99 Bottles Documentary explores the history and culture of the renaissance of the microbrewing industry in Southeastern Wisconsin. The breweries and brewpubs showcased are as far west as the Sand Creek Brewing Company in Black River Falls to as far east as Sprecher Brewery Company in Glendale with many more in between. The documentary takes the viewer through the humble beginnings, current successes and forecasted growth of one of Wisconsin’s worst kept secrets: beer.
Producers Glen Popple and David Oplinger, in partnership with director Jason Williams, set out to explore what it takes to make great beer in their own backyard. Otto Dilba of Ale Asylum in Madison commented, “It was a great excuse to have a beer and reminisce about the origins of Ale Asylum, and was the most legal fun we have had with our pants on.” Over the course of their travels, one common theme has emerged: ‘free beer’ is not free. With the single-minded purpose of a master chef, the men and women that bring you pint after refreshing pint strive to survive toughening competition, worldwide resource shortages, and an ever-growing public demand for excellence in their product.
In addition to researching the rich pallet of breweries, the filmmakers ambushed average people and beer aficionados alike. From Comet Café’s “Beer School” to the Milwaukee Public Museum’s “Food and Froth” fundraiser, they polled the public inquiring: “What one question would you ask a brewmaster if given the opportunity?” With centuries-old brewing traditions of European families that settled the Midwest, it seemed only fitting that the trials and successes of their descendents should be explored. The rigors of this emerging market, the time-honored traditions that they uphold and the daily regiment of sweat equity necessary to meet the bottom line make for a fascinating expose of one of Wisconsin’s worst kept secrets: Beer.