The documentary Beer Wars: Brewed In America is an insider’s look at the brewing industry. Directed by Anat Baron, and featuring interviews with some of the biggest names in the business, Beer Wars takes viewers on a journey from the world of home-brewing all the way to the halls of Congress.
The documentary focuses on the small, craft brewing industry (which currently makes up only 5% of the whole market) and how these brewers are trying their hardest to get their own piece of the pie.
The film focuses primarily on Dogfish Head Craft Brewery founder Sam Calagione, whose off-beat ideas and passion for brewing make him the star of the film, and Rhonda Kallman, founder and CEO of New Century Brewing Company. Kallman, one of the original founders of the Boston Beer Company, shows us as viewers the sad side of business as she attempts to get any kind of footing for her young company in the extremely competitive beer arena.
The film also features a detailed history of the brewing industry in the U.S., makes us question the governmental system that has led to some of the giant beer conglomerates and, according to the website, “…ultimately reveals the truth behind the label of your favorite beer.”
I recently had a chance to talk to Anat Baron about her film, her thoughts on the industry and the chances of a DVD coming out in the near future.
TFL: First off, how about a quick summary of the film and what you hope viewers will get out of it.
Anat: Beer Wars begins as the corporate behemoths are being challenged by small, independent brewers who are shunning the status quo and creating innovative new beers. The story is told through 2 of these entrepreneurs – Sam and Rhonda – battling the might and tactics of Corporate America. We witness their struggle to achieve their American Dream in an industry dominated by powerful corporations unwilling to cede an inch.
This contemporary David and Goliath story is ultimately about keeping your integrity-and your family’s home-in the face of temptation. Beer Wars is a revealing and entertaining journey that provides unexpected and surprising turns and promises to change the world’s opinion on those infamous ninety-nine bottles of beer on the wall.
I really hope that people are inspired. But I also hope that they’re riled up. Yes, we all know about Corporate America’s dominance, but maybe this film will make people think about what they’re buying next time they’re at the store. Consumers have the power. We can’t forget that.
TFL: What was is like to spend so much time with Sam Calagione? Is he always as wacky as he seemed in the movie? He was a real character and one of the biggest stars of the film.
Anat: Sam has always been a class act. He is exactly as he appears in the film (it is a documentary) — full of life, smart and kind. He was lovely to my crew, generous with his time and always spoke his mind. I think he’s a rare find among craft brewers in that he is not afraid to speak the truth even though it may hurt him. I do feel that the craft brewers are caught between wanting to discuss the issues in public but fearful of the ramifications to their business. How do you criticize the three tier system when you need distributors to get to market?
TFL: How did the idea for this film come about?
Anat: I made Beer Wars because I thought it was timely and reflects America today. I focused on beer because it was an industry I understood, but the story was not widely known. It was rooted in personal experience. But, I also wanted to look at the broader context of consumer choice since it’s something that affects everyone.
TFL: How long did you work on Beer Wars before it was completed?
Anat: The film took 3 years to complete, September 2005 to October 2008.
TFL: Have you always been interested in the beer industry?
Anat: Not really, I’m allergic to alcohol. My interest came from running Mike’s Hard Lemonade. That put me smack in the middle of the beer business from 2001 until 2004. I’ve always loved underdog stories. Working at Mike’s, seeing how small we were compared to the giants, that was exciting, how we stayed in the game.
TFL: What are your thoughts on the rise of the craft brewing industry?
Anat: I think it’s great, but we can’t forget that despite the growth, they make up 5% of the market. So, the question is how to get bigger? How to level the playing field, just a little to be able to have access to market and to consumers?
TFL: What did you learn from this experience, business wise and from a consumer standpoint?
Anat: I learned that I care about the plight of the entrepreneur. I want to see these people succeed. America is supposed to be about opportunity. Maybe I’m being idealistic but I think that we don’t have to be afraid of challenging these corporate behemoths. In order to get through the tough times ahead, America will need to harness the entrepreneurial spirit. I agree with the President, it’s innovation that will bring the economy back. And, we’ve seen too many examples where Corporate America has lost its way or gotten in the way. We should remove the roadblocks and allow free enterprise to flourish.
TFL: Are there any plans for a DVD and or more viewings of the film?
Anat: I’m working on a DVD release as well as additional screenings in select markets. I’ve been approached by independent theaters who want to show the film on an expanded basis. Some even want to show the film and the panel as a two hour screening.
For more information about Beer Wars visit www.beerwarsmovie.com.
30 year old freelance writer and The Father Life‘s resident beer columnist and sports editor. He also writes about fine beverages for drinkingmadeeasy.com and Chilled Magazine. On top of that, he writes about college and professional lacrosse for insidelacrosse.com. He’s also written for Genesee Valley Parenting Magazine, the Democrat and Chronicle Newspaper and ESPN.com. “Osburn on Tap” appears monthly in THE FATHER LIFE. For questions, comments, or if you have a story idea for Chris, throw him an email email@example.com. Also, follow him on twitter http://www.twitter.com/chrisosburn