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By Phil Hall | October 12, 2009

There may have been a fascinating nonfiction film within “Beer Wars,” which promises a “no holds barred exploration of the U.S. beer industry.” However, the film often feels like a commercial for the American microbrewery subsector.

The film argues that industry monoliths Anheuser-Busch, Miller, and Coors ruthlessly dominate the industry and go out of their way to make it difficult for smaller competition to gain a presence in the market. (The film was shot prior to the 2008 merger of Miller and Coors.) Delaware-based microbrewer Sam Calagione and Rhonda Kalman, who co-founded The Boston Beer Company, makers of Samuel Adams, are presented as the beer-brewing Davids challenging the corporate Goliaths.

Ultimately, the film spirals down into a plea to buy microbrewery products simply because they’re not made by the beer industry’s main leaders. Of course, microbrew fans don’t need this film to convince them of that argument.

Even more disconcerting is the insistence of filmmaker Anat Baron to repeatedly insert herself into the production, which turns an investigative documentary into a glorified home movie. Admittedly, Baron has the cred to report on the subject – she was the former general manager of Mike’s Hard Lemonade, and she has plenty of first-hand experience in dealing with Anheuser-Busch and Miller-Coors. But the film isn’t helped with cutesy animated sequences on how Baron escaped from corporate America (via an ejection seat, no less!) or footage of Baron socializing with former associates and rivals at a beer industry function (there is too much Baron and not enough conference to hold our interest).

Overall, “Beer Wars” is a flat, stale brew.

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