Mmmm...beer, the cause of--and solution to--all of life's problems.
So last night I met some friends in Hayward to down a few brews at Buffalo Bill's and then watch the one-night only (courtesy of Fathom Events) screening of BEER WARS, followed by a panel discussion with the director and a few of the craft brewers from the film (moderated by Ben Stein). Everywhere else in the country this was simulcast live with their world premiere in LA, but on the west coast it was on a 3 hour tape delay so it would start at a more appropriate time (8 pm instead of 5 pm).
The movie sets up a classic David vs. Goliath scenario, small craft brewers trying to survive and even thrive in a world controlled by the big 3 (Anheiser Busch, Miller, and Coors). So of course it's a compelling story with heroes who are easy to like. And the audience had a good time cheering for their favorite beers (that guying whooping it up for Stone Brew and especially Arrogant Bastard Ale was...me).
I suppose a more balance critique would point out flaws in the movie. I didn't really get a good sense of what the 3 tier system is (how exactly are brewers, distributors, and retailers kept separate?). And I think it would be interesting to look at some of small craft brewers who failed. Given ~1,500 different breweries in the U.S., it's surprising that nearly all the craft brewers they mentioned were ones I knew about, and they're ones that are at least surviving the Beer Wars and finding their little niche. But overall, it was a fun movie, and I was way too drunk to be making critical observations like that.
The panel discussion afterwards was...okay. I probably could've skipped it, but it was nice to spend a little extra time with some of the more entertaining personalities from the movie. The guy from Dogfish Head brewery was pretty funny, and I got to hear Ben Stein talk about Arrogant Bastard ale. Oh yeah, Ben Stein was an odd choice to lead the panel, and it was weird at times to see Richard Nixon's speechwriter challenge craft brewers on their views of success (essentially, isn't their ultimate goal to be bigger and have more market share? So why should they be so dismissive of the big 3?) But that's just part of Stein's charm, that he can live in so many worlds.