Mar
5
20

An Appeal to America’s Independent Brewers

From the Filmmaker behind Beer Wars

As a response to my CALL TO ACTION asking folks to spread the word about the recent availability of Beer Wars, I received this reply from Daniel Curran from Devil’s Canyon Brewing Company:

$400,000 / 1,600 craft breweries in the US = $250 per brewery. My brewery will send you $500 because we know Beer Wars had contributed to at least that much in additional revenue. In return – I want to be able to give a copy to every single person that I meet. At every summer event, at every brewers festival, at every bar and restaurant our beers are on tap. Who is in? How do we organize it?

Just so I am clear – why WOULDN’T each and every craft brewery in the US donate? Yes money is tight for all of us – but $250 / $300 is very reasonable. Breweries could raise that from their fan base in no time. Hell, we could finance your next film. The key in my opinion is the ability to get a copy in everyone’s hands I meet.

Wow! This was completely unexpected. And it got me thinking. Other than a few breweries like Stone, The Bruery, and 21st Amendment who have supported the film by buying DVDs and hosting screenings, where are the other breweries? Why am I not hearing from them?

You see, from where I sit, the film has been met by apathy from many of you. Which I must say surprises me because this is the first feature film about the American beer industry, focused mostly on craft brewers. I’ve heard that most of you feel that the movie is not really about you.

But here’s the thing. This film is all about you. Viewers are calling it Food, Inc. for beer. And the movie has put craft beer right smack in people’s living rooms and computers through the magic of digital distribution. It’s available in over 80 million households! But it’s lacking one key ingredient – AWARENESS. And that’s where you can help.

I may not be a craft brewer, but like you, I’m an entrepreneur. And I too recognize the challenges and the power of distribution. I’m on the shelf but I can’t get awareness from mainstream media because I took on some of their big advertisers. Oops. So I’m asking you to support a film that speaks to the very core of the American entrepreneurial spirit and promotes consumer choice.

Here are just a few of the thousands of emails, posts and tweets I’ve been receiving:

I just watched the Beer Wars film and it was brilliant…a true celebration of the men and women who are soooo passionate about what the love! Thank you so much for sharing their passion with us!” – Earl Smith

Thank you so much for getting this information out there. When it comes to beer I typically just drink Guinness, but this film will definitely help me make choices about products I want to associate with. After watching Fast Food Nation years back I have never stepped foot in McDonald’s etc. since!!” – Carmela B.

I was a majority Miller Lite drinker with a Shiner, or Sam Adams on occasion. I am now a full time independent brewery backer 100%. It may cost more, but I think it is worth it for the flavor and to support the smaller business.” – Robert Wilson

I wanted to let you know that I’ve now heard on my very boring corporate elevator ride your film being talked about. While as a homebrewer I had seen it quite some time ago via DVD, my coworkers folks had come across it on Netflix just the other day and I believe been “converted” you could say.” – Charles Bakofsky

Thank you for putting the time and effort into making a film that portrays the little guy as the bigger guy. For promoting these little breweries who have passion for their craft, passion for beer. I am only sorry that you’re allergic and cannot experience the explosion of aromas and flavors that craft beer has to offer.” – Hugh Crunk

The Bottom Line

This movie is out there. Right now. Included with other more mainstream films. Except that I don’t have the marketing dollars that Hollywood studios use to promote their films. So I need to do what you do, go the grassroots route. Imagine how many people we could reach together? And then envision how many people could be reached through the power of social media? What if you put up a banner on your web site or included the release as a news item in your newsletter? And talked it up?

I’m not asking you to donate money. I’m not a charity. But I am asking you to help spread the word. Over 100 cable and satellite operators, including Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Cablevision, Dish Network and DirectTV are showing Beer Wars on their video on demand channels, right next to Hollywood films. And iTunes and Amazon VOD are offering it for download. And then there’s Netflix streaming and DVD.

And beyond spreading the word, how about supporting the filmmaker as Daniel suggests and buying multiple DVD to resell or give away? Your choice. The DVD includes not only the film but also the panel discussion that followed the premiere. If you want a vehicle to showcase this craft beer community, for right now, this is it. And if you want someone else to make a movie about craft beer and get it distributed, well, that won’t happen unless this film is successful.

I’m asking you to step up and support this movie through action. Together we can reach millions both inside and outside the current craft beer universe. You see, awareness is really just a numbers game.

The choice is yours. You can keep complaining about what’s wrong with the film (don’t get me started on Avatar) or you can embrace it (flaws and all) and help spread the word about craft beer to a whole new audience.

Are you with me?

Anat Baron
Email me here.

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20 Responses to “An Appeal to America’s Independent Brewers”

  1. David Smith says:

    You got it!

  2. Meh says:

    Beer Wars was 2/3 of an interesting film. Sorry Anat, but you lost a fair amount of craft beer fans out here with the storyline about the Moonshot lady. She was not a craft brewer. Moonshot was not a craft beer. Her issues — which could very well translate to the troubles of real craft brewers — were hard to connect with, because, honestly, most of us didn’t care if she succeeded. We weren’t going to be drinking that caffeinated swill. Had that part of the film been replaced with the story of a REAL craft brewer, perhaps more of us would have cared.

    I saw it during the big opening night, and watched it again from Netflix. Yes, apathy IS what I felt. Is that my fault, or the fault of the filmmaker who was unable to tell a story that I could connect to? Who knows? Maybe it is both.

    Also, this appeal seems based in trying to shame us viewers into doing your marketing for you. It all just feels really tacky.

  3. Julie says:

    Meh,

    Wow … I can’t believe your comment being so short sighted. Tacky or entrepreneurial. Your perspective is so limited and my question to you is what experience do you have running a business?

    There is a parallel between the plight of brewers and independent filmmakers. Craft brewers may be blocked by the big guys but did you ever think about what it takes to make a film? Did you notice that even the IFC Independent Spirit Awards was sponsored by A-B? I find your response to be tacky – you missed the point of why Moonshot was in the film

  4. Brad says:

    Re: Meh

    I’m not sure you “got it”, in regards to Rhonda and her Moonshot brand.

    Anat highlighted Sam (Dogfish Head) and Rhonda (Moonshot)… one successful and wildly popular craft beer brand (thanks to a quality product which speaks for itself) and one not-so-successful “craft beer” brand… which in most folks’ minds, went the wrong route and became transparent in its attempts to capitalize on a segment which she thought would buy the stuff up. Gimmicks don’t work in the craft beer world. So Anat was able to show both ends of the spectrum here. The goal wasn’t to get you feeling sorry for her… the goal was to show you the right way and the wrong way.

  5. Perno says:

    I felt the same way as “Meh”, the Moonshot story lost me as she was not even a brewer, and she was selling a bad product IMO.

    I’m still telling my friends about the film as it’s the only thing out there about craft brews, but that’s like drinking Budweiser because it’s the only beer available at a bar….not ideal but it’ll get the job done.

  6. Guy says:

    To “Meh”:
    I am sorry you thought your time was wasted while watching the plight of Rhonda’s attempt to capture a niche market. I think Anat was trying to show the hardship involved in starting up a beer business in the shadows of BudMillerCoors (BMC). Perhaps you missed the part where Rhonda’s unique (at the time) product, Moonshot – a caffeinated beer, was the first of its kind to the market but because the retailers are in the pockets of BMC, she couldn’t get it on the shelves. Anat also showed how BMC suddenly came out with their own version of Rhonda’s Moonshot, albeit cheaper and crappier, and that it was able to hit the shelves just as easily as the rest of their product line. Even though Moonshot isn’t something that I would likely drink, its about David vs Goliath and it should definiately be in this film.

    To Anat:

    Thanks for creating a vehicle that the craft beer industry and craft beer fans can use to spread the word (and better tasting beer). I really enjoyed your film and will continue to get others to watch it as well. Similar to your reference of Food Inc., I think “Beer Wars” is to A-B as the film “Who Killed the Electric Car” is to GM.

    Awareness is the key. The more people that become aware of BMC’s shenanigans, the more people that will appreciate what the craft beer industry is about and will help support the cause – whether by buying more craft beer, or just by becoming fans. Another way Beer Wars and awareness helps the cause is by giving the industry a bigger voice to help change the laws that cater to BMC and its unethical grasp on the three-tier system. As this movement gains momentum and legislation is updated for the times, small and micro breweries will be able to enter the market with less barriers to entry – keeping the hope alive for avid homebrewers like me with aspirations of someday going pro.

    Thanks Anat and crew!

  7. chris says:

    Anat, I second Daniel’s thought. Would you consider opening up this concept to better beer bars too? I would donate or send $$ for multiple copies and use them as giveaways, prizes, training tools, use at festivals, etc. If you want to devise something for us to buy, please email me anytime and I will pimp it like crazy to other better beer bars.

    P.S. Meh, Go watch some other movie or go make one and let us criticize you. Beer Wars is an awesome and giant statement about big business versus independents. It shouldn’t matter if you liked Rhonda. I didn’t like her beer, but I appreciated her tribulations, and I learned some things. Why don’t you write, spend all of your own money and work for four years on a movie. Call it Meh…. wow.

  8. Chris says:

    I agree with Meh.
    Beerwars was almost two years ago.
    Everyone, move on.

    Anat, you did a decent job on the film. Sorry it didn’t get mainstream success.
    Please stop making the people who pay attention to you on Twitter and online feel guilty for it not having Food, Inc, or Supersize Me returns on your time and money.
    Maybe spend your time and energy on a sequel or some other project, if you feel so impassioned about it.

  9. tms says:

    I thought the movie had a very powerful pro-market message. It was a great illustration how supposedly consumer-friendly regulations can be used by big business to limit competition.

    You really need to get someplace like Reason Magazine to take notice. It would be a great feature for their “Reason TV”.

  10. adam says:

    I just rented Beer Wars from Comcast OnDemand last night, having never heard of the movie but being an avid homebrewer and supporter of craft breweries. Very interesting film. I will be telling everyone of my home brewing friends to check it out.

  11. @Brad:

    You’re either absolutely right or you’re describing more of a retroactive rationalization for the way Moonshot’s story came across to craft aficionados contrasted with how it was meant to be portrayed in “Beer Wars.”

    Watching the film, the differences between Rhonda and Sam couldn’t have been more stark. I think those were obvious to all of us. But wasn’t so obvious was what Anat’s intentions were in featuring Rhonda so prominently in the film. The way Moonshot’s story was presented, the viewer wasn’t sure if, as you describe, Anat was making evident for all of us Moonshot’s deficiencies or if, on the other hand, it was a much more sympathetic portrayal intended to conflate Rhonda’s activities and challenges with those of a “real” craft brewer like Sam. The scenes at Rhonda’s home, the interviews with her husband and her own personal lamentations all contributed to this impression.

    Simply from the perspective of evaluating the film (which people are prone to do after seeing one), it is fair to assess what comes across on the screen rather than have to guess at the filmmaker’s intent. The fact that so many viewers were left scratching theirs heads is legitimate and can’t be simply tossed aside.

    Nevertheless, the fundamental arguments the film makes are indeed valid and worth supporting and disseminating. I think even people who criticize the film’s construction would agree with this.

  12. Anat says:

    Chris:
    Thanks for your comments but no one is forcing you to follow me. And just to set the record straight, the film came out last April. I have asked for support not because I’m looking for pity but rather because I don’t have the marketing muscle of the films you mention nor can I get on TV to promote the film because of the 800 pound gorilla also known as ABI. And therefore, grassroots awareness is all that’s left.

    tms:
    The Reason Foundation has been a big supporter of the film from day 1. Their “ad” is found on the DVD.

    Adam:
    Thanks for the kind words. Glad you “happened upon” the film. Thanks for helping to create awareness.

    A Different Brad:
    The only viewers who’ve had an issue with Rhonda’s role in the film are craft beer drinkers. She is never presented as a craft brewer. Her story is there to show what it’s like to be an independent start up in the beer industry. And yes, it’s meant to be juxtaposed to Sam’s story. Mainstream viewers seem to really get why she’s there, Probably because they’re watching the film unfold and not thinking about whether her beer is a gimmick, whether she’s a real brewer etc.

  13. Patrick says:

    I am blown away that people still do not get Rhonda’s involvement in the film. The movie was called Beer Wars, not get your Craft Beer Here, or my Beer Tastes Better than Your Beer.

    Anat, back to the larger point. Where does this stand right now. Is there any movement on this?

  14. Anat says:

    Patrick:
    I’m sorry to say that I’ve heard back from only one brewer! I honestly don’t get it. So the answer is there is no movement. I’m getting close to the end of the road. I just can’t keep putting more time and money into promoting the film without the support of the community.

  15. kristyn says:

    as a craft beer drinker, industry professional, and film buff, i can honestly say that the more i watch the movie, the more i “get it” and the more the various messages unfold clear as day. and in a clear as day nutshell, Anat very clearly said at the end of the film what i see now as the main focus of the movie: when are we going to stop playing lip service to free enterprise and actually start practicing it?

    that’s what Beer Wars really wants people to think about. ask questions. demand answers. bring about change.

    right now for a country that boasts free enterprise and endless opportunity, we unfortunately are starting to find ourselves in a country of controlled enterprise and very hard to build opportunity.

    anat also mentioned previously that she was surprised to find brewers very tight lipped when it came to directly discussing distribution and the three tier system. fear. it’s not healthy and brewers/brewpubs/business/consumers should not live in a state of fear of their distributors who should be working for and with them, not against and over them.

    just a few musings of mine.
    read. agree. disagree. discuss ^_^

  16. Chris Doubek says:

    Anat, had heard of the film a couple of weeks prior to finally being able to watch it. Fantastic and revealing!! Great job!! Thanks for helping to educate the general public. Would have loved to see more related to method of distribution, i.e., Draught, bottle cans… Also would have liked to see addressed the issues of quality assurance at the retail level faced with the three tired system. assuming Brewers get through the distributor issues, how can brewers ensure quality of preferred method, draught?? Another struggle!!!

  17. anat says:

    Chris:
    Only so much you can fit into a 90 minute film. I chose to focus on bottled beers because that’s where the toughest battles are fought – off premise, especially in supermarkets and convenience stores. As to quality, that’s an issue between brewers and distributors that arises when the distributor isn’t paying attention and bottles/six packs overstay their welcome on the shelf. Again off topic for the film. But I agree, needs to be addressed.

  18. Alicia says:

    I thought Beer Wars was excellent. I was lucky to learn about it from a Netflix suggestion. I agree with some of the comments above in that the movie seems to be about the unnecessary difficulties faced by small brewers and distributors, not about “craft” beers. While I don’t think that I would ever drink Moonshot, lots of other people would, and it’s ridiculous and unfair that Rhonda has had such problems getting her product distributed. What the hell?!

  19. Hi!

    Loved the film, even though I’m not an American (Swede in Sweden) and I love the message of the film.

    I think a lot of the craft beer people who bitch and moan about the movie not beeing more craft beer focused or that Sam is getting to much coverage are either jealous or annoyed that the move wasn’t a videoblog detailing every little minute detail of the craft.

    Ang get of Sam’s back would ya, It’s obvious from BrewMasters, Beerwars and DogFish Blog that he really cares about all craft beers and that he’s happy as long as you aren’t “fucking close to water”. If you happen to choose his beer as your drink of choice then so be it.

    Lets face it, I’m from Europa and Sweden. Now the crafts are alive and doing decent in the EU. However we are seeing more and more of the monopolization. I dont know if you know anything about Sweden so here is some facts we are just short of 10 million citizens but we have the same problem with crappy bland lager.

    The largest producers are Pripps, Spendrups and Falcon beeing the smaller brewery. But they pretty much dominate the Swedish beer industry.

    Hell most people don’t look at the lable they just order “En stor stark” which translated means “One large strong one” with strong denoting give me the cheapest beer you got with as much alc % per volume. Most of the time they dont even KNOW what they are drinking or care.

    We also dont have the three tier system so its much worse, the largest distributors of beer is the largest breweries. Which means that the craft breweries have to strike a deal with the big boys club.

    Not all that different from an other movie about unfair buissness practices, you might have heard of it “This Film Not Yet Rated” by Dick Kirby. What the Swedish big 3 do is pretty much the same as what the MPAA do to independent movies (rate them unfairly to hamper distrubution) .

    We also have Systembolaget which is the only store where you can buy spirits, wine and beer stronger than 3.5vol% a goverment controlled monopoly. All profit goes straight to the goverment, or at least it used to not sure if the current laissez-faire preaching party in charge will deregulate the market, but I digress. My point is the goverment monopoly is heavily regulated with who they can sell to (no one under 21, no one who is drunk, they are not open during sundays and only half saturdays) but the market is otherwise free competition. They get what the customers want and they are the largest buyer of spirits and beer in volume in Europa and probably in the world. Now there is one caveat, the Systembolaget quality controll is very rigid and if your product isnt up to your claims and Swedish food and saftey regulations then you’re out untill you have fixed the problem.

    So what if systembolaget doesn’t cary DogFish brewery?
    All i got to do is ask my local “system” and they will import one case just for me even if all I want is 2-3 bottles. If I ask for it they will get it for me. (they do carry Sam Adams, Sierra nevada, Left hand and my favourite of all times Flying Dog, but not Dogfish)

    Now that is fair.

    on the Moonshot, love the lable, would never ever drink it. I dont mix alcohol and caffeine since we’ve had quite a few deaths in the EU related to RedBull + Vodka drinks.

    Cheers!

    Chris

Oenophiles have SIDEWAYS and BOTTLE SHOCK; now their beer-loving counterparts can claim a film as their own.
- Rotten Tomatoes
A David and Goliath story pitting the country's smallest brewers against the largest.
- CNN
Beer Wars: Brewed in America, is an eye-opening, funny and righteously infuriating documentary by first-time filmmaker Anat Baron. Her film (think of it as Suds: A Love Story) is also a pretty damning indictment of not just the beer industry but contemporary unfettered unregulated capitalism's disturbing excesses.
- Box Office Magazine
In Beer Wars, entrepreneurialism and opportunity go awry when tainted by greed and a thirst for power.
- Los Angeles Times
Beer Wars certainly raises some interesting questions, the most potent of which is, is this what capitalism is meant to be?
- New Times
For those who are keeping the American dream alive, this spirited documentary raises a toast.
- St Louis Post-Dispatch
A trenchant analysis unapologetic in its rebuke of Big Beer, Beer Wars is heartily recommended for patrons already inclined to opt for the local brew at every tap. It will also appeal to patrons interested in craft foods as well as homebrewed beer and wine and others particular about quality.
- Library Journal