Beer Wars (or How Not to Get All Sideways on Ladder 49)




Beer Wars is coming. 


For those of you that are not painfully distracted by all things beer, this is a new documentary about the brewing industry.  It premieres on April 16th (that day and that day only) to only 440 theaters.  Unless, of course, the distribution gods smile on Beer Wars….


This is interesting in many ways.  The one night showing is novel and makes the event feel like a huge beer-centric event.  Perhaps this is normal for what has to be the difficult road it getting a documentary out before the public, but it does create a buzz.  (Pun unintended.)


The funny thing is that is a movie that no one has seen, but it is already started a bit of controversy.  As a side note, craft brewers have a chip on their shoulder with a back note of a Napoleon complex.    This is well earned because wrestling market share and distribution away from the macros is herculean.   They are a tight-knit group that fosters a lot of sharing and support for each other.  Perhaps, in a absurd way, they should be thankful to the macros for their community created by oppression.


The director and writer for Beer Wars is Anat Baron, and she was, for a time, the general manager of Mike’s Hard Lemonade.  She offers up in interviews that she knows a lot about the craft brew industry by having her products sit on the same shelf as the micros.  I’m having a hard time comfortably swallowing that, but not as much as more vocal members of the beer world.  But it is some sort of perspective.  It is a start.


The rockstars for the film are Sam Calagione from Dogfish Head and Ronda Kallman for New Century Brewing. (No, I’ve never heard of NCB, either)  Sam is the poet laureate of beer, despite often sounding like a defensive lineman in a post game interview.  Ronda started out with Jim Koch, of Sam Adams fame, but split off to start her own company.  Charlie Papazian, the grandfather of homebrewing, and Greg Koch of Stone Brewing seem to have nice moments, too.


The running theme throughout the film is the big guy vs. the little guy, and we should take that for what it is.  If you feel like this will be a defining moment in the world of craft beer, prepare to be disappointed.  It is supposed to be moving and controversial, but I don’t think Anat is trying to make the Ladder 49 of brewing.  Chill out.


I hope there will be balance and there will be moments that will surprise everyone who doesn’t know a lot about the industry:


Blue Moon from Coors



I hope there will be some nice human and business growing moments as well.


Greg from Stone Brewing: 



Am I going to see this?  Yeah, at some point.  I’m looking forward to it.  But let’s just say I’m not fired up enough to drive an hour and a half to Richmond to a theater that is showing this on a Thursday night.  I want it to be good, but I really don’t have a dog in this hunt.


Sometimes we just have to let go and understand that beer brewing, and the industry, is great fodder stories and bigger metaphors.  I’m sure one day we will get our own Sideways, but perhaps we should just be happy to be the muse for now. 




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