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A Chat With ‘Brews Brothers’ Star Alan Aisenberg About Comfort-Comedy In Tough Times And The Art Of Beer

Netflix’s Brews Brothers is a ridiculously funny comedy series that does not hold back on the raunch factor. The show’s vulgar as hell and heartwarming as hell and offers a hefty helping of frivolity. Furthermore, it’s as breezy as a shandy and goes down as smoothly as a Guinness while focusing on two estranged brothers, Wilhelm and Adam Rodman (Alan Aisenberg and Mike Castle), who must work together to resurrect a struggling brewery. Unfortunately for them (and fortunately for the audience), getting along with each other proves to be as tough as the task at hand.

The show, which hails from brothers Greg Schaffer (That ’70s Show) and Jeff Schaffer (The League), comes by its tough brotherly love honestly. Wilhelm and Adam stand at opposite ends of the beer-making and personality spectrums, but they’re both braumeisters in their own way. Aisenberg — who people will remember as Orange Is The New Black‘s naive CO Bailey, whose fate became hopelessly intertwined with the tragic outcome of Poussey — was gracious enough to talk with us about how much he enjoyed returning to comedy. We also chatted about beer, of course, and how Brews Brothers gets crazier than people will expect.

Lots of folks are Netflixing their way through quarantine. Beyond that, how are you spending your days?

I am at home in my New York apartment, alone. Lots of reading and writing, and the Peloton bike is keeping me sane. If not for that, I think I’d be going very crazy.

It’s strange to remember that Peleton was considered controversial, months ago.

I know, and I bought it right before that, and all my friends were making fun of me for, you know, being one of those people, and now, they all look at me with envy and send me texts full of apologies for all of the ridicule they sent my way.

I watched Brews Brothers while sweating it out at home, and honestly, I needed this comedy. Do you find yourself gravitating towards any particular TV shows right now?

Yeah, I’m kind-of going through some comfort-series, so I rewatched Oh Hello On Broadway, Nick Kroll and John Mulaney’s show, which is on Netflix. I saw that three times when it was on Broadway, and that just brings me joy, and I started watching that over the weekend. The Office, and then some other stuff on Netflix that I love, like Tim Robinson’s I Think You Should Leave, which I think is a perfect sketch show, and Astronomy Club on Netflix. I’m just trying to surround myself with silly, fun things.

If you had to recommend this show based on people liking another show, what comparison would you make?

If you like Curb Your Enthusiasm and The League, you will love Brews Brothers. If you like laughing, I think you will like our show.

You guys shot the series last year, so it’s right on schedule.

Last summer, yeah. Between June and September of 2019, which now feels a different world ago, in downtown LA in the middle of summer.

Folks know you best from your tragic Orange is The New Black character, but you have otherwise gravitated more toward lighthearted roles. Was it refreshing to get back to those parts?

It was really nice. I loved my time on Orange. I came onto that show to play a funny character and really got to do that for like a year and a half, and it was the longest I’d spent on one job and got really comfortable with those people and that material. Then to really do my first dramatic work ever there, while very difficult, I felt at home. So, I could try things, and it was the perfect place to learn how to do that. But at the end of the day, I was still going to work and having to sob all day and to go to really dark places. So with something like Brews Brothers, I knew that I was going to show up to work and was still going to cry pretty much every day, but because I was laughing so hard, not because my character had done something really, really tragic. So it was really refreshing to wake up in the morning and know that I’m gonna have a very crazy 14 hours ahead of me, but they’re going to be filled with giggles and hard laughs and just positive thoughts.

Do you think people are prepared for the level of raunchy insanity? Like monks with “garbage accents” and the “Picasso of dildos.”

No, I don’t think people are ready for how crazy this show gets. As Greg [Schaffer] pitched out this season to us, and we started reading these scripts, we saw that this show never truly lets up. At any point when you think that our characters are comfortable with the situation and have gotten control of how things are going, Greg and the writers have found a way to push it, ten times further than you think. Once they settle again, they push it again, and the show keeps getting wilder and wilder and wilder. Even when I tell people about certain plotlines, they think I’m joking. Like, “How did they let you do that in a TV show?” And now that people are watching the show, they’re so excited to realize that we did do some crazy things.


The show’s spicy but brings some sweetness, too.

Yeah, totally. The show is about brotherhood and heart. The show is loosely taken from our creator, Greg Schaffer and his brother, Jeff, who directed almost half the episodes and was there pretty much every day. A lot of stuff was based upon things that were in their relationship. I’m playing the Greg-like character, and Mike [Castle] is playing the Jeff-like character. And they love each other. I worked with these guys every day for a summer. They truly do have an incredible amount of love and respect for each other, and the characters in the show have the same thing. They fight, but they’re brothers, and they do eventually find a way to love each other, even with their differences.

You actually can no longer drink beer after you were diagnosed with Celiac Disease last year, right?

That’s true.

Do you miss it? Are you having cravings?

I do, it was kinda weird, during the first month when we were shooting. I found out that I couldn’t drink beer on a Monday and got the show on a Wednesday, and then Friday, I was flying to LA to shoot it. It happened very fast, and then during the first month, I really craved it because I was in a brewery. We shot this on location, at a real, formally-functioning brewery. And I was surrounded by, like, the best beer and a lot of beer snobs. And I couldn’t enjoy any of it, but in the second month, I finally let the craving go, and now, really in the last month, being stuck in my apartment and watching the show, I’m like, “Oh, I could go for a very heavy, double IPA right now.” I can’t have it, but I’m glad that I can at least watch people pretend to drink it while living vicariously through these characters.

Have you at least picked up any alternative vices?

Working out? No, I’ve become a fan of the Old Fashioned — whiskey, which is very different than a beer. That, or tequila, but I don’t think anybody’s gonna make a show about guys who make tequila anytime soon.

Which brother would you rather have a drink with?

Oh, I’d rather have a beer with Wilhelm. I think after spending so much time pretending to be sick of Alan’s antics, I think I actually am sick of Adam’s antics? Like, oh man, that is an annoying character, which I think is what makes it so worthwhile when we see him start to open up towards the end of our first season, and we see that he’s got a heart and is lovable. But no, Adam in the first couple of episodes, I don’t wanna be anywhere near him.

Your character’s name, Wilhelm, is that historical?

Yeahhhh. His name’s Will, and he renamed himself Wilhelm, which is after the guy who started the beer purity law in German.

The Duke of Bavaria, I think?

Yes, he’s someone who loves the history of beer, and he loves the passion, and so any way he can honor it, and changing his name to something that is pronounced “Vil-helm” in English is pretty annoying, and he found a way to do it.

There’s a debate in this series about whether beer should be in cans and bottles. Where do you stand?

There’s nothing more satisfying than a bottle. It’s like how seltzer comes in cans. Seltzer does not come in glass bottles, really. I think beer is an art form, and people who make art should have it present in way that is, you know, at a higher level. I’m Team Bottles.

Can I challenge you to name the four magical ingredients of beer?

Oh my god. I knew it when we were shooting the show. Let’s see, hops, water… barley… and… I’m embarrassing myself that I don’t know this! This is not good for my street cred.

Yeast and malts. Full disclosure: I totally looked this up before speaking with you.

Yes, yeast and malts! I’m gonna get so much hate mail for that, but here’s the thing: our show is written about really true beer aficionados, we had experts on set every day, who live and drink beer. And while my memory’s a little bit foggy because we shot awhile ago, and I haven’t been able to drink beer, the show is very authentic. We’ve shown it to folks from big beer companies, and they’ve been very open about the authentic experience in our show, in terms of what is represented in how breweries function. So don’t take my current ignorance for an indicator of what our show’s like.

Do you have any particular hopes for where a second season might go?

Oh yeah, this is my dream job. It’s a place where you are treated as a partner and that your voice is heard and to work on material that is really funny and carefree and just loose. Like this is the job that I wanna do for the rest of my life, but also, our first season has a very cool ending, and it’s very open-ended ending, and I think it’d be devastating as someone who is a fan of the show to not see where these characters go. Hopefully, people will watch our eight episodes, and by the end, they’ll feel the same. When they see where the season ends, they’ll wanna know where these guys are going.

Netflix’s ‘Brews Brothers’ streams on April 10.