Support craft brewing and organic beer? Then don’t pick up that Wild Hop Lager, even if its label boasts an organic seal and claims the beer’s made by Green Valley Brewing, which sounds like a local, eco-thinking microbrewery in Fairfield, Calif.
Those tactics are revealed in Beer Wars, a documentary that covers the fight between independent brewers and the big corporate players. Made by Anat Baron, former general manager of Mike’s Hard Lemonade who happens to be allergic to alcohol, Beer Wars reveals just how big the big players are for those who don’t give their favorite brew a second thought: 1 of every 2 beers sold in the U.S. are from Anheuser-Busch, and of the remaining 50 percent of the market, Miller takes 18 percent, Coors, 11 percent. Since Miller and Coors have now joined forces and Anhauser-Busch was sold to InBev, the corporations have gotten even bigger.
The remaining 22 percent is where all the indie beer brewers come in. And Beer Wars shows their plight in a rather sentimental light. We see craft brewers wax lyrical about how they care more about the beer than about profit, and a new beer entrepreneur parts tearfully with her child because she has to work around the clock to make her product succeed.
Those instances can seem rather maudlin and too rosy a picture of indie brewers — and doesn’t put enough responsibility on the beer drinkers who mostly seem content to drink whatever’s advertised during the Super Bowl. But Beer Wars makes its strongest argument when it shows how the big corporations quash fair competition. These corporations often have exclusive deals with beer distributors — which means indie brewers can have a hard time even getting their beer into stores. The corporations often decide the layout of grocery store shelf space, which means customers may not even notice the ill-placed indie beers.
The corporations even take on Monsanto-esque tactics, suing Dogfish Head Craft Brewery in Delaware with the charge that the company’s names for its beers — like “Punkin Ale” (sic) — are “too generic” and shouldn’t be used. Of course the corporations are also making imitation craft beer and organic ales — offering lower-quality beers at lower prices — to edge out the new players.
Image courtesy of beerwarsmovie.com