It is no secret that men are not the only people who love to drink beer. It is also no secret that they aren’t the only ones brewing it either. Meg Gill is a woman, and she loves beer. She is also a swimmer, a Yale graduate, and one of the youngest female brewery owners in the country. Pretty cool, right? Her new show Beerland aired this past April on Viceland, and it is one of the most intriguing, bold shows flying under the radar on television. Beerland is a series centered around Meg’s quest to uncover the best homebrewers in the country. If she likes their product, the brewers are entered into a contest to compete against other brewers from different regions of the United States. The winner gets their beer produced and distributed by her brewery in Los Angeles. Throughout her journey she encounters talented people with some of the most amazing backstories to explain what got them into homebrewing, and what inspires their creativity. These stories are riveting, but what is even more awesome is the way Meg is establishing herself and other underrepresented brewers in a predominantly white male industry.
Each episode of Beerland starts out with a brief introduction about Meg to get a sense of who she is, and why she cares so deeply about her craft. Afterward, Meg introduces her top contenders in each of the regions she visits. You are then transported to a different world — a beer world full of niche new-age art clubs, middle-of-nowhere bonfire parties, and makeshift apartment brewing kits. We get to know a bit about what makes these peoples’ beer special, what different flavor profiles they use, and ultimately, how it fares under Meg’s expert taste test. To break up her visits and travel shot monotony, the show also provides educational tidbits on how beer is made, and what makes a beer taste bitter or sweet, unfiltered or clear.
Beerland gives you a chance to nerd out about beer and immerse yourself in the culture of homebrewing. Yet, the most interesting thing about this show is that it is not just about beer. It is also about Meg’s identity as a woman, and the way she navigates the beer world dealing with underlying sexism that persists within it. This is what makes her work so important and interesting. Meg does not outrightly talk about how her experience as a woman has impacted her career in the beer industry. However, it is impossible not to notice the important role that gender dynamics play on screen. And while the craft beer home brewing community is becoming less homogenous, many of the home brewers that Meg finds are white men. Her interactions with most of these brewers are respectful, fun, and interesting. In the Santa Cruz mountains she uncovers two dedicated young men who are passionate about organic flavored beer, and open to constructive criticism. But, there are sexist assholes in every crowd. In one episode, a cowboy home brewer is skeptical of Meg’s criticism of his pilsner. He then sees that Meg is drinking her beer faster than him, and tells her that he is embarrassed. A woman should not be drinking more than a man. She nonchalantly calls out his insecurity and says, “Come on! You can let a girl drive, and you can let a girl outdrink you.” Moments like these and others throughout the season are so important to capture because they show very real problems women face on a daily basis. More importantly, it shows a woman standing up for herself, and railing against misogyny on a public platform. In a world still dominated by the patriarchy, it is extremely important to depict driven, successful women blazing the trail in male-dominated industries. Meg Gill sets an example. She shows women that they too can have success in business—it’s not just for men.
“Beerland gives you a chance to nerd out about beer and immerse yourself in the culture of homebrewing. Yet, the most interesting thing about this show is that it is not just about beer. It is also about Meg’s identity as a woman, and the way she navigates the beer world dealing with underlying sexism that persists within it.”
Meg Gill does more than push back against sexist cowboys, she also sheds light on the diverse homebrewing community. In Colorado she meets a homebrewer that is using flavors from her Mexican heritage to put her own unique spin on craft beer. At Berkeley, she happens upon a queer women’s homebrewing club that holds weekly competitions for the best tasting product. Finally, in New York, Meg finds a self-proclaimed anarchist that uses free growing strains of yeast to make beer in his tiny back yard. This is a show that challenges the idea of the conventional beer maker, and redefines it. It is a show that recognizes difference, a show that is unapologetic about its representation, and a show that I hope continues to air on television. Of course, there are things that could be improved upon. We would love to see more women and people of color represented in the competition. However, with the right guidance and proper care, this show could blossom into the progressive beer nerd program that us snowflakes so desperately need.
You can watch season 1 of Beerland now on Viceland or on the Viceland app. Give it a watch and let us know what you think in the comments below. What are some of things you found interesting about this show? Do you agree with us?