Beer Lovers, listen up: crack open a cold one, get yourself comfortable, and watch this entertaining documentary: Beer Wars
. http://www.hulu.com/watch/235712/beer-w ... -Biography
You'll learn things you never knew about the corporate-vs.-private brewers out there, you'll watch beer drinkers totally screw themselves in a blind tasting of the top three megabreweries, Coors, Miller, and Anheuser-Busch, and you'll feel better about yourself and your highly evolved taste buds as you drink your tasty, local microbrew. The mega-corporations spend their money on commercials and marketing, not beer development (as the blind tasting clearly attests) and have neutered their beer flavors down to a watery drivel that looks the same, tastes the same, and appeases the masses. They sell image and entertainment, not beer. Funny how many people miss that simple fact, though, when they shush their friends to reverent whispers during those Super Bowl commercials. Think fast--when was the last time one of those commercials talked exclusively about how good the beer tasted? The giants have learned to push consumers to buy their products rather than respond to market demand. The CEO of Dogfish Head Craft Brewed Ales aptly states, "I think at the end of the day, I think people want to be recognized as individuals. They don't wanna be told what they should drink, they want to discover it for themselves and that's what we're all celebrating...."
And there's a darker side. The big guys break the law to sway their buyers, giving them free cases of beer (illegal) and free stuff (also illegal) as incentives (read: bribes). They blatantly steal formulas, concepts, and marketing ideas and turn around and market them as their own genius, even suing the little guys to remove beer names that the big guys actually stole in the first place. There's also trickery and deception in location. Organic Wild Hops Lager is labeled as being brewed at the Green Valley Brewery in Fairfield, CA. News flash: there IS no Green Valley Brewery in Fairfield, CA, only a gigantic Anheuser-Busch plant. Surprise, surprise. So much for the quaint local brewery image.
The megacorps buy out smaller breweries and absorb them like the Borg, not because the little guy's beer is superior, but because the brand sells, like Rolling Rock, which got devoured by Anheuser-Busch in one gulp. (Since then, Rolling Rock is no longer made in glass-lined tanks, which made it famous in the first place--did you know that?) Anheuser-Busch has bought out 54 breweries and incorporated them under their label in the last 10 years. Yes, you read that right: 54. Recently, Coors and Miller actually joined forces in an attempt to compete with the behemoth but the monster won again in the end. It sold itself out to a mega-MEGA-corporation, InBev, for 52 billion dollars. InBev now controls Budweiser, Michelob, Beck's, Stella Artois, Bud Light, Rolling Rock, Bass, and Grolsch, making it the largest brewing company in the world
Most importantly, these biggies muscle small breweries out of the distribution centers, centers that were put in place after prohibition to prevent breweries from selling directly to the public and therefore, supposedly, eliminating monopolies and other naughtiness. The way this three tier system works is: you can be a brewer or you can be a distributer or you can be a retailer but you can only be one of each. And there is a chain of command. The brewer has to deliver their product to a distribution center which then ships the stuff to a retailer where you and I can finally purchase it and enjoy. We can't get it directly from the brewery, not even online. A microbrewery has to get space in a distribution warehouse to store their beer and then the stores like Safeway and Trader Joe's can get it from there. But guess who owns the distribution centers? That's right: Coors, Miller, and Anheuser-Busch. So much for preventing monopolies. Did you know there are 37,000 beer-related laws in this country? We may need a few more....
Brace yourself, this is gonna make you ill: Anheuser-Busch makes the most financial contributions to political parties and has the most lobbyists out there right now working their little tails off to keep that unfair three tier system in place because, hey, it's working for Anheuser-Busch. Yet the point they make when they make their pitch to Congress is that this system "levels the playing field" so that everybody gets an equal shot at success. Oh, bite me. Big business mixed with politics is a dangerous brew.
In the end, there is no such thing as "a level playing field" in the beer industry. There is only consumer power. After all, if Bud Light wasn't selling, they wouldn't have so many lobbyists (nor could they pay them). If you truly love the taste of Bud Light above all others, then go for it, you have my blessing. But if you prefer the originality of a finely crafted ale made by people who love brewing for it's own sake, then you have my everlasting, malty devotion.
My favorite quote in the whole movie? "When somebody asks me if want a Budweiser, I tell them to it put back in the horse."