Why did you make Beer Wars?
I made Beer Wars because I thought it was timely and reflects America today. I focused on beer because it was an industry I understood but the story was not widely known. It was rooted in personal experience. But I also wanted to look at the broader context of consumer choice since it’s something that affects everyone.
Why are you in Beer Wars?
I wanted the audience to have a guide through the beer world. It made sense that it be me. After all, I knew the world from the inside and I hoped that my presence would make some of the complex issues relatable.
Why do you care, you can’t even drink beer?
I care because I’ve always loved underdog stories. Working at mike’s hard lemonade, seeing how small we were compared to the giants, that was exciting, how we stayed in the game. When I met the small brewers and witnessed their resilience and determination, it made me want to share their stories.
Why did you choose Sam and Rhonda?
There are over 1300 independent breweries in America. I eliminated brewpubs early on because I wanted to show how production breweries fight it out in the market. I met at least 20 fascinating small brewers. But I needed a storyline to follow. Otherwise, there’s no movie. I picked Rhonda because she was launching a new product – a first – beer with caffeine. Love it or hate it, it was innovative. And I thought it would be interesting to follow someone who’d made it to the top (with Sam Adams) attempt to scale the mountain again. I chose Sam because he was articulate and a straight talker. But more important was the fact that he was expanding his business – building a new brewhouse and taking on a 9 million dollar loan to do so. I have no regrets.
What do you have against Anheuser-Busch?
I have no personal issues with the King of Beers. I respect their success. From the very beginning, they knew what they wanted and never lost sight of the goal. They are in league with other corporate behemoths, like Wal-Mart and Microsoft. For them it’s all about control and domination. (And I certainly felt it in my own dealings with Anheuser-Busch while making the film.) When it came to telling their story, I just followed the breadcrumbs. And told the truth.
Are the distributors the bad guys?
The beer distributors aren’t the bad guys. The problem (IMHO) is the three tier system itself. I’m sure the idea made sense 75 years ago but we have evolved since then. (Just look at the Internet which has helped so many small businesses grow. This opportunity does not exist for small brewers. They are prohibited from selling beer online.) These distributors have created very successful businesses but they’re very 20th century. Their presence in every congressional district makes them a powerhouse. They’re adept at using the political system to lobby politicians to keep the status quo. The more power these distributors have and the more connected they are to the big brewers, the less opportunity there is for the next Sam Adams to emerge on the national stage.
What did you learn in making Beer Wars?
I learned that I care about the plight of the entrepreneur. I want to see these people succeed. America is supposed to be about opportunity. Maybe I’m being idealistic but I think that we don’t have to be afraid of challenging these corporate behemoths. In order to get through the tough times ahead, America will need to harness the entrepreneurial spirit. It’s innovation that will bring the economy back. And we’ve seen too many examples where Corporate America has lost its way or gotten in the way. We should remove the roadblocks and allow free enterprise to flourish.
Why should the audience care? After all, there are bigger problems in the world.
If you want to decide what beers you can drink, you should care. If you believe in consumer choice, you should care. If you believe in free enterprise, you should care. The big brewers and their distributor partners have locked up the beer industry. Sure, there are lots of small breweries out there. But all together, these 1400+ breweries make up less than 5 percent of the beer sold in America. If you took away some of the hurdles the big guys set up, it would level the playing field and start some real competition.
What do you think audiences will take away with them after seeing Beer Wars?
I really hope that they’re inspired. But I also hope that they’re riled up. Yes, we all know about Corporate America’s dominance but maybe this film will make people think about what they’re buying next time they’re at the store. Consumers have the power. We can’t forget that.
How can we create change?
Simple. Vote with your beer. Buy beers from small, independent breweries. Support local businesses. Ask questions about where your beer comes from. And if your favorite beer isn’t available at your local store or bar, ask for it. Often.