Filmmaking, Writing, Beer, Insularity, History, and Other Topics More-Or-Less Related to “Beer Wars,” Part 7

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.

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During the post-film panel discussion, Ben Stein asked the beer folks (Charlie, Todd, Sam, Greg, Rhonda) about big-beer power and the three-tier system. They agreed with Anat’s basic premise: That companies like A-B InBev make their work more difficult; make it difficult for small entrepreneurs to survive.

Then Ben asked the craft contingent what makes craft beer and craft brewing so special. They responded that craft brewers are special/unique because they care about their product, they have passion for their work, they’re pursuing the American dream, they making an “authentic” product, ie “real” beer. Or, as Charlie put it, for the craft brewers, the beer comes first. For the “big brewers,” image and marketing matter more than the beer.

Sam and Greg insisted that, for them, the beer would always come first. They also argued that in recent years Americans have begun demanding products that are “local” and “authentic”; demanding products from “individuals” rather than “big corporations.” (And if it weren’t for those pesky big brewers, the small brewers would be more successful.) Finally, they said that making money isn’t their main goal; making a pure, authentic product is, and that it doesn’t matter to them if their companies grow any larger

Then Ben asked me: What’s wrong with big companies wanting to sell their product. Isn’t that what capitalism is all about? I replied by saying, in effect, nothing is wrong with it, and yes, That’s what capitalism is about.

Individuals like Sam, Greg, and Rhonda launch companies because they want to make a product they believe in; they want to make money so they can support their families; they want to be successful. They enjoy and thrive on the challenge. And yes, they have to believe in what they do, because entrepreneurship is not for the faint of heart. Some entrepreneurs (in this case brewers) become successful.

Anheuser-Busch, for example, started out as a tiny brewing company (as did Sam’s and Greg’s). Its owners succeeded, and did so, I would argue, because they met a tough challenge and worked their asses off to make their companies grow.

And then I said something like Greg and Sam should check back with me in ten years to see how their plan to remain small, pure, and real was working out. Which, I gather, made them and others unhappy. They think that I don’t “understand” what they’re trying to do; that I don’t understand their passion.

Next: Entrepreneurship, historical perspective, and other matters

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