Documentary

I asked Fred, Seth, and Kyle to expand on what the highlights were for them in putting together this documentary. Was it related to finding those nuggets that Fred is adept at extracting during an interview?

Seth Thompson: “That’s definitely the best part for me as the editor.”

Kyle Bice:  “Oh man, that could be a very lengthy answer. You know, the best parts of it, honestly, was having the history that I have with Michigan beer, even though I’m not a Michigander. Having worked with New Holland for, I don’t know, five or six years, however long I was there doing labels. I met a lot of people in the beer business. So, coming over from Chicago and being able to hang out with those folks again and meeting some new people and hearing stories from the mouth of the people who actually experienced it. Instead of, you know, the bar stories that you would hear from people who weren’t there.

It’s kind of cool to hear that stuff all come together in front of the camera. And having Fred, with his experience, asking those questions and getting answers that I think somebody who doesn’t know those people wouldn’t get. So Fred was getting the really good juicy answers from all his interviews.”

Kyle’s comment then sparked a comment from myself relating to Fred being what I consider a Michigan beer historian.

Fred Bueltmann: “I appreciate it, and I’m really proud to have been around the community and mostly cuz I’m proud of what the community has accomplished, and historian is high praise.

I think that part of that really fits with me, and then part of it I kind of veer off, maybe. I don’t know what, lean into storytellers or, you know, somebody’s that been around. Because I have respect for historians who are really documenting a granular detail. Like archivists and stuff. Like there’s another level that I can’t hang with.

To me, this is why this project is sort of good for me is that I’m really drawn to finding the intersections of stories, finding the turning points of the community, and finding where that lives in the individual stories. Which is much different (than being a historian). 

Going back to what Seth was saying. Talking points are like, “Tell me everything about your brewery” can really miss where it intersects with the community or the other brewery. Or when did somebody come in? Or when were the big moments? When were those, you know, when did this impact characters arrive?

Stories have arcs too. So there’s the meaning I guess I want to shift to say, one thing I was thinking as we were going through this is that there are maybe three or four stories.

When you look at Michigan breweries. If you look at the archetype: Home Brewer wants to grow up, become a real brewer, finds a location, gets a partner, opens up; the Home beer lover has a trip, gets inspired by another place, then says, I want to bring that culture to my community. Restaurateur wants to open up and add brewing because they like making things, and I’m not minimizing that at all. But if we just told that story 30 times, you’d have these little differences between them. 

To me, the part that’s both gratifying and meaningful is talking about, well, what the heck happened in Michigan that made this story so different than the state next door? How is it that we have this feeling when we’re at events? What is the feeling? How did it come to be? Why are we talking to each other maybe some other community doesn’t have a festival or doesn’t know each other at opposite ends. You know, I have, we have friendships that are 10 hours away. Because of our joint interest in making this community something special.

I like to sort of walk around that and try to find the things that are gonna bring that to life. And it’s not one literal answer. It’s found in the spaces sometimes.”

Community in Michigan Beer

One story that we keep hearing over and over again is about the beer community. Not just the community of Michigan brewers themselves but the relationship between the brewery and the community in which they live. I asked for Fred’s thoughts on this aspect of breweries and the communities they are a part of.

Fred Bueltmann: “I hear what you’re saying, and it’s parallel to a path that we were definitely exploring, which is how breweries and or the brewing community started to impact the community itself. And how it went from: “I don’t think we want a brewery in our town” to “Can we please get a brewery in our town?” And that went to; “We’re so proud to have these breweries in our town and what they’ve done for our culture and community.” It’s why we keep seeing growth in terms of breweries because there’s apparently no town too small to welcome a brewery. And so towns that never had a brewery are getting their first. In towns that had one might be getting their second and third. 

And I think that Kyle will probably chuckle as I entered this phrase instead of somebody else bringing it, which is, you know, people talk about saturation all the time. I’m a staunch advocate that it’s a hypothetical, mystical thing that can evaporate as soon as you don’t believe in it. Because if the community believes there’s room for another brewery, there’s room. 

We don’t say: “We have too many restaurants. There should never be any restaurants. We need to stop opening restaurants” It’s; Is the restaurant meaningful to your community? Are people drawn to go to it? Do they gain something more than food? And I think the pandemic really poked at that a lot. We started asking questions about which places are meaningful to us. So anyway, community and the collective community of brewers’ impact on it was a big thread that we tried to follow.”

Seth Thompson: ”Because a lot of the interviews that were used in the documentary were years ago. You know, going to be a podcast. I obviously wasn’t there. So I’m watching it for the first time when it’s time to edit it (the Great Beer State documentary). And not only, like what Fred said, was the impact on the community that they live in; The lack of animosity between brewers was frankly kind of shocking because they are your competitors, and instead of win at all costs. You’re like, “Oh, you’re short on hops here, we’ll send a truck over and do it up.” And that was amazing to me.

Fred Bueltmann: “And that is such a repetitive story. It’s almost like, oh, this little chestnut again. If you look at it one way, it’s like every single one of them; “Oh, we’re gonna get the bag of grain story.” And yet think about what that means for a community to have adopted that; that it’s so normalized that it’s in everyone’s story, whether they opened two years ago or 30 years ago. There’s an established norm that if you need something, you call your neighborhood brewery. That’s become so normal for us that we, I don’t even think about it until, you know, a project like this sort of brings it forward. Digesting it in a different way of finding a way to portray that significance without having it said 30 times in a film.

It brings us back, in terms of our project, to what our goal is and challenges are: How do we tell the story without telling all of the stories? There’s also this nature of, we’ve got, I don’t, I can’t remember if we’re over 400 breweries right now. Certainly, upper three hundreds. And we can’t tell 300 stories. We tried to get this to an hour. We got to an hour six. And we cut breweries out that, and people out that we had talked to. So there’s this ongoing challenge. 

I think where I’m getting to with it is, The Michigan story is so dense with good things and interesting stories that you have to find a way to elevate what’s the bigger arc. Why is this different?

I wanted to get to that earlier question about what was most gratifying, and we talked about the normalization of this camaraderie and how commonplace it is. There’s a whole story about the 10 minutes before the interview with the governor, which was going to our earlier point. We learned about that interview the morning of and had a location change 10 minutes before, and then we’re told you got three questions, And so that was the thing with a different crew, we don’t get anything meaningful there. So I was really grateful for that. 

But the story I meant to tell was when Governor Whitmer is telling us how remarkable the camaraderie in the industry is and how people think for you to win, somebody’s gotta lose, and that’s not so. That, as a person working on a documentary, felt great. But really, as a member of the brewing community, that was like a tearful moment. We used to have to beg for somebody to believe we were a legitimate business. The governor’s telling us we’re an example to be looked at for camaraderie.”

Challenges of making the Great Beer State Documentary

As our conversation moves along, I ask Kyle, Seth, and Fred to share what was the most challenging aspect of creating the Great Beer State documentary.

Kyle Bice: “This is kind of a weird one out of the left field. The second half; so it was kind of filmed in two parts over what, a couple of years Fred, we started pretty early on and got some stuff with Rising Tide that ended up getting used, I think, a little bit in the finished film.

Fred Bueltmann: “I think we started in the fall of 18.”

Kyle Bice: “Yeah. And about two years after that, or over a year and a half after that, I got diagnosed with Celiac. So I had to stop drinking beer while we were filming this thing, which was like just getting punched in the heart, you know. So that was a physical challenge more than anything else. But yeah, it was a big challenge to show up for these interviews and watch everybody enjoying the good times and having a drink and, Oh, now I can’t do that now. 

Seth Thompson: “For me, the most challenging part was, well, definitely, it was the edit. One is, first of all, I think, the first time we cut it. First, for content, before we cut it for time. And I’m pretty sure that we were at like five hours. So now, any one of these could be in the final piece, but you need to take a chainsaw to it and cut it down by 75% or 85%.

Luckily I’ve been at this long enough that I don’t; I’m not precious about the footage or whatever. Because if you go on, nobody cares that you really liked that one. Everyone’s looking at their watch. Just getting it down to that hour six was, was tough.

And it was at the end that those are the really tough parts because it feels like you’ve trimmed all the fat off of it, and well, shit, we’re still at an hour 25, right? How do we get 15 more minutes off of this thing? The other thing that you learn by beating your head against the wall over the years doing this is that it can always be trimmed down more. And it ends up being that piece that you really didn’t think could possibly come out. You just decided to try it. And it turns out that it’s a tighter interview now, and it works good. 

But the other challenge for me, it was all technical. Over the course of, I think, five years, I think the earliest footage that I had was from 2019, which would make sense with what Kyle said. But over the years, well, that’s three years, maybe there was some older stuff in there. At first, the fact that there’s footage at all was just cuz Fred and Kyle were like, well, we have a camera that could shoot that; “You wanna just throw that up there and do that.” And you’re in all sorts of environments. Sometimes windy, and sometimes you can hear the HVAC. Now you’ve cut all those together, and you can’t all of a sudden get blasted by a bunch of seagulls in that one. So just trying to even that out (audio) so that everything’s about level takes a long time. 

Luckily there’s software now that does a good job of cleaning that up. But even still, there’s like a second audio edit that nobody even knows about that was necessary. Because I needed to go in and even everybody up as much as I could before I brought it back into the video.”

Fred Bueltmann:“ There’s a good Easter in there, too (referring to the Great Beer State documentary). If you look for the guys dancing before, whoever we were interviewing, I can’t remember. There are a couple of guys that dance and then walk off. Look for that.”

The Cutting Room

I then flipped over to Fred for his perspective on the most challenging aspects of making the Great Beer State

Fred Bueltmann: “Well, I think there’s probably, there’s several. I think if I lean into two, one would be it’s maybe a challenge, but it’s also a compliment and, maybe, encouragement for other people; is that the challenge of cutting was very real. Especially because Seth’s not precious, but I know these people, I’ve been recording interviews for however many years.

I like to think I’m not precious, but the reality is somebody’s going to be, Right?. Because, “Ah, that’s there for a reason!”. So you can get attached to it. And, I would say the first couple of layers, like I’m also familiar as a musician and a writer, both involve some brutal editing at times.

And, so, I’ve learned the value of cutting and taking away. I believe in it. But on the other hand, that was challenging. The last ones were super challenging, but I’ll say that it’s also an argument for the conversations we could have during the edit because we trusted one another and we could hear one another.

So Seth could tighten an interview as he would as if it was in a vacuum, an interview of itself. But I might come in and say, No, what’s being said in this interview isn’t said in any of the other chapters by any other people. This is the best part of this interview. It’s the important part of this interview for the mosaic of the whole. And Seth wouldn’t have that picture. There was no fault thing about him not seeing it. But that was my responsibility; was to stand up for the things that needed it. Because they were fulfilling a role, not within that interview.

I don’t know or remember the specific examples, but we had some big epiphanies of, like, having to come back, and I was really surprised at my memory sometimes. Because I would look at a new edit and be like, I’m missing the tail end of that sentence…I could almost say it verbatim. We would have to go scrub the last version to find and be like, “No, we gotta let him finish that sentence. That’s why the whole thing is there in the first place.”

Seth Thompson: “I’m glad that Fred mentioned that because I was going to follow up. I just remembered right before Fred started talking about the same thing. Another challenge was, I don’t mean challenge, like conflict; But between Fred and I, there were points in that edit where I knew that we had to get the time down significantly, and I would, to try to save time, I would try to pre-edit before I presented it to Fred. And there was a week or so in that edit process; what it felt like was every time I thought to myself, “Well, that can go that, that’s cool. We’ll get two minutes back.” And then I send it to Fred, and he’s like, “Well, but that was the one part, that was the one thing that needed to stay.” And then I was just like fuck it (laughs). I actually don’t know what I’m doing cuz I’m cutting. I’m doing like an anti-edit, all the stuff that I cut is all the stuff that Fred wants.

Fred Bueltmann: “You were like one of those wooden water finders. I keep cutting. I found out what was essential.”

Seth Thompson: “Yeah, You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.”

Fred Bueltmann:  “It was very helpful. And then I think the other challenge I’d point to, which is, you know, I didn’t go to documentary school or film school. I feel like I have, you know, studied certain things and have sort of developed my own perspective on it and storytelling. So I don’t know if this method is; I feel like it’s the hardest way to do it, but I keep finding myself defending it, which is: we’re going out capturing things, not knowing the points we want to make.

So if we had determined the structure of this right and said, “Here are the chapters we want to do, here’s what I need from this interview.” I could have a much sharper interview and have less footage. But on the other hand, a 30-minute interview often gets the person into their zone and gets them relaxed and speaking from memory. Instead of sort of talking points. And telling their stories personally instead of trying to say what the interviewer is looking for.

So that length and the footage for one usually get more, if you can still direct it into meaningful stuff. But on the other hand, we ended up with several quality interviews, maybe saying the same thing, and we’re going to use one of ’em. Right? And so the cutting room floor is brutal there, but also, It’s just overwhelming to have this much in the can.

And then think about going through it to find, counting on both your memory and annotations. Like we had Emily Bennett on board for Rising Tide, who did a great job kind of annotating the interview. So I could see a written form of “Oh, this is where we hit that subject. I’m gonna go there.”

It’s a technique that involves just collecting a thousand pounds and needing a hundred. But I feel like our unscripted exploration into “I wonder what”; In order to be curious instead of dictating my opinion on what happened. I feel like it has a lot of value to say, I’m not going to dictate what stories are out there. We’re going to go out and try and find it. And we’re finding it by asking questions. And I’m not even thinking about assembling, I’m not thinking about what it means to the whole, I’m just trying to ask questions and hear voices and perspectives. That’s the key. That’s a really hard way to go.”

Getting Great Content

Seth Thompson: “When we first started, we have everything collected, but I haven’t started anything yet, I’m looking at that list. I was just like, oh my God, there’s no possible way that we can even scrub through all this stuff. Cause I think it was something like 75 interviews. Oh my God. It was a lot. And then some people are reinterviewed over the intervening years. So in my head, cuz I haven’t met these people yet, I don’t know who they are.

And Fred is like, “Oh, well, just pick up Rob from…” I’m like, who’s, I don’t know who that is (laughs). But it was really intimidating to get started. Once you get started, the process sort of reveals itself. But when you’re sitting there with basically a blank page, you’re like, I’m not Sisyphus, I can’t keep pushing the rock up the hill (laughs).

Also related to what Fred was saying earlier is something that I’ve found, and I don’t think it was employed in this project per se, probably because Fred is naturally a person that would direct a conversation like this. But my experience with unscripted interviews is insane. What you want is maybe some bullet points to make sure you don’t get way off in the weeds. Especially if it’s for a client who’s looking for a specific thing. 

But they’re not actors or media personalities. So you just say, “Don’t worry about the cameras. You and I are just gonna have a conversation.” And then what I often do is say, “Okay, we’ve got everything. We can cut now”; Don’t cut. They think you cut. I have projects over the years where everything that made it into the final cut was after I lied and said that we had cut. Because now the pressure’s off, and now you get real. Not only the real story, but their tone of voice changed. And now you get the real human talking to you. And they usually go through and say the same stuff. But now, they’re not making sure that they’re sitting up straight. It’s so much better.”

Kyle Bice: “Oh, I was gonna say, one of the things that Fred and I learned when we started This Craft Nation is when we were interviewing people, and it was primarily photographs more than video. I would let Fred talk and interview for 10 minutes, maybe more, before I started snapping pictures. Because I needed the person being interviewed to relax.

Cause they would see that lens behind Fred, you know, behind one of his shoulders. And they would tense up and not give the answers that he was looking for. Their face would be really rigid. You know, there was all this stuff that I had to wait for. And that transition, I took that into Rising Tide as well.

We did the exact same process that we had been practicing on the road before that. And then I noticed Seth had a very similar thing where the mics came on before we said action. The video would stay rolling afterwards. You get all that great content before and after the interview too.”

Fred Bueltmann: “I’ll share that. I have deployed that technique in terms of both intentionally or just luckily, where I don’t tend to stop (the audio). And then Kyle and Seth are some combination of photo and video. And so if you’re really gonna use it when it’s a video project, you kind of need both rolling and nobody breaking down. Or breaking that scene when we were doing more audio. 

I firmly believe that there’s a beauty to audio because they’ll forget a microphone, especially if it’s clipped to their shirt, much quicker before they forget a camera. But on the other hand, you get finished with it, and you’re like, I wish we had video

In terms of, let’s just call ’em civilian makers that we are interviewing; some have experience with cameras, some don’t. I do think those sentiments need to always apply, meaning I try to create the environment; like we said, “Cut!” I try to get into a conversation. I try to be the energy leader that’s going to develop a conversation that has them go through that same process.

Whether I said, cut or not. To me, that’s the goal. The first few questions might be repetitive, and you might not use ’em. I try to aspire to be an interviewer who’s going to help people get into a place where they’re comfortable talking and sharing, and then, we can go wherever, and that’s gonna drop their shoulders.

There are a few different thoughts about how and why, and I don’t know that; I don’t have ’em listed like here are my five points. Nor would I share them, probably. But I don’t think you’re not tricking anybody…I’m trying to get them thinking about a memory, describing a memory in their life instead of telling me what they’re trying to accomplish.

Cuz one is intellectual, and one goes to a different part of ourselves, and we can see it, hear it, and remember who we are with. If I ask you who was your first beer with, you’re going to start describing, you’re immediately going to be talking in a more personable way than “What’s important about a first beer?” Where you got, “Ah, hold on, let me think about how I feel about it. What is he really asking me? And do I look stupid?” Those are all things that are going to jam you up versus, like; Oh yeah.”

Who Would You Like To Share a Beverage With?

Stealing a question that Fred utilizes on the Great Beer State podcast, I asked Fred, Seth, and Kyle if they could share a beverage with someone, alive or dead, who would that be, and what beverage would you share

Seth Thompson: “Oh, hands down. Without even thinking about it, it’d be Tom Waits. I’m mostly a beer drinker nowadays. But if it’s Tom Waits, I feel like you’d probably need to have some whiskey.

The point is, he would have to invite me to his house so that we could go out into his barn and break drums and shit. And just listen. I don’t know if you’ve watched him in interviews, but I think that’s not exactly a put-on. I think he’s really speaking like how his brain is wired, which is not like most people. Yeah. So I just want to keep setting him up to just let him riff.”

Kyle Bice: “The first person that jumps to my mind is Hunter Thompson. But probably like the mid to late sixties. Hunter Thompson, Not a full-blown cokehead. When he was getting started, getting some popularity. Like that, that time period when he first started writing for Rolling Stone. Like that, that era. If I could sit down with him and Ralph Steadman at the same time and have a drink with those guys. And I think, just like Seth, that would’ve been a beer and a whiskey, but probably whiskey would be the main drink of that evening.”

Fred Bueltmann: “I tell you, I’ve asked this question to a lot of people, and I never gathered how difficult or unfair It feels. I don’t know. I mean, one: I feel fortunate that I’ve been able to have beers or visits with people, partly from projects like this that are beyond what one can hope for. So that feels good. And then you kind of have the personal versus the celebrity side. 

So I’ve thought of this, and I feel like I’m going move forward with it, which is cuz it’s compelling, which is my mother. I lost my mother when I was a kid. I didn’t have that adult opportunity to become peers as I have with my father and other people in my family. So I think it’d be pretty cool too, cuz I was four, so That’d be pretty cool. I couldn’t think of anything better than that.”

What’s on Tap for Fred, Kyle, and Seth

We rounded up our conversation with upcoming projects. Kyle recently started working on film sets in Chicago, providing photography. Many he can’t talk about yet. However, a couple of short films have been released where Kyle provided still shots. First is Blood Pressure, part of the nationwide 48 Hour Film Project. The other is a heartfelt short film called Snail, which is coming out in January.

Fred is a facilitator for the Red Horse Center for Collaborative Leadership. In addition to his work with teams and groups, he has been working with Seth on training films called Arenas for Change. These films show how the facilitators do their work with a group. These videos can then be used for online training across the country. Fred is also busy working up a lot of new episodes of the Great Beer State podcast, which will be coming out over the winter. He is also keeping busy with musical projects: Great Lake Brass and Strapping Owls.

Seth is hoping to focus more on work with nonprofits. He’s working on a project for Meals On Wheels. Additionally, he is working on a project gathering stories on reproductive health in the wake of the recent Supreme Court ruling on Roe V. Wade. Seth’s other project relates to putting together a fundraiser video for the historic Valley Field in Grand Rapids. This field is an important part of the history of Negro Leagues’ Grand Rapids Black Sox.

Parting Thoughts

Fred Bueltmann: “I think this was both an effort of ours and capturing these stories and putting together this piece, we worked hard at talking to people that I didn’t know as well as people that I knew or whose stories I knew. And knowing that I had a lot of information, I had to kind of counter my own instincts of like, “Oh, I may not know everything. Oh, let’s, how do we keep the door and the window open?” And I just wanna share from an ongoing point of view that no story is too small or too far afield to be part of this mosaic. And that we did our best to kind of represent the community. There are people we wish we had in here that weren’t. There are people I haven’t met yet.

But as we continue to go and continue to collect stories, I just want to share that from our point of view, which I think is also alongside the Michigan Brewers Guild, that every person in this community is contributing to what it is, what it can be, and what it will be in the future. Hopefully, this gives a node to that. And just want to encourage everybody to keep doing their thing. We love it. And we keep listening and keep telling the story. Keep telling the stories.”

Seth Thompson: “As we were putting this together, I thought this is a great thing, but, you know, of course, 25 years ago, nobody thought we would be putting a video together. And so I’m putting it out there right now. I’ve already put some feelers out, but we should be shooting this exact same stuff for the cannabis industry right now. So I reached out to some of the right people, but you know, the more people we could reach out to. I think that it is also a very similar, different details, but very similar story.”


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