Friday, April 17, 2009


I got the opportunity to check out Anat Baron's documentary last night on the Beer industry titled, "Beer Wars." If you hadn't already heard about it, it was a one night only screening across America, that was followed up with a live panel discussion of the movie. Some of the panelists included Sam Caglione (Owner of Dogfish Head), Greg Koch (Owner of Stone), and Charlie Papazian (Homebrewer extraordinaire). The panel was also moderated by Ben Stein.

Anat did a great job of covering Big and Small beer, but it definitely was slanted in favor of the micro/craft brewer. All in all it was a craft beer lovefest, which was definitely cool. They discussed the dominance of A-B, as well as the three tier system in place in the US (Brewer, Distributor, and Retail) and how AB makes crappy beer, but convinces you to purchase it through slick marketing as well as some questionable business practices (lobbying, dominance of distribution, etc.).

The documentary focused on two main story lines. The first was the Dogfish or Sam Caglione story. Describing DFH's early roots and their rise in popularity. I thought Ben Stein did a great job of quizzing Sam on whether or not his goals are exactly the same as AB. I think Sam came off well, in that he tried to express that he was somewhat indifferent to the rate at which DFH grows, and that he is more interested in continuing to push the status quo of what beer is and of course focus on the beer being brewed rather than fanciful marketing campaigns. It was clear that while successfully growing micros need to be quite business savvy in order to stay in business, they don't necessarily intend to become backhanded sly business men either. It was cool to see the on screen camaraderie that Greg and Sam genuinely share. In contrast, I can't imagine the CEO's of AB, Coors, and Miller being good friends. But it all comes down to purpose. I mean DFH or Stone are small brewers who truly seem to have a passion for making great beer and running a business is second. The CEO's of AB, Coors, and Miller are supposed to be savvy business men first, and if they weren't then the would get ousted by their Board of Directors or shareholders. In summary that's just capitalism, baby.

The second story line involved Rhonda Kallman. She was original business partners with Jim Koch (founder of Boston Brewing Co.) and I suppose at some point she decided to leave in order to start doing her own thing. First, it was hard to imagine why someone who had so much success at an influential craft brewer like BBC would want to leave. But to each their own. She currently is promoting a new beer that she has developed herself (she is not a brewer, but more into beer advertising) called Moonshot. Moonshot is a light lager that includes caffeine. While I have to imagine from a marketing perspective it would seem that there would be a market for such a product, the beer itself didn't smack of quality, but rather, a marketing gimmick. During the panel discussion, Todd Alstrom from BeerAdvocate plainly stated that he thought that Moonshot was a crappy marketing gimmick and was in general bad for beer, which was awesomely awkward considering that he was seated very close to her during the live panel discussion.

When this thing hits the DVD market, you should pick it up or Netflix it. I was completely worth the two hours.


1 comment:

Mark said...

Hello Eric,

I also enjoyed Beer Wars. Apparently the beer blogs are a fire with commentary both good and bad with supporting and descenting opinions on the effectiveness of the film. Personally, I feel anyone being too critical of the film has obviously missed the point.

This was a film about the simple David vs. Goliath struggle between the monolithic commercial beer industry and the diverse and passionate craft brew industry. Whether or not Anat paid enough lip service to cover "both sides" of the story is besides the point. It was a pro craft brew film, which I feel acheived its purpose. Personally, I am proud for having paid to see it.

Also, if you are interested, Greg Koch of Stone Brewery put together a video for his keynote address at the Craft Brewers Conference in Boston this year. He has since posted it online due at the behest of the other master brewers who attended. Apparently, there is a rumor going around that all the master brewers are going to pitch-in and purchase commercial time during the next superbowl to show the film. How spectacular would that be.

Here is the link: