Netflix’s Brews Brothers is raunchy, ridiculous, and right up the alley of folks who’d love to go out and have some beers right now, but given our current situation, are wise enough to stay home and live vicariously. The set-up is exceedingly simple. The show hails from brothers Greg Schaffer (That ’70s Show) and Jeff Schaffer (The League), and it’s loosely based upon their relationship. Alan Aisenberg steps up as the Greg-like character, Wilhelm, and Mike Castle picks up the Jeff-like character, Adam. They’re estranged, warring beer snobs — each insufferable in their own way — who are attempting to resurrect a struggling LA brewery. As one can imagine, the two very much step on each other’s nerves in the process but must learn to work together. In that way, it’s a very predictable show, but it’s surprisingly charming in the process.
Honestly, I could stop right there because that’s enough to sell the show to people who are predisposed to refreshingly breezy comedy that’s absolutely soaked in pee jokes, but that would be too easy. There’s an audience for that kind of series, no doubt, but there’s also added value here. The show manages to surreptitiously delve into human relations and emerge with a fair amount of insight without getting preachy in the process.
It’s a strangely endearing show, but oh my god, there’s so much pee. I should probably reflect a little bit on why Brews Brothers brings more than lewd and bawdy jokes to the table, and it’s useful to say that the sweetness isn’t forced. A lot of the jokes are disgusting and verge on going overboard. Buckets full of bodily functions go down in public. There’s a straight-up masturbation obsession (although it’s a claimed non-obsession), a character referred to as the “Picasso of Dildos,” and something called “Taking A Growler” that prompts an extended gag that won’t quit. Chances are decent that you’re not fully prepared for the shenanigans that go down in these eight episodes.
Well, I take that back. If you’ve been mainlining late 1970s comedy movies during these self-isolating times, you won’t be shocked by what transpires. Brews Brothers reminds me, in some ways, of films like National Lampoon’s Animal House, but there’s a key difference: a lack of sexism and homophobia. It’s remarkable, really, how this Netflix show manages to gleefully dive into raunchy waters without coming off as racist or sexist (given that a lot of that ’70s-’80s comedy did not age well), but somehow, the show pulls off that feat. And the real kicker is that the show doesn’t even exude a politically correct aura — it simply crafts its jokes about other subjects.
Mainly, the humor revolves around the Rodman brothers as caricatures of personalities. The other characters, as banal as their actions might be (including a sexed-up couple of food-truck operators who don’t do sanitation practices), bounce off the brothers and reflect the Rodmans’ faults. As a result, the stakes of truly offending people are relatively low here — making this a stress-free comedy — and every party on this show knows how to hold their own. That includes the right-hand woman of the brewery’s operations, Sarah. She’s portrayed by Carmen Flood in an admiringly punchy way.
As far as the brothers go, Mike Castle is appropriately slimy as Greg, who’s gone through the conventionally accepted schooling that one can expect from someone making a career as a braumeister. Castle’s so convincing that he might actually struggle to shake this role off in the future, whereas Aisenberg’s return to comedy feels refreshing. Folks will remember him (even with a beard) as Orange Is The New Black‘s naive CO, Baxter Bailey, whose fate became hopelessly intertwined with the tragic outcome for Poussey. That was a tough arc for viewers to stomach, but this is where Aisenberg can cast away the Bailey vibes. He’s having a blast, and so will viewers.
Is the show authentic about inner-brewery workings? Well, it was crafted with on-set experts around every day during production. Whether or not that aspect succeeds, I’ll leave the judgment up to the true cicerones out there. What I can say is that I appreciate beer but didn’t have to feel silly about a lack of in-depth beer knowledge under my belt. Further, the show’s vulgar and heartwarming while also knowing its place. It never pretends to be serious, which is a welcome approach at any time but especially these days. There’s already too much stress in this world, so why add to it, right?
If you want to watch some booze-loving monks (who doesn’t?) and a story where a key obstacle is how to recreate an IPA that a distributor loved without knowing that someone peed in it (why not?), then you’re probably gonna dig Brews Brothers.
Netflix’s ‘Brews Brothers’ beings streaming on April 10.