Friends brewing Web documentaries out of shared interest in local beers

  • Article by: COURTNEY KUEPPERS , Eau Claire Leader-Telegram/MCT
  • Updated: July 26, 2014 - 7:16 PM

A group of friends who all love beer. It’s not far-fetched, especially in Wisconsin. However, some local friends have taken their love for ales and lagers and turned it into something more than a night out.

They call themselves Taproom Travelers. The group of six travels across Wisconsin and into Minnesota to breweries, camera equipment in tow, and makes short documentaries.

So far, the travelers have completed their first season, or first “six pack” as they like to call it. The first of the roughly 10 minute videos premiered last week at the place it features: Lazy Monk Brewing.

“We are interested in the craft beer movement, and every brewery has a different story and approach to beer making,” said Troy LaBair, producer and director. “No two are same. It’s a fun way to go to places and get together and drink on the weekends.”

The team came together through the broadcast productions department at Menards, where most of them currently or formerly worked, with the exception of LaBair’s wife, Stephanie.

“We assembled our dream team,” Jake Hrudka, videographer, said.

After the premiere of the Lazy Monk film on July 24, the group plans to release a new webisode every month until the series picks up steam. Thus far, the team said breweries have been receptive to them coming in and filming.

Once they arrive at the brewery, after all piling into one car, the travelers interview the brewmaster, bartender and patrons. They try to get the full story about the brewery, from how the beer is made to reasoning behind the building’s decor, Hrudka said.

“There are a ton of great breweries in this area that deserve showcasing,” Troy LaBair said. “They make insanely good beer and they deserve their time in the spotlight. Western Wisconsin is going through such a boom and hopefully we can expand to more of the Midwest.”

The crew consists of Hrudka, Troy LaBair, Stephanie LaBair, Alex Drogseth, Andy Hoffman and Landon Cerny. They all bring something different to the table, Hrudka said.

Hrudka is the video guy, always trying to think of creative shots. Troy LaBair is the beer expert, so he usually conducts the interviews with the brewmasters. Stephanie LaBair specializes in design and created the team’s website, logo and shirts. Drogseth is the crew’s perfectionist and equipment guru, Hoffman is the team’s writing expert, and Cerny is the jack-of-all trades for the group.

After wrapping up their shoot the team edits the videos and creates a roundtable discussion on what they thought about the brewery and the experience.

For the travelers, the brewery tours are more than just something fun thing to do on the weekends, they have lofty goals for their work.

“It has increased our knowledge for beer and good beer, and the more we shoot and edit videos it also increases our love for that,” Hrudka said.

“We want to get as many people there (tonight) as possible,” Troy LaBair said. “Hopefully they enjoy it and tell their friends. Hopefully it has a demand for more episodes. Maybe someday when we call a brewery they will already know about us.”

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