April 12, 2011

Beer Wars --- Movie Review

By Rick

I tore my right Achilles tendon playing tennis with my 16 year-old son, so I'm "laid up" for a while. God bless good family, friends, books, laptops and Netflix!

I was surfing for interesting documentaries and found BEER WARS- a 2009 film (~90 minutes) RE: the plight of microbreweries "going up against" the "Big 3" of Anheuser- Busch, Miller and Coors. As you can probably guess: it's a "David vs. Goliath" story! (And an interesting one at that!)

Writer/ Director/ Producer Anat Baron definitely has a definite point of reference: she helped introduce MIKE'S HARD LEMONADE to the market. She knows how tough it is to compete with "the good ol' boys"! I appreciated her narrative wit and humor throughout the documentary.

BEER WARS gives a brief history of the plight of American breweries throughout the ages and how we've arrived at the current "monopoly of Goliaths". She then introduces "the Davids": the microbreweries that have succeeded in battle! (I'm very happy they represent some of my favorite brews: Yuengling/ Dick Yuengling, Sam Adams/ Jim Koch, and Dogfish Head/ Sam Calagione.)

Obviously- these 3 breweries are the current "success stories". (In fact- Yuengling and Boston Brewing are no longer considered "micro" breweries due to their increased production.) Therefore- Dogfish Head's Sam Calagione steps forward as the "hero"/ "spokesperson" for his - and other- microbreweries' battle to be represented in the Beer Wars against the Big 3!

Another "heroine" emerges too: Rhonda Kallman, founder of New Century Brewing. Ms. Kallman honed her expertise w/ Jim Koch/ Sam Adams before breaking off on her own. (NOTE: Her flagship brew, Moonshot '69, has recently come under fire because of its caffeine content. Yet another battle in the Beer Wars!)

The documentary also points out some interesting marketing strategies employed by the Big 3 vs. the microbreweries. Whether it's a simple as "product placement' in stores or as legalistic as suing over naming rights of new brews- skirmishes continue. The "Catch 22" of the "Three Tier Delivery System" creates yet another hurdle for the "Davids" to get their products on the shelves along with the "Goliaths". (But hey- what war movie doesn't have multiple conflicts?!)

There's not really a resolution to these battles- at least not at the end of this film. That's for us- the viewers- to decide. (The film does conclude with some updates/ additional changes in the seemingly ever- changing Beer Wars.) We microbrew enthusiasts know (or at least hope) that although there will always be "Goliaths"- we will always root for the "Davids"!


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