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DVD Review: Beer Wars

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I received a copy of the new documentary Beer Wars, released this week. I found it to be both interesting and annoying.

The story is about the big brewers versus small ones and how hard it is in the current system to launch a small brand. It was interesting to learn how both shelf space and distribution are controlled by major brands, how they'll release "category killer" products just to knock out the competition from upstarts, and how much money is spent lobbying congress.

The big flaw with the film in my opinion is that director/writer/producer Anat Baron chose to focus on two upstart brands to follow as they faced challenges. One was DogFish Head Craft Brewery from Delaware- what you'd think of as a small brewer you'd want to succeed. The other is New Century Brewing Co, who are releasing a caffeinated beer. It's hard to feel bad for this brand's founder as she faces challenges and tries to sell out to the bigger companies when they run out of money.

There is also a theme about the American Dream running through the film as the small guys try to compete, countered by Nazi-sounding war marching music when they'd show footage of the large brands. Tacky.

Director Baron doesn't seem to care about the difference between craft products that consumers may want to succeed and small entrepreneurs trying to make a fast buck, but then again she was once the General Manager of Mike's Hard Lemonade, which she calls a beer.

So yes, this DVD has many interesting facts about the beer industry in America and I think is definitely worth watching. I just found it hard in the end to sympathize with Baron about the big bad beer brands when I didn't care if half the featured small ones failed.  

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