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Craft Brewers: You’ve been warned

Greg Koch tweeted about this article, and I couldn’t resist jumping in.

The article shares that Constellation Brands is starting to distribute Corona Light on tap following its purchase from Groupo Modelo after the Anheuser-Busch InBev takeover. This is news because, until now, Corona was only available in those clear, iconic bottles.

So who cares, right? Well, here’s the thing about the beer industry, there are two things that really matter when it comes to growing your brand: shelf space and taps. They’re finite and that’s where the battles rage on.

In order for Corona Light to get a tap at a bar, it needs to displace another beer. And here’s where it gets interesting.

From Constellation’s CEO Robert Sands:
“Think about the craft business, okay? You’re talking about tiny little brands that nobody’s ever heard of outside their city… so yes, that requires a strategy to get people to put taps in on brands… in a crowded and fragmented category.”

He goes on to say that his objective is to get draft sales to 10% from the 2%-3% today. Where will this growth come from? Yup, you guessed it.

His justification: “Corona Extra… turns much better than craft beers, it also grows like craft beers, right? Another reason to give it more space. And it has a higher ring and more profitability to the retailer like craft beers.”

So bottom line: for anyone who thinks that craft beer has won the war, think again. The big boys aren’t just going to stand by and let you win. The fight continues every day in every bar and store in America.

It’s up to consumers to push for what they want. So if your favorite beer isn’t available, ask for it. Demand it. Remember to vote with your wallet.


Rhonda Kallman Leaves Beer Industry

I’m sad to announce that Rhonda Kallman has left the beer industry. Whatever your feelings about Rhonda or Moonshot, it’s always sad when an entrepreneur abandons their dream.

Kallman is shutting down New Century Brewing for good this month, and preparing for the next challenge. The decision follows a move last fall by the FDA that essentially banned New Century’s Moonshot beer because it contained caffeine.

Kallman, who ran New Century out of her Cohasset home, puts most of the blame for New Century’s demise on the FDA. The decision to label the caffeine in the beer as a dangerous substance took the fizz out of her expansion plans. She says it didn’t make sense to reformulate Moonshot one more time, especially without its signature ingredient. Her other product – Edison Light – had a following, but it wasn’t doing well enough to sustain New Century on its own.

You can read the whole story here:

FDA’s move is last call for local beer company.

We wish Rhonda the best of luck as she pursues new adventures.


The Future of Moonshot?

Nothing has divided Beer Wars viewers more than Rhonda and Moonshot. Reactions are very black and white. Some see Moonshot as a “gimmick” and a “marketing ploy” and others see Rhonda as a trailblazer who has a right to see her beer succeed.

Unfortunately, Moonshot’s future has been cut short by the FDA who lumped it together with Four Loko and others and forced it off the market.

Rhonda has put out an appeal to get Americans to “lobby” for her right to sell Moonshot. Whether Moonshot appeals to you or not, the bigger question is whether Moonshot was caught up in the wrong net.

Here is the appeal in Rhonda’s own words:

Moonshot ’69
January 31, 2011
Dear Friend,
As you may already know, New Century Brewing Company has ceased production of Moonshot ’69 per order of the federal Food and Drug Administration. Please help me bring it back by signing the on-line petition at www.moonshotbeer.com. Additionally, you can stay up to date by visiting the Facebook page or following on Twitter.

On November 17, 2010, the FDA sent warning letters to four brewers that produced caffeinated malt beverages. By that time, three of the companies were notorious for their high-caffeine, high-alcohol, high-sugar, fruit flavored “energy drinks” which were sold in oversized cans and marketed to minors. The fourth company was New Century Brewing.

Moonshot, my all malt, craft-brewed pilsner, bears absolutely no resemblance to the products that brought about the FDA’s demand to reformulate. I stand by my product’s formula which includes a standard 5% alcohol by volume and 69 milligrams of caffeine (which equals about a half a cup of coffee). I also stand behind my marketing strategy and take pride in the responsibility of my loyal customers.

The practice of enjoying alcohol and caffeine together is nothing new (Irish coffee, rum and Coke, Red Bull and Vodka, coffee stout…), but the abuse of the law by some brewers is a legitimate concern. It is imperative, therefore, to find an acceptable level of caffeine that all beer producers can adhere to.

If you want to read more, here are recent articles from the Boston Globe and the Washington Examiner.


The Last Hurrah

I fly out to JFK tomorrow morning. Beer Wars was invited to be the closing film at the NYC Food film Festival. It’s a big event with food, craft beer and of course movies. And the best part is, I’m not planning it. I get to be an invited guest. I’ve been thinking a lot about what I’ll say on stage (in front of the crowd of 800 they’re expecting in a giant tent under the Brooklyn Bridge). How do I sum up something that has consumed me for over four years? Especially now, that the journey is ending. At least for me.

Of course the film will live on and new people will discover it in years to come. But for me, it’s time to move on. And so Sunday night is my last hurrah. My chance to reflect. I do hope that the film has made a difference. One that lasts and grows.

I’m looking forward to seeing Sam and Rhonda who have been on this journey with me. I will bring them up on stage after the screening to take their bow. After all, without them, there wouldn’t be a movie as their stories provide its heart and soul.

So what will I say? Thank you. Because despite the challenges, I’m still grateful after all these years.


What’s in a name?

As we get ready for Memorial Day weekend, the first beer drinking holiday of summer, some food for thought for craft beer brewers and drinkers.

On Tuesday, an article in The Atlantic entitled “When Is A Craft Brewery Just a Brewery?” asked some interesting questions. The one that piqued my interest was about big brewers cashing in on the craft beer “movement” and its continued growth.
Read the rest of this entry »


Time flies when…

Today is the one-year anniversary of Beer Wars Live! A year ago, a distinguished panel including Charlie Papazian, Sam Calagione, Greg Koch, Ronda Kallman, Todd Alstrom and Maureen Ogle convened together with an audience of 800 at Royce Hall on the UCLA Campus in Los Angeles to broadcast the film and panel discussion live via satellite to 440 theatres nationwide.

Read the rest of this entry »


Hitting a Nerve

Now that the film is out there and easily available, it’s nice to hear from folks who happen to come across it on cable, satellite, iTunes, Amazon or Netflix. I love that the message is being heard and that people find the film entertaining and also eye opening. I just found out that a member of the Busch family watched it on demand and recommended it to friends.

Thought I’d share a few of the thousands of comments I’ve received:
Read the rest of this entry »

Comments Off on Food for Thought

Food for Thought

2 threads I’ve been following this week:

The first is Less is More? Are There Too Many Beers? which was started by World Class Beverage in Indiana following an insider discussion at a recent beer industry summit. The comments are fascinating. I’m thrilled that this discussion is going on although I wish it would expand beyond talk into action, especially as it pertains to franchise laws and self distribution. I’m not for dismantling the three tier system, just updating it for today’s environment. Online shipping anyone?

The other thread is on a Beer Advocate Forum entitled The realities of small guys vs. big guys. This thread also highlights the ongoing issues inherent in the present distribution system. Again, great cross section of opinions. Nice that distributors are jumping into the conversation.

Oh, and if you’re interested in the politics of beer, you may want to read Beer Business Daily’s Complete Coverage of Congressional Hearing on Alcohol.

Please feel free to continue the discussion here by adding your comments.


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?
Read the rest of this entry »



Why Beer Wars Matters

OK, this may seem self-serving coming from me but before you judge, please read on for at least another paragraph or two. Obviously Beer Wars matters to me. After all, I invested 3 years of my life making the film and another year securing distribution and promoting it. And as many of you know, I don’t (can’t) drink beer because of my alcohol allergy. I made this movie because I believe in its bigger message –consumer choice. (If you want to skip to the “call to action” then click here.)

And speaking of choice, Beer Wars is now available to virtually everyone with a TV or computer through several distribution deals with major media companies who obviously think the film has merit. So let’s take a minute to celebrate that. Woo hoo! After all, distribution (like in the beer business) is step one. After all if it’s not available, people can’t buy it.

The bigger issue is AWARENESS. It’s one thing to have the movie available along with hundreds of well-known movies (on cable and satellite on demand) or among thousands of films (on iTunes, Amazon, Netflix) but it’s another for people to actually buy or rent it. Just like in beer, the “shelf” is dominated with big names. Sure it’s easier to engage viewers on Netflix because people see it as “free” with their membership. But getting people to plop down $3.99 on a film they’ve never heard of, well that’s something else entirely. Read the rest of this entry »

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.
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