Beer Wars (2009)

This blog covers little more than my reviews of beer and my reviews of movies. This is a documentary about beer, so it brings both of those things together. Next, I have to find a beer made in honor of a movie. Actually, I have already done one of those, now that I think about it. It was in the early days of the blog, so I should probably revisit it. After all, it was a good beer.

At one point, the woman making this movie runs a little taste test in a bar that is fundamentally flawed, but I get her point - that the three big light beers are all pretty much the same, and I can't argue much against that. However, my own experience drinking beer has shown me that different context and different ways of drinking (sip vs gulp) will alter a character pretty significantly. Giving people three beers to try side by side in plastic cups that they sip is not a way to differentiate beer. That said, all three of the light beers - Bud, Miller, and Coors - pretty much suck as beers go.

This documentary, as with all documentaries, has a point that the directors/editors are trying to get across, and it is vehemently anti-big brewers. It goes so far as to chide Anheuser-Busch for showing up at craft brewing trade shows and producing beers that "copy" true small brewer beers. One person comes out and says that small brewers need to watch out, as A-B will find out what you're doing that is unique and crush you by doing the same thing in a scale that you can't match. A-B is, as far as I can tell, trying to sell more beer. If they start making good beer, isn't that good for everyone?

Admittedly, when they talked about A-B buying Rolling Rock, a company in my home state in a place that I have visited many times, I got the cold feeling of abandonment that the company would have sold to the big beast, but I think that the disgust should be pointed at the people who sold instead of the people who bought.

The argument that small, craft brewers will be put out of business because of large brewers is made from both directions in this movie. They say that their beer is WAY better than the big guys could ever make, and they are also complaining that people won't buy the craft brew because it costs more than the Bud next to it. So, it's the identical and completely different.

Then, they make the mixed argument that you (the small brewer) can only get your beer to a store if you can score one of the big three's distributors. And that is just too hard, dammit! Oh, and it's actually more of a two distributor system - those that distribute A-B and those that distribute everything else. There is a lot of directed rage at Anheuser-Busch, but the arguments are entirely emotional instead of logical. The movie is too self-contradictory to glean any actual, defensible facts from.

At one point, they complain about basic business practices. What? That guy plunked all of his own money in the company and is hoping it will succeed? That doesn't have to be beer - that can be anything. Open a dry cleaning place, and you have the same issues. Big businesses are bullying and buying elected officials for their benefit? Welcome to the corrupt nature of our goddamn government. The big three are just playing the game as it has been set up by the politicians who benefit from it in every way. Again, it sucks, but this isn't only a problem with the craft beer industry.

The camerawork was terrible (even for a documentary)
Direction was okay
Story was not compelling - it was too muddled
The voiceover was pretty good.

1.75/5


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