The Boston Globe Reviews “Beer Wars,” Sort Of…

A curious article appears in the Boston Globe today. Written by Globe columnist Alex Beam, the piece discusses the upcoming documentary by Anat Baron, “Beer Wars,” that we’ve covered here before. The odd thing is that Beam isn’t really reviewing the movie, mainly because Baron is not pre-releasing copies for critical review. He does capture the unusual nature of the single day release and he was also allowed to watch ten minutes of the film. His grade based upon this “sip”: C+. While the “review” is interesting in itself, under the circumstances, it is the content of the limited portion of the film that seems to confirm many of my concerns in my last post. The concerns, namely, that Beer Wars would simply be a little-versus-big hatchet job and one based upon an anachronistic view of the beer industry. Definitely take a look at the column for yourself, but here is the heart of Beam’s piece:

What about the movie? Baron is review-proofing it, not scheduling screenings for critics, and not sending out DVDs to interested parties like me. Her people let me see about 10 minutes of “BW,” and it wasn’t very impressive.

What I saw was Michael Moore 101: Little craft breweries like Dogfish Head and MoonShot = Good. Anheuser-Busch, a.k.a. “the soulless machine,” the “monopoly,” the “corporate behemoth with their insatiable appetite for growth” = Bad. Baron takes a page right from the “Roger and Me” playbook, making much of Anheuser CEO August Busch’s refusal to grant her an interview. They did allow her on the premises, however, to hang out with the Clydesdales. “They were my best interview,” she joked.

I asked Baron why she insists on calling Anheuser a “monopoly,” when there are plenty of other beer companies out there. “I went to business school, I know what ‘monopoly’ means,” Baron shot back. Well, I went to eighth grade, where I learned that monopoly means “one seller.” I’m sure Anheuser would like to be a monopoly, but alas, Coors, Miller, Sam Adams, and Dogfish all stand in the way.

In the movie, Dogfish founder Sam Calagione decries publicly owned companies whose goal is “maximizing shareholder value.” Maybe he should hang out with Jim Koch, who runs a publicly owned company, and ask him why he’s in business. For the betterment of mankind, perhaps? “Sam” wages its own amusing deception campaign, calling itself a “small, independent craft brewer” when, with $400 million in revenues and three breweries under its belt, it is the largest American beer company in the United States. (Busch, Miller, and Coors are all foreign-owned.)

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