beerwars_poster_smallRally the troops!

Haven’t you heard?¬† There’s a war on - a battle for the very soul of the American beer drinker.¬† The creative entrepreneurs in the craft beer industry are fighting the corporate behemoths of beer, the huge companies that sell about 95% of the beer in the country.¬† Not only that, but the distribution system for US beer is stacked hugely in favor of the big beermakers, creating a huge barrier small brewers have to overcome to even get their beer on store shelves.¬†

If you want to see a modern day David versus Goliath story, you need look no further than the American beer world.

Anat Baron’s Beer Wars, coming to theaters nationwide April 16th, tells the story of this ongoing¬†battle.¬† For one night only, the movie will be shown at 440 theaters nationwide (including one¬†here in Maine in Brunswick).¬† After the showing, Ben Stein - yes, that¬†Ben Stein -¬†will lead a live discussion with America‚Äôs leading independent brewers and experts, simulcast to the theaters.

If the trailer and buzz for the film are any indication, Baron has put together an awesome documentary in Beer Wars. The struggle of craft brewers is shown mostly through the eyes of Sam Calagione (of Dogfish Head) and Rhonda Kallman (of Boston Beer Company), though other interview subjects range from the CEOs at Miller and Coors to brewery founders, store owners, and lobbyists.

This movie hits on a trend in public sentiment, as people realize the importance of supporting local and independent businesses in a community.  As Anat put it herself when asked why people should care about the movie and the struggles of small breweries;

If you want to decide what beers you can drink, you should care. If you believe in consumer choice, you should care. If you believe in free enterprise, you should care.

And you should care!¬† Love your local, support independents, and shop indie (beer)!¬† I know I’ll be at the theater on April 16th when this movie premieres, and I hope you are too.¬† Spread the word about the documentary, “Stumble” it, and become a fan on Twitter, MySpace, and Facebook.

If it isn’t playing near you, I suggest you pick up a six-pack from your local brewery, grab a good book on the subject at your favorite independent bookstore, and support the cause from home.

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3 Responses to “‘Beer Wars’ to Premiere Nationwide in April”

  1. Ann Kingman says:

    Josh, this sounds great. I realize that I need to do more research on my beer. For instance, I am currently in Vermont, and for the last two nights have ordered Otter Creek Ale, which the menu said was from VT. But I never did think about whether it was indeed an indie beer. I assumed that it was (and I just checked, and I’m in the clear!). Are there many instances of beers that appear to be ‘local’ but are actually part of large corporate entities?

  2. jjchristie says:

    There aren’t a ton that immediately come to mind - Anheuser-Busch has a stake in Widmer Bros. / Red Hook and Leinenkugel is owned by SABMiller, but that’s all I can think of off the top of my head. The big brewers also make some beer under indie-sounding aliases, trying to get a piece of the craft brewing pie - for example, Coors brews the Blue Moon witbier, but the packages say “Blue Moon Brewing Company.” Miller brews beer under the “Plank Road Brewery” label.

    One way to be safe if you’re buying bottles is to check the package and see if it was brewed under contract by a large brewery. Of course, going to a brewpub or a restaurant with a great beer selection (and a knowledgeable staff) is a great way to be safe!

  3. ericnewcomer says:

    I always check the bottle to see where it was brewed. This seems to be about the only legal requirement that’s consistent across states.

    AB/InBev has definitely meddled in the market, as has Miller, from what I’ve read in the beer newspapers (Ale Street News for example).

    Now it seems they are trying to join in the game. Craft beer sales were up 6% last year while mass produced beer sales were essentially flat. So you see the big companies starting to produce “craft” beer. AB/InBev has also started a Web site and PR campaign to promote beer in general, although the “educational” content seems pretty carefully controlled to avoid going too far afield of what they are producing.

    One big irony is that AB/InBev has started distributing “Budvar” under the name “Chechvar” in the US. This being the original Budweiser (from the town of Budweis in the Chech Republic).

    I actually even tend to stay away from Sam Adams since it’s mostly contract-brewed. Although maybe that’s not fair anymore since they have purchased some breweries in Cincinnati and maybe New York? When they started it was all brewed at Iron City, and that certainly at least proved the big guys could produce a good beer if they wanted to.

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