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.
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!
[techtags:BEER WARS, BEER WARS MOVIE, BEER WARS REVIEW, BEER WARS MOVIE REVIEW]