A couple of weeks ago I saw the documentary “Beer Wars” in which filmmaker Anat Baron explained and depicted the struggle between the big three brewing companies — Anheuser-Busch, Miller and Coors — and the craft beer movement. The movie definitely came down on the side of the small craft brewers fighting to grow in the face of the big brewers’ resources and tactics. The film showcases the problems facing small brewers but it’s not just a story of beer. The stifling presence of big business, which cares primarily about maintaining or growing its position in the market and not necessarily about quality, was the backdrop for the film. It raises questions about just how many opportunities there are for the small business owners or entrepreneurs that politicians and society in general claim to value so highly. My only real criticism might be the lack of a larger picture in the case of Moonshot’s eventual attempt to sell to one of the big brewers. How many of these craft beers are swallowed up by the larger breweries? At what size does this typically happen?
As a proponent of small local breweries and the craft beer they make, the movie struck and emotional cord for me. After seeing the movie I didn’t think there would be too much objection to it from individuals; I expected that there might be questions raised from the larger breweries, especially Anheuser-Busch. The most encouraging fact however, is that dialogue seems to be going on at an individualized level.
This week BeerUnion began following Anat Baron’s “beer wars” Twitter page. There was a veritable frenzy of discussion between Anat Baron and people who had seen the movie. I was astonished that there was a significant number of comments from people who were negative about the film. Many seemed to be from those in need of clarification and I was impressed to find that these people actually received careful attentive responses without excessive defensiveness from Anat Baron’s personal beer wars Twitter account (there is a movie account as well). One exchange in particular struck me on Tuesday as emblematic of the positive aspects of such a film. Idris_Arslanian tweeted back and forth with Anat Baron and while they may not have agreed, they did flesh out some interesting points from the film concerning the depiction of Anheuser-Busch.