Your judgement of the new Netflix series, “Brews Brothers,” may depend on whether you can stomach a pilot episode that finds humor in the idea that a craft brewmaster has peed in a batch of IPA to beat his brother in a brewing contest. Comments posted on social media after the premier April 10 indicate a lot of beer-savvy viewers groaned and either literally or figuratively shut off once the two main characters revealed the “secret ingredient” that made this liquid taste so, uh, unique.
But if you appreciate contemporary, lowbrow satire that plays light-beer-chugging, frat-boy stereotypes off condescending braggarts who lecture brewery visitors (“If you’re having fun, you’re doing it wrong”), then you might enjoy this series written and produced by Greg Schaffer and executive produced by Jeff Schaffer, of “The League” fame.
“Brews Brothers” follows two “Odd Couple”-like brothers — one, the bearded, flanneled, sloppy, craft-brewery-owning Wilhelm Rodman (played by Alan Aisenberg); the other, the tragically hip uber-snob Adam Rodman (played by Mike Castle) — as they battle over how to run Rodman’s Brewing. It has its full share of excess silliness, cliché, and scatological gags. (One scene has a group of little league soccer players filling glass dildos with beer; and another shows Wilhelm stepping in a pile of human poo. Poo comes up a lot, as a matter of fact.)
Despite its low-brow low points, the series makes good use of semi-intelligent and inside-brewing jokes. For instance, in an early scene of the first episode, a homeless man who insists on defecating outside the brewery’s door complains, “Since the death of printed media I’m at a loss for wipes. Have you ever tried to wipe your ass with a Kindle?”
But some viewers might prefer the wit without the repetitive poop and dick jokes; or satire that’s more clever than taking aim at the homeless, the Latinx brewery employee portrayed as lazy, or the female employee who is obviously cute, but repeatedly derided for her unattractive ear.
Where the show perhaps succeeds is that it makes some craft beer geeks feel like part of the in crowd — as insufferable as “Master Cicerone” Adam can be, he’s winking at us to laugh with him as aficionados who know the intolerable snob he portrays. After all, who but a beer geek would understand the timely humor behind a scene that has Adam naming tangerine as a flavor component of his brother’s ale before sneering, “If the brewmaster would remember he was making a beer and not a smoothie, he might have something here?”
These references to beer trends, people, and brands that exist IRL give the educated viewer even more of a feeling of belonging. One exchange has characters rattling off names of well-known California brewers (shout outs: Laura Ulrich of Stone Brewing, Scott Ungerman of Anchor Brewing, and Jeremy Marshall of Lagunitas Brewing) and using real-life festival tents from breweries like Firestone Walker Brewing and Beachwood Brewing as props.
But this clubby approach, including episodes that address of-the-moment issues like whether to sell out to the big guys and how to impress a potential distributor enough to put Rodman’s beer onto an empty “local” tap, brings me to a great deal of confusion: Who is this show for?
With a storyline that hugs tightly onto a script that only sometimes — clumsily — explains, say, that Washington’s Yakima Valley matters to the beer world because it grows 70 percent of U.S. hops, the average beer drinker is going to miss a good bit of the laughs. Yet by making the beer snob a buffoon and the protagonist a slob who loves to play drinking games with customers, the show alienates almost any professional or connoisseur who expects a beer comedy to respectfully reflect their beer reality.
By removing potential viewers who take their beer seriously along with those who don’t care enough to know enough about craft beer’s language and cultural signaling to resonate with “Brews Brothers,” I don’t think you have anyone left, save a few craft drinkers who might spend a night mindlessly binge-watching the season and probably playing a drinking game or two.