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'Beer Wars': The epic saga of craft beer

Beer Wars crews checked in with not only craft breweries, but also mega-brewers like Miller.

Beer Wars crews checked in with not only craft breweries, but also mega-brewers like Miller.

Anyone who has walked down a grocery store aisle can understand the premise behind the new documentary Beer Wars.

In every grocery store beer aisle, the bulk of the beer comes from mega-companies that brew tens of millions of barrels a year. But, just as organic foods have steadily eked out space on grocery shelves next to processed foods from global food manufacturers, craft beer has slowly made inroads into what is truly the front of the beer war: grocer's shelves.

If you're unfamiliar with craft beer, the definition of what exactly it is can be a little cumbersome, The Brewer's Association, which represents craft breweries, defines craft beer as an American craft brewer is small, independent and traditional. Let's go one by one.

1. Small: The annual production is less than 2 million barrels. Beer production is attributed to a brewer according to the rules of alternating proprietorships. (Flavored malt beverages are not considered beer for purposes of this definition.)

2. Independent: Less than 25 percent of the craft brew industry is owned or controlled (or there's an equivalent economic interest) by an alcoholic beverage industry member who is not a craft brewer.

3. Traditional: A brewer who has either an all-malt flagship beer or has at least 50 percent of its volume in either all-malt beers or in beers which use adjuncts to enhance flavor.

Most craft beer lovers will tell you that when they think of craft beer, it is the beer's flavor they focus on, not the brewery that produced it. Generally craft beers tend to be fuller of body and flavor and come in just about every beer style. Craft beer is what craft brewers focus on brewing.

Availability has grown rapidly, and in recent years has moved out of the quirky beer-geek bars and specialty bottle shops it long called home, and into convenience and grocery stores, once the sole provenance of the mega-breweries.

Beer Wars chronicles the struggle of small, independent breweries and their head-to-head battle with an opponent that benefits from better market access, more money, more resources and stronger political and business connections. The film includes interviews with craft beer luminaries such as Jim Koch of Samuel Adams, Sam Calagione of Dogfish Head, Garrett Oliver of Brooklyn Brewery and Kim Jordan of New Belgium, discussing how craft breweries have been successful, and where they're heading.

Beer Wars is as much a beer event as it is a movie release. Set to air live from Los Angeles on April 16 in 440 theaters nationwide, Beer Wars will be followed by a live panel interview hosted by Ben Stein. The panel includes many of the notable industry personalities in the movie and is billed as the start to "a conversation about the future of beer in America."

Craft beer lovers across the country plan to attend the viewing and then head to the closest beer bar for more in-depth — and hands-on — analysis.

— Joey Redner is a beer enthusiast and the owner of Cigar City Brewing in Tampa.

Beer Wars

Several local movie theaters will show the documentary Beer Wars on April 16. For screening locations and times, visit

'Beer Wars': The epic saga of craft beer 04/02/09 [Last modified: Monday, November 7, 2011 5:19pm]
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