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Quick Movie Review: Beer Wars

What’s better on a dreary Saturday night than a double feature?  For us this past weekend, the movies we picked were Beer Wars and Angels and Demons.  So they aren’t exactly related, but our new Netflix for Wii thing is so cool, we’re really playing catch up.  Angels and Demons was actually much better than I was expecting – it didn’t touch the book version, but it still kept my attention for 2 hours and 26 minutes.  Beer Wars left me with a lot of questions.

Beer Wars was made by Anat Baron, a one-time beer industry insider (aka a 3 year stint with Mike’s Hard Lemonade).  This is really her movie – she wrote it, narrated it, starred in it, directed it, produced it…you get the idea.  I got the impression that she didn’t necessarily leave the beer biz on her own terms…and maybe this documentary was a way to get back at “the man.”  As much as I learned about the battle over beer dominance, and as endearing as I found many of the film’s interviewees to be, much of the documentary was distractingly self-indulgent for my taste.

I did, however, really appreciate following the expansion of Dogfish Head BrewerySam, the founder and president, is an everyman, and gives hope to all of the homebrewers out there who dream of one day, starting their own brewing business.  Then there was one-time right-hand-woman to Jim Koch of Boston Beer Company, Rhonda, who left the New England Brewery to start her own line of caffeinated beer.  While this idea doesn’t really appeal to me, her determination to succeed does.  Rhonda and Sam represented the smaller beer companies that the biggies – Anheuser Busch and Miller-Coors – were stomping out.  David meet Goliath.

One has lots to learn about the beer business from this film. Like how much work and influence goes into setting up a story display of beers, and how the three-tiered system setup after prohibition was repealled is still going strong (with the help of a huge lobbying presence in DC).

In the end, I would recommend seeing the film.  Though very biased, I found I came away with a whole new insight into how the beer business is moving and shaking.  Do be warned, Anat Baron will not grow on you – she’s annoying and unfortunately, because of this, I think the movie does not reach the full greatness it could be.

Have you seen Beer Wars?  What did you think?  Can you stand Anat Baron?  Are you a Bud lover or are you bananas for micro-brews?


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