Filmmaking, Writing, Beer, Insularity, History, and Other Topics More-Or-Less Related to “Beer Wars,” Part 3

Part 1 — Part 2 — Part 3 — Part 4 — Part 5 — Part 6 — Part 7

Part 8 — Part 9 — Part 10 — Part 11 — Part 12 — Part 13

NOTE: When I moved to a new site, this “Beer Wars” series was mangled/destroyed during the move. I’ve reconstructed it by copying/pasting another copy of the original posts. I also lost the comments in their original form. I’ve copied/pasted the comments, but had to do so under my own name. So although it looks as though I’m the only commenter, I’m not. In each case, I’ve identified the original commenter.


I was not surprised by this pre-screening reaction. If I’ve learned anything in three years since my beer book came out, it’s that the world of craft brewing is highly insular and short-sighted. Its inhabitants believe that the world revolves around beer in general and craft beer in particular. 

They are so blinded by their insularity that they don’t know that roughly 96% of the beer sold in the U.S. is NOT craft beer. They don’t understand that the rest of the world doesn’t drink craft beer; doesn’t idolize Greg Koch and Sam Caligione. That the rest of the world doesn’t know or care about brewers’ conflicts, the three-tier system, or anything else connected to beer and brewing.

That’s not a criticism. Insularity and short-sightedness enable “groups” to create and maintain solidarity. (People who work in publishing are even worse, frankly, which is why I avoid hanging around with writers, agents, and editors.)

But there’s another reason I was not surprised by the pre-screening dogpile: Criticism is easy. Empathy is not. 

Most people aren’t writers and filmmakers (or entrepreneurs) and they don’t know how hard it is to write a book, or produce a film, or, for that matter, build a brewery. These are activities that require long hours, sacrifice, self-discipline. And in the end, if the writer or filmmaker — or brewer — has done her job right, the finished product looks easy. Like something any fool could do.

Case in point: Some months back, a couple of beer enthusiasts asked me for an interview. They run a website and forum and do podcasts about beer. One of them said he liked the book and then said something like: “Well, it was probably pretty easy, wasn’t it? I mean, the story was right there. All you had to do was write down the facts.” Or words to that effect.

Well, no. That’s not quite what happened. The “facts” were scattered hither and yon, buried in hundred year old books and in magazines and interviews and so forth. I spent five years tracking down those facts and then piecing them together into a coherent “story” that I hoped others would enjoy. But I knew that he didn’t know that. Indeed, the fact that he assumed it was “easy” meant I’d been at least a little bit successful: My hard work is invisible, which allows the main event — the book’s narrative — to take center stage.

So I understand how hard it is to create something from nothing — and I know that people who don’t do what I do don’t understand how I do what I do. Again, not a criticism; just a fact. I have no idea how to run a brewery, perform brain surgery, or repair automobiles. (So I try to show respect for those who do.) 

But I also know that because people don’t know how I do what I do (or how Anat does what she does), the critics always want something other than what they got. 

For example: Many people criticize me for not including the colonial period in my book, or for not writing a book that was only about the craft brewing industry. That’s okay. They’re entitled to their opinion, just as I’m entitled to mine. And in my informed opinion, I had good reason to write the book the way I wrote it, not least of which was that, ya know, I wrote the book I wanted to write, not the book that someone else wanted me to write. 

(So to those critics I always say — politely — “Those sound like a great topic. I look forward to reading your take on it. Let me know when you’ve finished  your book.”)

(I’m still waiting for those books to appear. . . . )

Next: Showtime!


5 thoughts on “Filmmaking, Writing, Beer, Insularity, History, and Other Topics More-Or-Less Related to “Beer Wars,” Part 3

  1. This comment was from Michael H.:Nicely put…I do admit that I got caught up in voicing my disappointment for the film. I don’t think that has changed, but you are right it wasn’t my film. To my recollection, Anat never called me for my input. I’ll have to check with my manager.Hopefully yourself and others have now put the exclamation point at the end of this conversation. Isn’t it time to move on?

  2. This comment was from me:Move on? I’m just getting started! Kidding, sort of: I am planning several more posts about this because I want to make a larger issue that’s NOT directly about the film/beer world. So …. there will be more.

  3. This comment was from Tim Beauchamp, who blogs at littlewinery.blogspot.comPlease don’t “Move on” too quickly. I find it interesting watching and reading discussions that poke a nerve or challenge a sacred cow.Internet discussions, and in particular blog comments, seem to allow us to regress back to our grade school behaviors. Everyone one gets to go out into the playground and has to pick a team.I find the social dynamics of some of these islands of common passion, like the craft beer zealots (in which I belong), or authors, political, religious, sport, computer OS types; are all like little tribes. Each has their own customs, common enemies, vocabulary and customs. And each tends to be very protective of what they perceive as attacks (real or imaginary) of their belief systems.So, if you are going to move on, please move on to the next installment of this thread. I can’t wait.Besides, how hard can it be for you. You just have to write or type it down. Right?

  4. This comment was from Greg Koch, owner of Stone Brewing. He was in the film.Wow…gotta jump in here again. Your proclamations about what you think the craft brewing community is thinking are nothing short of outrageous. And disconnected.I can tell you that we have no such delusions about ourselves or our world (or the much, much larger world).I have often commented on the fact that all I have to do is walk a couple blocks down the street to run into someone that has never heard of Stone Brewing. Hell, there are people that walk past our building that have no idea what it is, and have never heard of Stone. And our brewery and restaurant is the #3 most popular tourist destination in North County.Every once in a while someone asks me “what’s it like to be so famous?” Heh! I always respond with a laugh that yes, I’m famous and probably 5% of people know who I am…IF you are at craft beer centric event. If I’m simply at a craft beer centric bar, then you need to take that down to 1%. If in a regular bar that maybe has a craft beer or two, then take that down to 0.0001%. I don’t think there’s a calculation for how low the recognition factor is for just being on the street, but it’s probably same for running into a random person that I went to high school with…in Ohio.I could go on, for pages, as to the extent of non-famousness I have achieved.The truth of the matter of course is that what we craft brewers do inspires some folks to be enthusiastic about it. We know that us “beer geeks” (or “craft beer enthusiasts”) are a tiny fraction. Just try trolling RateBeer or BeerAdvocate and you’ll see that Forum posts of the “how can I get my friends into craft beer” and “why is craft beer such a small segment” are common. Folks know that they’re in the minority.And we are not insular at all. Honestly, that’s a luxury we don’t have. We have to play out there in the world with the “big boys.” Trust me, if you went on a ride-along with one of our sales people, or a sales person for a mega-wholesaler and/or craft-only wholesaler, you’d quickly see that craft beer is brought down to earth many times daily. You think that the likes of Stone or DFH have easy access to market? Come ride along. It’s brutal out there. One cannot spend a single day on the streets selling craft beer without understanding the fact that we don’t have the privilege of living in an insular world. Not by the furthest stretch.Please note that I do my best to couch facts as facts, and my opinions as opinions. I try to go to extra effort to not couch my opinions as fact. If you have an opinion about how it is I think, or craft brewers think, perhaps you could check that opinion with us before stating it as fact? Perhaps?As always, thanks for the conversation! I would be more than happy to openly discuss any and all of this. I will intersperse day to day facts in with our philosophies about business and our artisanal world.All the best!Greg KochStone Brewing Co.

  5. This comment was from me.Hey, again, Greg. And again, thanks for taking time to comment. When I used the term “craft beer community,” I wasn’t referring to just the brewers, or even the brewers.Indeed, my experience has been that brewers tend to have a much larger perspective than do the people who drink their beer (Except, sadly, when it comes to putting craft brewing into historical perspective. But again, that’s okay, too: brewers aren’t historians.)I know that you, Sam, Whoever, are all too aware of your relative standing in the overall brewing industry. Just as, for example, many craft brewers know that, regardless of size, any brewers knows what a tough biz it it.Again, thanks so much for taking time to stop, read, and comment. Hope you all had a good time in LA that night. I was WAAAAAAY too tired to carry the party forward. But it was totally swell hanging out in the green room w/you.


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