Beer Wars – Be a Critic

Let us know what you thought

The long anticipated documentary about craft beer versus “big” beer showed last night in theaters around the country. OK folks – what did you think? Fire away.


  1. MickDuffs says

    I watched the movie in Spokane Washington. I thought it was an entertaining film but I was disappointed that the theater was almost empty. I only counted 17 people in the large theater. I hope other cities had a better turnout.


  2. pbutlert says

    4 of us drove 2 1/2 hours to Helena to watch it. It was a good movie, entertaining and informative. Not really sure about the Moonshot beer; I sort of agree with Todd Alstrom’s comment about that stuff. But a great evening out, we picked up another brewer in Helena and had beers before and during the show. Probably 12 people in the theatre, 9 of them brewers or brewery workers. Not well publicized to the general public, apparently.

  3. DeepSouth says

    We drove 100 miles to Fayetteville, Ga to see Beer Wars and, including the two of us, there were only 5 people there. Before the show, we went to the local homebrew supply store that is about a mile from the theatre and the owner was unaware of the event.

    Dogfish and Stone are proud examples of our craft. Moonshot is an example of marketing that appeals to the average stupid consumer. The educated beer advocate will identify the product for what it is; crummy malt beverage with buzz chemicals.

  4. GBKC says

    I think that we have needed a Beer Wars documentory like this to help shed light on what is really going on in the US beer industry. I wished that it had a broader perspective other than Sam and Gregg. Fritz Maytag and Anchor, the Grandfather of Craft Beer?, was not even mentioned. Dan Gordon? Odell? Schlaffly? Boulevard? St. Arnold?

    Ben Stein was a great moderator. He kept trying to lead questions to a specific answer…….get rid of the 3 tier system. We as creaft brewers will never collectively be a force unless the 3 tier system is an option, not law.

    For example: California, Washington, Oregon, …..Germany, Czech Republic.

    I hope the movement does not stop with Beer Wars…..Taxation without representation!


    James Hudec
    Gordon Biersch
    Kansas City

  5. Butcher Scott says

    Down here in San Antonio we had a turnout of between 80-100 for the showing we attended, including a “who’s who” of San Antonio craft beer.

    In addition to myself and other Freetail employees, the owner and brewer of Blue Star Brewing Co. (San Antonio’s only other brewpub – or brewery for that matter), San Antonio’s only Cicerone, a handful of reps from our craft distributors, the owner of the oldest homebrew shop in town, our local beer writer, and we even had Stan Hieronymus (Brew Like a Monk) in the house! Afterwards a nice afterparty formed at the brewpub.

    As for the movie itself, I thought it was a great look at the industry we operate in, even if I felt it only began to scratch the surface. I too had a hard time with some of the elements of the film, particularly Moonshot and what place it had, but overall it was a good time.

    Wish Charlie would have gotten some more questions in the Q&A as well.

  6. beerbros says

    Ben Stein lives in my very small city during the summers, and he has never once came to our brewpub to my knowledge. I wonder if he even drinks craft beers?

  7. brewkettle says

    I bought 30 tix and took about 10 staffers and 20 great customers. We were 30 of about 50 in the theatre in Strongsville, Ohio.

    Definitely geared for the industry. Some hard core enthusiasts appreciated it, but most seemd a bit bored.

  8. Tlangle1 says

    I thought the movie, in the end analysis, was a protest of the three tier distribution system and a call for reform. But, be careful what you ask for is my perspective. Prior to three tiered distribution, there were tied houses, which restricted competition for more than did three tiered distribution. Until I see or hear of a competitive business model that provides the same ability for local regulation of alcohol sales, then I say working to reform this one is the only workable solution.
    Picture a world of tied houses and Wal-Mart distribution centers being your market, then compare that to the current market and tell me which one seems to offer more opportunity.
    In the end, wholesalers are business people. They’ll follow the money, all you have to do is show it to them. But it’s unreasonable to think they can be [U]forced[U] to distribute every product that comes to their doors.
    That having been said, I live in a State that allows self-distribution which is a good model for smaller volume craft companies. But Rhonda’s example of a small marketing company that is missing the brewing piece of the sales story is what it is, an example. It worked for Sam’s, didn’t it. Don’t forget, for much of Sam’s history, it was a recipe brewed by the big dogs. Their foray into brewery asset ownership is very recent.
    As for Todd’s comments, unfortunately I think it makes him a hypocrite. Just because he doesn’t like it, doesn’t mean it’s not beer. Either advocate, or sit down.
    My theater in Westminster Colorado may have had 25 people in it. I guess marketing and distribution really do matter to the mass market.
    As for the comment about the “average stupid consumer”, well…that sound like a bit of beer snobbery to me.
    I never met a beer I didn’t like. I just like some a hell of a lot better than I like others.

  9. South County says

    I think as a whole it was a good film. About 65 people (2 brewers, the rest were beer fans, ages all over the map). For most of us it just restated what we already knew, I did learn a few minor things such as the ever increasing brand ownership of AB, every time I think I finally have the roster, AB buys up another. I feel that interviews at the end were interesting and that having the devils advocate there to argue counter points was interesting.
    One key point was that craft brewers view themselves as artisan passionate people that do it for the beer and comrodery and that is what kept them craft and not macro, while the Maureen Ogle argued that “you say that now, see me in ten years.” This is an argument I have with my father-in-law all the time is, where does it end, if the beer keeps selling without forcing it down peoples throats, when can I decide that the company is big enough. He chimes in with a business without growth is not a business, blah, blah, blah. I am long away if ever from that point but it is an interesting point to think about. In any event I think it would be a great film for people who are new to craft or aren’t really aware at all. It is a lot of politics and the biggest battle is the 3 tier IMO. As far as the “average stupid consumer” comment, I don’t think it is that far off, you can be an intelligent and still be a “stupid consumer” . The majority of people I meet every day don’t know who the vice president is much less that there are other brewers than AB-Inbev. Very few people think for themselves anymore and mass marketed “feel good” campaigns don’t help.

    As far as Rhonda and the “Moon Shot” brands…. Well for someone that helped “co-found and build” Sam Adams, she should have NO problem financially or from networking standpoint to launch her so-called beer. I don’t think we know the full story, maybe she got screwed by Sam Adams (Jim doesn’t want to be associated with her best I can tell), but staying in Hotels with loft ceilings and pool tables isn’t a great way to conserve precious funds. IMO caffeine and alcohol should not be mixed and Moonshot is advocating the same mass consumption mainstream bullsh*t that Millers “Sparks” and AB’s “B^E” does, look at here website. Moonshot is not the first as Rhonda states and comparing it to craft beer at all is an insult.

  10. mr.jay says

    Joseph Campbell once wrote, “The best things in life are left unspoken, the second best are misunderstood, then comes civilized conversation.”

    The movie was great (IMHO). I get the three tier thing, and I get the David and Goliath thing. That being said, I would like to play the devil’s advocate now.

    OK, the big three account for 95% of M.S.. We cannot come close to touching that. Let’s just forget about that for a moment and do a little self analysis. Mr. X opened a 10 Bbl brewpub 2 years ago. He doesn’t distribute, he doesn’t bottle, etc.. He has considered expanding, but realizes the expenses incurred, and the need for a larger staff. He has 2 children to support, and wants to provide the best life he can for them. He has a modest house, lives in a decent school district, and is comfortable making $40-50,000 a year. He settles for the norm.
    Mr. Y opened a brewpub back before it was “cool” to open a brewpub. He had very little competition a decade ago, and made very interesting beers. He did the legwork, and built brand recognition over the years. He also has 2 kids, and wants the best life for them. He wants his children to have job security in the future, and plans to pass the baton to them when the time is right. He decides to expand. He now has a 50 Bbl brewery. He is in 7 states, and has 22 employees. His beer is selling steady, and an opportunity arises to expand again. He now has a 100 Bbl brewery, he is in 17 states, and has 50 employees. He has 4 sales reps on the street, covering the whole grid.
    Mrs. Z has a slamming job at one of the nation’s largest craft breweries. She has a vision to create a mainstream beer, and add a stimulant to it. She also has 2 kids to support, and wants the best for her family. Even though she (seemed to) have a secure job with decent pay, she decides to venture out on her own (rather then contract her brand through the brewery she worked for… I’m trying to make sense out of what this fictitious character is doing by speculating, here). Her kids cry when she leaves for work all hours of the night. She must quickly rationalize her motives by convincing herself that this is not about her, but about them. Why else would you leave a secure position and put your mortgage on the line?

    My question is this: What was Mr. Y’s motivation for expanding his enterprise? What was Mrs. Z’s reason for venturing out on her own? Why was Mr. X content with his modest 10 Bbl brewery, while Mr. Y and Mrs. Z wanted more, if not for personal gain and growth?

    For a creature to sustain itself, it must find nourishment. The larger a creature grows, the greater it’s appetite will be. In the case of a brewery (or any business for that matter) nourishment is in the monetary form. The larger the brewery gets, the more money that must be sunk into it. Breweries can’t get discovered simply by “standing there and looking pretty.” They must advertise. Advertising is a necessary “evil” that is propagated by a need for awareness in a saturated marketplace, and is proportional to the size of inventory that must be moved. Let’s forget about AB-INBEV for a minute, and look at our 5% of the pie. Because of the type of product we sell, and the demographic that we are trying to reach, it is foolish to have a couple of stupid frogs recite the name of our beers on a 30 second t.v. spot. What is effective is a grassroots sort of effort like the one we saw last Thursday. The problem is, it can easily backfire. A guy like Sam C. is damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t. Think about it, if his kids become heirs to Dogfish (contingent on whether or not they even want it), and the company continues to grow, Dogfish becomes the enemy. If his kids go to Yale, and run it aggressively, Dogfish will “not be like it was when Sam ran things.” If he decides he doesn’t want his kids to have it, and sells it off (whether or not he goes public) he’s viewed as a jerk or a failure, or a sellout. So, in tandem with the underlying theme of the film, it seems contrary for a guy like Sam to continue growing at all.

    It’s unfortunate that Sam C. was put on the spot with questions about growth and motive, but that seems to be a huge proponent with our consumers. We can all high five each other, and wave our middle fingers at the big three till we are blue in the face, but what happens when one of “us” gains the same status as one of “them” for simply making great beer, and growing at a humble and steady pace? How does a person prevent themselves from getting kicked out of the circle jerk? Sam was praised for changing legislation when he began Dogfish in Delaware. I can see (50 years from now, when I’m dead from liver damage) people accusing a guy like him of all sorts of conspiracies when the beer platform changes to seemingly suit his growth, or he is seen talking with members of Congress. That’s because we all feel like our beers our great, and deserve equal attention by consumers. When somebody achieves excellence before we do, they are usually accused of having some some unfair advantage we lack. Many of the craft beers out there ARE great, and do “deserve” this attention, but it can’t happen without clever marketing. Charlie P. said it’s all about what’s in the glass, not on the label. While I agree with him, the movie itself was an illustration of how that isn’t 100% accurate. Some of the best beer I have had comes from Allagash, Ommegang and Southern Tier. Of course, that’s my opinion, but if it is truly about what’s in the glass, why did many smaller craft breweries not get mentioned. Ever been to Selin’s Grove? Talk about undersized and overskilled. Great beers coming out of Selin’s Grove. Just from omission alone, this film became one giant ad for Dogfish Head and Moonshot.

    The “faux micros” really have my steamed. Outside of that, I could give a crap with the big three do. I believe AB-INBEV is not what “dad” intended it to be today, but it is what it is, and as long as it is, it will keep the country on sensory overload with watered down ads and propaganda. As for the three tier system, I say knock it down. I’m all for free markets and minimal (if any at all) government intervention. As for what we do: it works for now. Of course, admittedly, nobody is even CLOSE to rising to the blistering heights of the “king” of beers, and as a wise man once said, “ethics and morality are always the adopted rhetoric of the underdog.”

  11. MidwestBrew says

    I thought the movie was great, and I had an amazing time. I saw it at Block E, in downtown Minneapolis. I was surprised that so few people showed up to watch it. To my knowledge I was the only one in attendance that works in the brewing industry, and it seemed that the rest of the lot were hipsters. Can’t wait till it comes out on DVD!

  12. homebrewnorcal says

    Hey every one I’m a AG homebrewer from Chico, ca (home of butte creek & sierra nevada). I was wondering if you all would be willing to help me with a business to business marketing project. We my team is doing an Industry Analysis on the US brewing industry. Anyway I’m looking for some help with the growth tends within the industry. Do you guys have any helpful references or juicy facts I can quote you on? Feel free to e-mail me so the forum doesn’t get clouded up. [email]…so[/email] far I’m using brewers association and this website. My only problem is most everything I find is on the craft brewing market. Haha oh and to add some relevancy to my post I’m making my team watch beerwars for homework. I appreciate any help or advice you can give me. Thank you for your time 😀