Thursday, May 16, 2013

"Lance's Brewery Tour" Get's a Second Chance on Kickstarter

Lance is getting a second chance.

Aaron and Lance Rice answer questions about
their upcoming film at Great Lakes Brewing
(Photo from "Lances Brewery Tour")
Lance Rice has an unusual gift.  He pick out one can among the thousands he's collected in the past forty years and chances are, he can tell you exact date he found the can and everything about the day he found it.  Mention a brewery, and it's a good bet Lance can recite its entire history.  Give Lance a beer, and after a few sips, he can tell you what ingredients were used in the beer, and how it was brewed, despite  never took any Beer Judging or Cicerone exams. 

Lance has autism.

Aaron Rice, Lance's nephew embarked on a Kickstarter campaign to create a film about Lance's talents and give him the opportunity to visit the breweries he has long talked about.   Aaron calls his yet to be produced film "Lance's Brewery Tour".  In his first attempt with Kickstarter, Aaron attempted to raise an audacious sum of $130,000 but fell well short of this goal.  Never the less, his  project got the attention of news outlets as diversion as MAXIM Magazine, The Cleveland Plain Dealer, USA Today,  and Disney's  Several breweries including Miller Coors, Pabst, Yuengling, Great Lakes Brewing Co, Rogue, Pittsburgh Brewing Co, New Holland, New Belgium, Spoetzl Brewery (Shiner), Schlafly, Boston Beer Company (Sam Adams) invited Lance to visit their breweries.

Maybe "Lance's Brewery Tour" resonated with so many people is because it viewed Lance's autism something to be celebrated rather than pitied.  It's something I've come to terms with raising my autistic son Brandon.  At first, autism seemed like some demon to be exorcised from my son's brain.  While helping Brandon overcome his mental deficits is rewarding, over time I learned loving my son meant loving autism.

Make no mistake, Lance's autism isn't a blessing.  Simply talking to someone else is a challenge for Lance.  He's battled many phobias in his life.  Loud, bustling places like breweries make him extremely uncomfortable.  Autism is thought to disrupt the brains ability to manage sensory information.  Thus, quiet rooms with a few people chatting away are transformed into a chaotic, crowded places full of loud noises and strobe lights in the mind of the autistic.   Lance may find a certain structure and order by focusing focusing on the endless variations within the world of beer to reach a comfort level he rarely finds elsewhere.

Perhaps the most extraordinary development in this film is that Lance is beginning to open up to world that's become more accepting of him.  As Aaron Rice describes on the project's website, "Lance has autism and has always struggled with social anxiety. When Lance's Brewery Tour began people started calling Lance an inspiration, a hero and a genius and something miraculous happened - for the first time in 55 years Lance opened up to world! It's amazing what can happen when we choose to see people for their beauty and not their limitations."

Encouraged by the initial response, Aaron relaunched a new Kickstarter effort for his film with the more modest goal of raising $15,000 for the film.   If all goes well, Lance will start visiting the breweries that were mere abstractions in his mind this June 15th.    I've pledged my support for Lance's Brewery Tour and hope you'll agree that Lance's story needs to be told and support this project too.

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