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TV lacking froth, producer says

 Harvey Gold is pitching a craft brew TV show, 'Wash It Down.' A demo features Pittsburgh's Church Brew Works.
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Date published: 4/3/2012


Akron Beacon Journal (MCT)

AKON, Ohio

--Harvey Gold sees a significant food void on television.

Sure, there are plenty of wacky, offbeat shows. A guy eating bizarre food. Two guys eating fiery food.

And pastry chefs trying to create the ideal cupcake.

But Gold, a longtime television producer, and many others want to see a regular program starring arguably the most popular alcoholic beverage in the world: beer.

Despite its popularity--Americans down more than 20 gallons per person a year--beer has yet to break through as a star of its own series, instead being cast in a supporting role or being featured in specials. That's bound to change, producers and beer industry experts believe, because of the country's growing love affair with craft beer.

"America's greatest export as an industry is pop culture, and craft beer is starting to move into the popular culture," said Gold, an Akron-area resident.

His New York City-based production company Gold Teleproductions is developing a half-hour travel and educational program devoted to beer. He plans to pitch "Wash It Down," to cable networks. (He also runs yourbeernetwork.com).

Scott Martin Brooks, for the Budweiser "Whassup?" commercials, would host. In addition to focusing on beer and food, the show will explore history and stories behind breweries. Gold selected Church Brew Works, a brewery set inside a former Catholic church in Pittsburgh, for a pitch episode. He envisions each episode highlighting two breweries.

So why isn't there a program focusing on beer now?

Craft beer has seen phenomenal growth in sales and interest in recent years, but remains a sliver--5.68 percent--of the beer market.

The vast majority of U.S. beer drinkers are still sipping national brands such as Budweiser and Coors. Would they watch? Perhaps not.

The Discovery Channel show "Brew Masters" featuring Dogfish Head brewer Sam Calagione was a major disappointment after debuting in late 2010. It wasn't renewed after six episodes. Calagione couldn't be reached for comment.

"It was maybe too scripted and wasn't a beer show," said Lew Bryson, a beer writer and blogger from Pennsylvania whose own TV show "American Beer Blogger" recently was broadcast on the Bethlehem/Lehigh Valley PBS affiliate. "It was 'The Amazing Race' for beer."

That failure will make it more difficult for TV executives to greenlight another beer-focused program.

And it's not that beer is not on television at all.

"We've covered beer in a variety of ways through our programming, including being featured on 'Iron Chef America,' 'Chopped' and most recently on a special for Cooking Channel called 'Eat This, Drink That,'" said Bob Tuschman, general manager/senior vice president programming and production for the Food Network and Cooking Channel.

The only show that regularly features craft beer is "Drinking Made Easy," a program on HDNet network. The show highlights locally made beer, wine and liquor in various communities. But it's also part drinking game and about over-indulging. Its charm revolves around host Zane Lamprey and sidekick Steve McKenna.