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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.

Comments Off on Is there a craft beer bubble?

Is there a craft beer bubble?

Craft beer has exploded. When Beer Wars was released in 2009 there were 1,400 breweries in America. Today there are over 2,500. When I was trying to promote the film on TV, producers looked down at a film about beer. Now, craft beer is hot. Trendy even. It’s discussed in the same breath as the overall local, sustainable, artisanal, slow food movements.

Business Insider looked into this incredible boom in a piece entitled: The Craft Beer Market Has Exploded, And Now Brewers Are Worried About A Collapse.

For perspective here are some stats:

Every year now, craft beer chips away at the market share of the macro-brewers — Big Suds? — as consumers turn away from the Budweisers and Coors Lights of the world in search of more full-flavored beer. In 2012, 13 million barrels of craft beer were produced, up more than 71% from 2006.

In dollar terms, craft beer now represents 10.2% of the domestic beer market, and a report from IBIS World predicts spending on craft brews will grow to $3.9 billion this year.

For those who’ve suggested that Beer Wars is no longer relevant because craft beer is here to stay, I agree whole-heartedly with the sentiments presented in the article:

Just how those new breweries will survive, given the challenges of distribution and limitations of shelf-space and taps, is an open question, especially when even the craft beer market is dominated by a few big players, like Boston Beer Company, Sierra Nevada, and New Belgium. (Boston Beer, which makes Sam Adams, is now so large that the Brewers Association keeps changing the definition of craft beer to keep it in the fold.) Meanwhile, Big Suds has responded with its own versions of craft-like brews such as Blue Moon and Shock Top, made by MillerCoors and Anheuser-Busch InBev respectively, which have quickly come to dominate the market for specialty beers.

So the war rages on. There’s no doubt that craft beer is here to stay. But the current growth is not sustainable IMHO. And as I’ve told those who asked about a sequel, if I were to make a Beer Wars II (big IF), the story would pit the smallest craft brewers against the big ones. Remember, there are only so many taps and so much shelf space; there just isn’t room for everybody. Stay tuned for one a hell of a roller coaster ride.


A Star is Born: Sam Calagione

This was originally shown at the Alamo Draft House in April 2008 as part of the Dogfish Head Off-Centered Film Festival.

It’s about fucking time. BREW MASTERS starring Sam Calagione starts tonight on Discovery Channel.

I first met Sam at the Great American Beer Festival in September of 2005. I told him then that he was going to be a star. He seemed embarrassed. But it was easy to see from our very first interview that here was a guy who was the real deal and a natural in front of the camera.

I got to know Sam over the 3 years it took to make the film. He allowed my crew into his home, his business, and into his head. I shot over 35 hours of footage with him in multiple locations across the country. And the rule of thumb worked – about one minute per hour made it into the film. There are so many gems that didn’t fit into the bigger story. Someday I hope to open the “vault” and share.

And Sam has been very gracious since the film came out. He showed up on premiere night in Los Angeles to be with a panel of his peers and at film festivals since then to help promote the film.

And yet he gets flak from “beer geeks” for being overexposed. Seriously, it’s time to stop. Yes, he’s a rock star. Celebrate it. He’s the guy Discovery picked to be the face of BREW MASTERS. And since it’s a positive message he’s espousing, he’s having no problem getting media attention. And that can only help craft beer.

I hope the show does well. I hope Discovery gives the wider TV audience a chance to well, discover it. I haven’t seen any episodes yet but since the show’s producers are also behind Anthony Bourdain’s NO RESERVATIONS, I think it’s safe to go in with high expectations.

So break a leg Sam. I hope you remember me when…


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 »


Craft Beer on TV

On Friday I met with yet another craft beer enthusiast who wants his own craft beer show on TV. Since I starting making the film, I’ve been approached by at least a dozen folks who want to do the same. What surprises me isn’t that everyone has the same idea (a TV show about travels to breweries and bars in search of great beers) or that no one has any TV experience but that there is no forethought about why a TV network would be interested. 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