Beer Wars: When Corporate Conglomerates and Microbreweries Go Head to Head


photo: Dominion 3

We're in a beer renaissance in this country. And, according to Anat Baron, it's a welcomed change from the tasteless watered down beer for which we've come to settle. Microbrews are on the rise and more and more people are choosing to taste richness in their beer. Organic breweries are even getting a share of the marketplace. But, though your taste buds may crave an Organic Nut Brown Ale or a Dogfish Punkin' Ale, the big guys are fighting tooth and nail to keep their share of the marketplace. In the recently released documentary Beer Wars, sent over from Dominion 3, Anat Baron invites us into the lives of small time brewers battling corporations for just a small piece of the pie. In Beer Wars, Anat Baron, former general manager of Mike's Hard Lemonade, reveals the unseen barriers of entry that microbreweries in this country must overcome just to get their artisan beers on the shelves of your local retailers. Beer Wars makes you feel like a spectator sitting on the sideline and cheering on the underdog. The film follows several talented brewmeisters with a palpable love for their creations as they take on the big three brewers and fight for a tiny piece of the beer market pie.

The movie tells the tale of country's beer industry. Until a few decades ago, most small brewers were shut out of the beer business by the massive operations of Coors, Anheuser-Busch, and Miller. A small contingent of beer lovers became tired of drinking light beer that had been trucked in from who knows where, so they started making their own. Some of those home brewers, realizing that they had a knack for producing rich tasteful creations, started their own microbreweries, including Sam Calagione, owner of Dogfish Head Craft Brewery.

The Microbrew Road Blocks
Most of us would rather sip the good stuff than guzzle the grist. We like to know what we're drinking and where it came from. But, according to Anat, the big three will stop at nothing to put these microbreweries out of business. But it's not just about getting their beer on the shelves. It's about getting it in a place where people might see it. According to Anat, Anheuser-Busch has a monopoly over the category managers (those that place and arrange the beer sections of grocery and convenience stores) and the wholesalers who deliver beer in the first place.

The movie really gives you a sense about how the beer industry works, their well-funded lobby in Washington, and the struggle that microbrews go through to even survive. The bottom line--speak with your dollars. Listen to your palette not heavy advertising budgets. With a little diversity in your beer diet, you might find that your favorites include some local microbreweries that work hard to produce a worthy product, even if it is a few more dollars per six pack. Not to mention the fact that microbreweries closer to home have a smaller impact on the planet.

More on Beer:
There's a Serious Sustainable Beer Culture in Appalachia
How to Go Green: Beers
8 College-Town Breweries Producing Great, Green Beer

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