I realize that this isn’t the sort of topic I usually cover on this blog, so if you couldn’t care less about my thoughts on a movie about the American craft brewing industry which hasn't even come out yet, just skip over this and I’ll be returning with homebrew content shortly.
Beer Wars is a movie about the “fight” of the small independent craft brewer against the evil macros breweries. It is a one night only event (although I'm sure there will be a DVD) on April 16th followed by a live discussion panel that will be beamed to the 400+ theaters nationwide showing the movie.
First off it bothers me to see a bunch of people who run pretty big businesses (Sam Adams, Stone, and Dogfish Head) drumming up anti-corporate sentiments about larger corporations (Bud, Miller, Coors) that they compete against. Could you imagine a movie with great wine makers taking shots at Thunderbird, or great cheese makers making fun of Kraft? I understand that marketing is important, but I think there are better ways to go about it.
Watching the trailer a chuckled a little when I heard Sam (the owner of Dogfish Head) rail against the use of adjuncts in macro lagers. This is a man who uses so much refined sugar (or as he calls it white malt) in his beers that you might guess that he staffed the brewery with oompa loompas.
After seeing the trailer I simply didn’t have much interest in going to see the movie. As a five-year veteran of the craft beer scene I just assumed the movie would end up preaching to the choir (how many non-beer nerds will go to this?) and retread things I had already heard (beer is more than just American light lagers, the macros are trying to maintain their market dominance through marketing, beer store/distributor shenanigans, and lobbying etc...).
What really prompted this post was an email I received Saturday from Chandra Karp who is “working with” New Century Brewing Company to promote the movie. The basic idea I guess is to convince me (and other bloggers) to publish their press release in exchange for a pass to the movie. I found this odd as I had never heard of the brewery, and the other people featured are all big names in the industry (Greg from Stone, Sam from Boston Beer, Author/Historian Maureen Ogle, Todd from Beer Advocate etc…).
It turns out that New Century is based in Boston, but contract brewed by Lion in Wilkes Barre PA (nothing wrong with contract brewing per se, Sly Fox brews some fantastic beers for Southampton). New Century makes two beers, Edison, is a 4% ABV light lager sold in clear bottles and Moonshot ‘69 a caffeine infused golden lager (which has a 1.44 score on Beer Advocate). Are these really great examples of “creative and passionate” craft beer? I have nothing against a light/crisp lager on a hot summer day or a rich caffeinated coffee stout on a cold winter night, but a light beer in a (skunk prone) clear bottle and a pils with 69 mg of pure caffeine added? Come on.
Why the CEO of a small, boring, contract brewery is featured in this movie and following discussion panel is beyond me. These are exactly the sorts of marketing driven beers that I expect from Bud/Miller/Coors, not the flavor driven beers from the great craft brewers of this country (Lost Abbey, Russian River, Surly, Firestone Walker, Tröegs etc…). Here is what the press release has to say about her “Well-recognized as a female pioneer in a male-dominated industry. But it was Kallman’s energy and tenacity however, that caught the attention and inspiration of Baron.” If they just wanted to get another woman passionate about beer on the panel how about Tonya Cornett from Bend Brewing (which recently won small brewpub of the year).
The film maker’s main cred (according to the press release) is from being the general manager of Mike’s Hard Lemonade. I wonder if Sam Adam’s ownership of (and recent settlement with the TTB over) Twisted Tea will come up?
And don’t even get me started on trying to figure out why Ben Stein was chosen to be the moderator for the 30 minute discussion panel after the movie. I loved Win Ben Stein’s Money as much as anyone (and his classic delivery of "Bueller... Bueller"), but in his current roll as a spokesman for creationism I have a hard time believing much he says.
Sorry for the rant, if anyone goes to see Beer Wars on Thursday let me know what you think of it.
To take a look at my impressions once I finally actually watched the movie, take a look at my review.