Beer Wars – A Must See

Last night was the big premier of Anat Baron’s documentary Beer Wars and I wouldn’t have missed it for the world! I was pretty pumped after all of the hype, which came from beyond those in the beer business. For the past few weeks I’ve seen tweets, articles, news interviews and blogs promoting the film and I even saw an extended trailer at the local theater when I went to see I Love You Man (also recommended!) on Tuesday. Usually when there’s so much build up, I find myself disappointed. With Beer Wars, that simply wasn’t the case.

Beer Wars Movie Poster

This film was well done – it’s everything a documentary should be: informative, thought provoking and inspiring! I’m in the beer business, I know more than most consumers and I was still utterly oblivious to a lot of the issues that the movie touched on! It’s embarrassing to admit but I was blissfully unaware of the dirty games that the big brewers play. They’re bullies, they’re massive, and they’re playing to win. It’s beyond hard for the little guys (who are actually passionate about brewing great beer) to compete when the three-tiered system of brewers, distributors and retailers is failing to provide any kind of checks and balances.

The big 3 Macro-Brewers (Anheuser-Busch, Miller and Coors) control everyone from Senators to distributors to the everyday American drinkers. They can do it because they’re armed with huge marketing budgets, endless shelf space and ridiculous sales volume. Collectively these large brewers hold 95% of the US market share with the 1400+ independent breweries sharing the remaining 5%! If that’s not enough, they’re going after that small remaining piece of the pie that they don’t already have.

The giants consistently deceive the American consumers by selling “craft beer” style products that don’t mention their big names. For example, the Belgian White Ale Shock Top appears to be a craft beer. It looks like a craft beer; it’s got a cool logo, it claims to have fruit in it and it makes people who drink it feel trendy. Too bad it’s made by Anheuser-Busch and (in my opinion) tastes like crap! You’d be amazed at their line-up. A quick trip to the A-B website clues you in to just how many brands they own. In addition to the obvious Budweiser, Michelob, Busch, Natural Ice, and Bacardi lines they own Shock Top, Stone Mill, Beach Bum Blonde Ale, Jack’s Pumpkin Spice, Hop Hound Amber Wheat, Bass, Beck’s, Boddington’s, Hoegaarden, Leffe, Tiger Beer, Rolling Rock, Red Hook and more! See the full list here.

Also scattered throughout the film were tidbits referring to the prominence of beer in American history and culture, entertaining ad clips from every era (which I absolutely loved) and commentary from some of the heroes of the craft beer industry. Dogfish Head Brewery’s founder Sam Calagione stole the show (and my heart!) The movie gives an endearing glimpse into his brewery, its people, their passion and the struggles they face every single day.

After reading commentary all over Twitter, Facebook and the rest of Cyberspace this morning, I can ascertain that his female counterpart Rhonda Kallman (a founder of the Boston Beer Company/Sam Adams) was not as well received. Her product, a caffeinated beer called Moon Shot, seems to lack the passion and heart of the other craft beers featured in the film. In fact, I’m not sure I’d even refer to Moon Shot as a craft beer – it seems more like a niche product. The film didn’t say much about the actual beer, its taste or the quality, as the focus was on Rhonda’s drive to succeed and the endless obstacles in her way. While I wish her lots of luck with her company, I’m not sure her prominent place in the movie was a good fit.

Overall, the film made its point, made me think twice about what I’m drinking and reminded me to vote with my wallet. I’ve always been a big fan of supporting the little guy (especially when it comes to beer) and now I’m a big fan of spreading the word. To all of the craft brewers out there – keep on keeping on! It’s not an easy fight but it’s the good fight. We appreciate it! To the rest of you, stop settling for crap beer. If you don’t trust me, find a way to see this film!



  • Deron April 17, 2009 @ 3:34pm

    4 horns up, sister sledge. Great review! I’ll forward it off to all the peeps asking me about the movie and how it was.

  • Hannah April 17, 2009 @ 4:00pm

    Fantastic review, Lizard. I’m looking forward to catching it on DVD 🙂

  • Jen April 17, 2009 @ 6:03pm

    The director’s Michael Moore shtick fell flat, as did all the time spent on Kallman. So pretty much half the film was a dog.

  • Mary Rivers April 17, 2009 @ 11:09pm

    Looking forward to seeing this movie. Great review Liz! I tasted Moon Shot years ago. Didn’t taste super great but it beat a Bud any day. The caffeine kick sold me on it. Regardless I revisited their website and found my comment (from God only knows what year I posted it) under the “your words” section. Still can’t find it in Georgia! Go Craft beers go!

  • SirRon April 18, 2009 @ 11:06am

    That review was so over-the-top positive that it came off like propaganda from inside the Beer Wars camp. It’s hard to believe that someone in the beer business would be blissfully unaware of the evils of A-B and corrupt distribution system. But whatever, I too was excited about the event and enjoyed the movie… even if it did leave my wishing that was better. Cheers.

  • Liz April 20, 2009 @ 8:58am

    Deron, Hannah & Mary – Thank you! I just checked out Mary’s comment on the Moon Shot site and I must say- I like their style (and the copy). I’ll have to give it a shot (no pun intended) next time I’m in Boston, NYC or Pittsburgh!

    Jen & SirRon – your feedback is much appreciated and I’m glad you were able to catch the film! I’m an affirmative person by nature, so I can see how my review may have come off obnoxiously positive. Nevertheless, I assure you it’s not an inside job! Just the work of a young, idealistic writer who is new to the business and very much excited about the passion and consistently growing success of craft beer.

    Cheers indeed.

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