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Comments Off on Interview on Pivot TV

Interview on Pivot TV

Here’s my interview on TakePart Live talking Beer Wars:


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.


External Validation

It’s been 3½ years since Beer Wars was released. I still see plenty of tweets and Facebook posts about the film’s impact on viewers. But it’s nice to be reminded that this film is still relevant. And that it continues to inspire. While I love getting kudos from craft beer drinkers, I’m always delighted to hear from entrepreneurs in other industries about their struggles and triumphs.

Today I saw that Entrepreneur magazine listed Beer Wars as one of 10 Must-See Documentaries for Entrepreneurs.

Here’s their take:

A genuine David vs. Goliath story, America’s small artisanal brewers try to grab a piece of the market share from fizzy yellow giants like Anheuser-Busch.

Why it’s a must-see: Any entrepreneur attempting to break into an established market can relate to the challenges faced by these craft breweries. The point to be taken from this film is to always educate your potential customers on the superiority of your product. Sam Adams’s founder Jim Koch puts it best, “Almost all our beer knowledge comes from Budweiser, Miller and Coors. It’s as if all we knew about food we learned from McDonald’s.”

Lesson: It’s your job to find a way to reach your customers in such a way that makes them realize they deserve better — and better you can provide.


The Long and Winding Road

Today marks the 3-year anniversary of Beer Wars Live – the one night only event that premiered the film in 450 theatres across the U.S.

I still get asked about a follow up film or a sequel. I don’t think that folks understand what it takes to produce and distribute a feature film. Just because everyone has a digital camera these days doesn’t mean that they’re making a feature-length movie. That millions of people will see. And so, if you haven’t realized from my tone, there will not be another film. It takes too long. Costs too much. And in the end, viewers want content for free. So, for me the economics just don’t add up.
Read the rest of this entry »


Rhonda Kallman Leaves Beer Industry

I’m sad to announce that Rhonda Kallman has left the beer industry. Whatever your feelings about Rhonda or Moonshot, it’s always sad when an entrepreneur abandons their dream.

Kallman is shutting down New Century Brewing for good this month, and preparing for the next challenge. The decision follows a move last fall by the FDA that essentially banned New Century’s Moonshot beer because it contained caffeine.

Kallman, who ran New Century out of her Cohasset home, puts most of the blame for New Century’s demise on the FDA. The decision to label the caffeine in the beer as a dangerous substance took the fizz out of her expansion plans. She says it didn’t make sense to reformulate Moonshot one more time, especially without its signature ingredient. Her other product – Edison Light – had a following, but it wasn’t doing well enough to sustain New Century on its own.

You can read the whole story here:

FDA’s move is last call for local beer company.

We wish Rhonda the best of luck as she pursues new adventures.


The Future of Moonshot?

Nothing has divided Beer Wars viewers more than Rhonda and Moonshot. Reactions are very black and white. Some see Moonshot as a “gimmick” and a “marketing ploy” and others see Rhonda as a trailblazer who has a right to see her beer succeed.

Unfortunately, Moonshot’s future has been cut short by the FDA who lumped it together with Four Loko and others and forced it off the market.

Rhonda has put out an appeal to get Americans to “lobby” for her right to sell Moonshot. Whether Moonshot appeals to you or not, the bigger question is whether Moonshot was caught up in the wrong net.

Here is the appeal in Rhonda’s own words:

Moonshot ’69
January 31, 2011
Dear Friend,
As you may already know, New Century Brewing Company has ceased production of Moonshot ’69 per order of the federal Food and Drug Administration. Please help me bring it back by signing the on-line petition at www.moonshotbeer.com. Additionally, you can stay up to date by visiting the Facebook page or following on Twitter.

On November 17, 2010, the FDA sent warning letters to four brewers that produced caffeinated malt beverages. By that time, three of the companies were notorious for their high-caffeine, high-alcohol, high-sugar, fruit flavored “energy drinks” which were sold in oversized cans and marketed to minors. The fourth company was New Century Brewing.

Moonshot, my all malt, craft-brewed pilsner, bears absolutely no resemblance to the products that brought about the FDA’s demand to reformulate. I stand by my product’s formula which includes a standard 5% alcohol by volume and 69 milligrams of caffeine (which equals about a half a cup of coffee). I also stand behind my marketing strategy and take pride in the responsibility of my loyal customers.

The practice of enjoying alcohol and caffeine together is nothing new (Irish coffee, rum and Coke, Red Bull and Vodka, coffee stout…), but the abuse of the law by some brewers is a legitimate concern. It is imperative, therefore, to find an acceptable level of caffeine that all beer producers can adhere to.

If you want to read more, here are recent articles from the Boston Globe and the Washington Examiner.


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…


The Big Bang

So my last hurrah turned out to have some painful consequences. While the screening at the festival (see previous post) should have been memorable, I frankly don’t remember much. You see, 2 days later on June 29th I was hit on the head by a flying laptop on my Virgin America flight home. I not only had terrible physical pain due to a concussion but suffered a traumatic brain injury as a result. So basically I’ve spent the past 10 weeks in recovery mode, trying to learn a new word – patience – while I wait for my brain to heal.

Luckily my sister was present at the NYC Food Film Festival and captured these pictures that will hopefully help me remember what I actually said to Mayor Bloomberg…

Anat and Mayor Michael Bloomberg

Anat and Mayor Michael Bloomberg

Anat with Sam and Rhonda

Anat with Sam and Rhonda

Anat with George Motz

Anat with George Motz

Anat with Sam

Anat with Sam

Sam offering Mayor Bloomberg a Dogfish Head beer

Sam offering Mayor Bloomberg a Dogfish Head beer

Under the tent on a scorching summer night

Under the tent on a scorching summer night

On stage after the screening

On stage after the screening


The Last Hurrah

I fly out to JFK tomorrow morning. Beer Wars was invited to be the closing film at the NYC Food film Festival. It’s a big event with food, craft beer and of course movies. And the best part is, I’m not planning it. I get to be an invited guest. I’ve been thinking a lot about what I’ll say on stage (in front of the crowd of 800 they’re expecting in a giant tent under the Brooklyn Bridge). How do I sum up something that has consumed me for over four years? Especially now, that the journey is ending. At least for me.

Of course the film will live on and new people will discover it in years to come. But for me, it’s time to move on. And so Sunday night is my last hurrah. My chance to reflect. I do hope that the film has made a difference. One that lasts and grows.

I’m looking forward to seeing Sam and Rhonda who have been on this journey with me. I will bring them up on stage after the screening to take their bow. After all, without them, there wouldn’t be a movie as their stories provide its heart and soul.

So what will I say? Thank you. Because despite the challenges, I’m still grateful after all these years.

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