I entered the theater tonight hoping to see an attack on The Man during the groundbreaking mega-event, Beer Wars: Brewed in America. What did I learn? 1. It turns out I did not need to get out to the theater early, 2. The film was centered on a non-brewer trying to market a light beer with caffeine, and most importantly 3. Marketing *is* everything.
I'll avoid hitting the obvious gripes in detail (film shown as a live event only, film shown in big theaters only... hello, The Man!, film hardly touched on small brewers, film was a pricey $15, Ben Stein was kind of ill-mannered and ignorant of craft brewing). Not that these gripes are not without merit, I just think they will start to seem repetitive. In fact, after the movie I dropped by the Beer Wars official website and noticed that filmmaker Anat Baron had made a preemptive strike on these common gripes before this event even happened. hrrrmmmm...
This is a movie that needed to be made. Someone needed to champion the small guys in the brewing business and expose the gangster-like distributors (if I hear "3 tier system" one more time though!) and the evil Anheuser Busch. Seriously, I do not want to ever drink an A-B related beverage again. If The Man had a Man, A-B would be The Man's Man.
I hereby announce TheFerm's boycott of the following products:
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Budweiser, Bud Light, Budweiser Select, Budweiser American Ale, Bud Dry, Bud Ice, Bud Ice Light, Budweiser Brewmaster's Private Reserve, Bud Light Lime, Budweiser & Clamato Chelada, Bud Light & Clamato Chelada, Bud Extra, Michelob, Michelob Light, Michelob Honey Lager, Michelob AmberBock, Michelob Golden Draft, Michelob Golden Draft Light, Michelob Bavarian Wheat, Michelob Porter, Michelob Pale Ale, Michelob Dunkel Weisse, Michelob Ultra, Michelob Ultra Amber, Michelob Ultra Lime Cactus, Michelob Ultra Pomegranate Raspberry, Michelob Ultra Tuscan Orange Grapefruit, Busch, Busch Light, Busch Ice, Rolling Rock, Rolling Rock Green Light, Rock Light, Natural Light, Natural Ice, Bud Extra, Bare Knuckle Stout, Anheuser World Lager, ZiegenBock, Ascent 54, Redbridge, Landshark Lager, Shock Top, Skipjack Amber Lager, Wild Blue, Sun Dog, Beach Bum Blonde Ale, Jack's Pumpkin Spice Ale, Winter's Bourbon Cask Ale, O'Doul's, O'Doul's Amber, Busch NA, Budweiser NA, Budweiser NA Green Apple, 180 Blue, 180 Sport Drink, 180 Energy, 180 Red, 180 Blue Low Calorie, 180 Sugar Free, Stone Mill Pale Ale, Wild Hop Lager, Bacardi SilverPeels, Tequiza, Tilt, Jekyll & Hyde, Bluecoat Vodka, Cape North, Hammer and Sickle Vodka, Ku Soju, Margarittaville Tequila, Purus Organic Wheat Vodka, Vermont Spirits, Hurricane malt liquor, Hurricane Ice, King Cobra, Red Hook Brewing, Widmer Bros Brewing, Goose Island Beer Co., Kona Brewing Company, Ray Hill American Pilsner, Starr Hill Brewing, Fordham Brewing, Dominion Brewing, Harbin Lager, Tiger Beer, Kirin, Bass Ale, Boddingtons, Beck's, Hoegaarden, Leffe, Stella Artois, Löwenbräu, Tennent's Ale, Budvar Czechvar, Borba Skin Balance Water, Monster Energy, Lost Energy, Rumba Energy, Icelandic Glacial Spring Water
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That was painful.
So as a beer lover, homebrewer, small brewery investor, and beer blogger, who do I want as the champion of my cause? No freakin' brainer. A Canadian ex-corporate-type, TV filmmaker, and previous General Manager for Mike's Hard Lemonade... of course. Who were *you* thinking? Our filmmaker also happens to be allergic to alcohol. Great.
Beer Wars may be Anat Baron's first documentary film, but that shouldn't be cause for concern. Ms. Baron has a lot of passion, and the film did a very good job of exposing her passion... that passion being Michael Moore films. In fact, the film played out EXACTLY like every Michael Moore film, even down to the inflections during her voice-over commentary... weird. Ms. Baron anchored the film around another female character just like herself... you know, another non-brewer pushing a gimmicky alcoholic beverage (not exactly a craft brewer or a craft beer). The movie let us in on the struggles of poor Rhonda Kallman, who we got to see leave her husband and crying children at home while she went out to bars with glow sticks and flirted with men at bars while pimping her light beer with an energy boost (recently reformulated to have 69 mgs of caffeine... haha... get it immature male light beer drinkers? 69! here have two of these glowy things... oh man, the kids are gonna *love* this!).
Craft beer? More like Crap beer!
I should mention that Sam Calagione also got some serious face time in the movie. Not only did Sam give the film some actual craft brewing street cred, he also doubles as eye candy for all the ladies in the audience. Sam is a serious talent and is a great (even if controversial in the brewing circle) ambassador for the craft beer movement in the United States. He also happens to be in the out clause of my marriage agreement, along with Rob Thomas and that chotchy guy from Maroon 5, as people my wife could leave me for without my protest. TwoPints probably gushed about him in her post, so he'll only get a small paragraph here. Don't feel bad for me about the out clause thing... I'm allowed to leave her for the smell of fresh corn tortillas bathing in hot oil, melted cheese, or bacon.
Does it kind of feel like I'm getting off topic? Yeah, the movie felt like that too. Where was I? Yes, the struggling "little guy" theme. The sympathy for the lady failing with her caffeinated light beer was just a setup for Ms. Baron's hackneyed Michael Moore-like hob-nobbing with "The Man" and semi-guerrilla-style interviews. My favorite, and when I say favorite I mean Satan will have a new face in my nightmares, was David Rehr, president of the National Beer Wholesalers Association. He came off looking so bad in this film I'm sure he is waking up wishing that he had been selected for a Sasha Baron Cohen movie instead of an Anat Baron movie.
A central theme in the film and live event that followed was the struggle of marketing vs product quality. This struggle is certainly not unique to the beer brewing business. Ms. Baron's movie ironically suffered from the same problem. There were no more than 20 people in the Cinemark with me, all of whom showed up within 5 minutes of the start time (uh oh). However, this was plenty of time to see Ms. Baron botch a simple thank you when her cue card man fell asleep, call him out on camera, and then compare herself to President Obama (nice one). This all hardly qualifies the showing as an "event." Maybe Ms. Baron underestimated the fanaticism of the craft beer drinkers in America. Maybe she should have asked herself WWMMD? (What Would Michael Moore Do?)
How do you get people to see a preachy documentary about a niche topic? You take it to the streets. You go to local Universities, screen it, and have a panel discussion after each showing. After you have created enough buzz, then you release the film to theaters. Take it from someone who has seen a lot of Michael Moore films. Take it from someone who has gone out to see a live Michael Moore screening. Take it from someone who disagrees with about 90% of everything Michael Moore says.
Overall, I think Beer Wars is an important film. Will I buy the DVD? Probably. Despite its flaws, it is a semi-compelling film that tells a story (albeit in a limited fashion) that needs to be told. The film itself will get people talking. I think Michael Moore would toast a Mike's Hard Lemonade to that.
Have a picture of that represents why you love the craft beer? Send it to sirron at theferm dot org