Beer Wars is a documentary from 2009 about the craft beer industry, and it is worth a viewing if you’ve never seen it. Actually so much has changed in the craft beer world since it was filmed (the film says there were around 1400 breweries operating in American in 2009, and today that number is over 2000) that it is also worth re-watching if you haven’t seen it since 2010 when it first landed on Netflix. Over the next couple of weeks at Beer of Tomorrow we will be discussing some of the issues that the craft beer community and industry faces, and Beer Wars is a good primer on these topics.
A criticism of the documentary is that it tried to do too much; it really feels like 3 separate documentaries about beer that got smushed into a single movie. The film dedicates far too much screen-time to former Boston Beer Co Exec Rhonda Kallman’s attempt to launch a brand of Caffeinated beer called Moon Shot ’69., and the story is both awkward and distracts from the main messages of the film. This story’s inclusion in the doc makes sense on paper, and Beer Wars frames her struggles as a David vs Goliath tale. In reality Rhonda’s beer is all about marketing and flash and not at all about the love of the craft of brewing, and so it doesn’t really fit in with Sam Calagione’s and Jim Koch’s passion for their art.
Even with the somewhat distracting inclusion of the woes of Moon Shot ’69 (which was just recently smacked-down by the government as part of the Four Loko ban) Beer Wars is fun, entertaining, and makes some great points about the struggles of craft beer in America and the methods that the giant brewers will use to hurt the sales of craft beer. The film is available to stream on Netflix, Hulu, and the entire film is also available on YouTube and on-demand or download!
Have you seen Beer Wars? What did you think of the doc?