The new movie "Beer Wars" was shown last night to an extremely sympathetic audience at Brooklyn's bar-cum-music venue Bell House.
How can one be "sympathetic" to, um, beer? Well, in this very straightforward good guy versus bad guy documentary, the Big Three (Miller, Coors and Anheuser-Busch/InBev) are set up as the Goliath to the microbrewers' David, including Dogfish Head's charming Sam Calagione.
Of course, the Big Three are now just the Big Two, but that small detail didn't stop this Brooklyn audience from engaging in a rowdy shout-down over the course of the film -- a distinctly one-sided vehicle with a chipper bespectacled narrator. Vintage ads and interviews with "Bad Beer" millionaires in polished boardrooms are interspersed with folksy, homey interviews with Calagione and Rhonda Kallman, the woman behind caffeinated brew MoonShot. Various microbreweries also snagged cameos. (Pennsylvania's Yuengling received rousing cheers).
The most telling parts of the film came when the camera zoomed into the refrigerated aisle of grocery stores and placed big red boxes around beers clearly dear to audience members' hearts. It was with a collective gasp that suds-lovers realized their beloved Stella was connected to Anheuser-Busch.
So did the film's message hit home?
We chatted with Spencer Elzey, Ben Stern and Josh Schwartz after the film, a few of the 20- to 30-somethings who had sold out the event, whose $20 ticket price included four beer-and-cheese pairings. Elzey pointed out that the film basically had "two points of view," of Calagione and Kallman, as they battled the big guys.
Was he going to run out and buy MoonShot? No. But he definitely would be buying more Dogfish, and was clearly a fan of the devil-may-care, Melvins-shirt-sporting Calagione.
Did the film come off as propaganda to these guys? Nah. "It's a Michael Moore-like story." The fellows agreed that it was "really eye-opening" to see that certain beers were owned by the big three, and rated the flick a four on a scale of one to five (five being the best).
The film's biggest laugh line was perhaps when Calagione talked about checking his voicemail. Dogfish Head prints a 1-800 number on all their brews, and on Monday morning he comes in to about "seven to eight messages." He laughed, "Most of them are some guy being like, 'Dude, I'm drinking your beer!'"
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