13 May 2009 @ 8:17 AM 

Tiny Spoiler alert: If you have not seen J.J. Abrams’s Star Trek reboot yet and care wildly about a throwaway line about 20 minutes into the film, you may want to stop reading now, but I promise that this post is actually about beer.

Behold this scene. Kirk meets Uhura in a bar. Aww. They’re… like.. kids! How cool! The whole clip lasts just a minute and doesn’t give away anything about the film if you haven’t seen it yet. Go ahead. Watch it. I’ll wait.

Fun, eh? “That’s a lot of drinks for one woman!” Nice pickup line, Jim. It’s hard to imagine that you actually do get all the girls. I’ll tell you what, though. I barely noticed it the first time through; the mention of three “Bud Classics” nearly took me out of my seat.

For years, sci-fi has been responsible for motivating the minds of inventors and that is particularly true for Star Trek. There’s a reason that there are cell phones that look a lot like the communicators you see in Star Trek. There’s a reason that there are actually scientists working on matter transference. One person thought it up in their wildest dreams and a fanboy scientist somewhere that actually knew his shit about physics said, “Holy shit. I bet I can do that.” I hope that, instead, this is one of those instances where 30 years from now I have to explain that reference to the younger generations.

“See.. back in the early part of the 21st Century, our country – in fact, our world – was dominated by just a couple of major beer companies that made some really bland stuff but were incredibly powerful. At that point, the companies had been around for 150 years or more and it seemed like there was nothing anybody could do to crack the market beyond a really specific 10% or so. This ‘Budweiser’ was one of them. Of course, that was back before we ran out of oil and the megabreweries couldn’t figure out how to ship 200 million barrels of beer quickly and cheaply and business started shifting back to local taverns.”

Bud Classic? Really? I mean.. I get the throwaway joke. It’s like Coke, Coke Classic, etc. It’s in the future. They’re in a bar. Bud Classic. A-ha-ha-ha. I also know from an interview with Jimmy Kimmel (start at 5:36) that the engine room of the Enterprise was actually Budweiser’s factory, so you probably felt like you had to throw in a little product placement. But you know what? There are a lot of beer factories out there with lots of rooms with lots of pipes that aren’t A-B that would have been equally as good, and those vats wouldn’t have been filled with Bud Light, they would have been filled with Awesome. A “Sam Adams Classic” might have been a really great touch, actually.

I do appreciate that you’ve got a woman – and what’s more, a black woman – coming in and ordering a beer (and a shot of bourbon!). Uhura has frequently been cited as a source of inspiration to others. People have called her a role model. We can only hope that this reinvention of the character will continue to follow suit! But… a Bud Classic?

“I don’t want none of that fancy new beer! You get me a Bud like they made it back in the good ol’ days in the 20th Century!”

Can you imagine a future in which our tastes as a species are so unrefined as to hearken back to old Budweiser?

No! I refuse to believe in a future in which the dominant beverages, even in a dive bar in Iowa outside of a landside space station, are Bud Classic and Slusho Mix. Jack? Okay. I’m fine with that. (I’ll have a taste of that 150-year, thanks!) But I refuse to believe that in a future where space travel is possible we, as a society, are so damned pedestrian.

You hear me, Abrams? You could have put anything in there! She could have said “I’ll have the Nendefarian SPACE Ale!” and I wouldn’t have thought twice about it, but feed me a line about Bud Classic and I start seeing your future in a much more Blade Runner-esque “it’s always dark and foggy and rainy” kind of way. That future isn’t a beacon of progress and a place of peace where anything is possible, but one where we’re finally mindless drone minions to our corporate overlords.

I reject this bleak vision of our drinking future. My future holds great beer. Besides, in a real future Iowa, it probably should have been Dos Equis Classico.

Posted By: erik
Last Edit: 13 May 2009 @ 09:24 AM

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 06 Apr 2009 @ 3:01 PM 

Beer Wars. Heard of it?


From the amount of hype it’s getting, you’d swear it was Snakes on a Plane 2. I’ve seen this damn thing pop up on every beer-related blog and twitter feed on the interweb at least once, usually multiple times. Here: take a look for yourself. You’d think that everybody was getting kickbacks.

(Am I missing a kickback? Is that what’s going on? Because… I mean.. everybody has a price.)

I kinda can’t wait for April 16 to come so all this can stop, already. I can only imagine what the Beer Wars traffic is going to look like next week. Ugh.

I'd kill for a non-snake beer right now!

I'd kill for a non-snake beer right now!

You know how it is: that new movie comes out that you maybe sort of wanted to see because it’s supposed to be good, but you think it looks like it has the possibility of being kinda stupid and you were totally busy opening weekend so maybe you’ll go see it later and then your friends keep talking to you about it – DUDE! You haven’t SEEN it!? What’s WRONG with you!? It’s like the BEST movie EVAR!!1! And then the last possible thing you want to do is see that movie?

That’s me and Beer Wars.

Sure. It’s probably great and has a lot of merit. It certainly appears to be striving to make a solid point: That craft brewers have a lot to struggle against in the beer market due to over-regulation and the existence of a few large mutlinationals with deep pockets. That’s great. To me, it looks a bit like a fanboy documentary about craft brewing that is targeted at craft brewing fanboys overlayed with a big gimmicky kind of release that has the balls to be on a Thursday evening. I can’t go see it even if I was buying into the hype. Why? Because it’s playing in a theater 40 minutes away from me on a Thursday evening. I mean.. sure.. I also have to go pick a relative up at the airport and play in a softball game. You know why? Thursday. Shit happens on Thursdays and then I have to work on Friday morning.

Anyway, what I, or most people, know about Beer Wars, is pretty much summed up on the synopsis page of the Beer Wars site. A little more, perhaps not very complimentary, is available by reading through a review by the Boston Globe’s Alex Beam.

As far as I can tell, what I noted above pretty much sums up the movie. Watch the trailer, it’s well edited and carries the message quite well. The little guys fight the big guys. That’s the premise. As the poster children for this fight, Ms. Baron has chosen the one of the most successful craft breweries in the country, Dogfish Head and media darling Sam Calagione (man, do people love Sam Calagione), and co-founder of the largest craft brewery in the country (Sam Adams), Rhonda Kallman, now of New Century Brewing. Both are fascinating choices, given that they have each been quite successful in carving out their niche and can actually compete with the megabreweries in ways that many small breweries can’t even fathom. Kallman is an even more interesting choice as Edison Light, the main product of New Century, is one of a very, very small list of beers that actually competes directly with what the megabreweries make. She, unlike Calagione, really is trying to sell against Bud Light.

The unfortunate part of this movie, I think, is the choice to portray this as a battle, or a war. Here’s a reality in small business, regardless of product: There is a large multinational out there that you will have to compete against. They make their product in a way which will maximize profits, that is how they became a large conglomerate. You, as a small business, actually do not directly compete with them. You cater to a niche market that appreciates hand-crafted or personally made products. You will never be able to do this AND compete with said large company. Why? Because in order to compete, you will also need to make your product in a way which will maximize profits, and you will then no longer have hand-crafted or personally made products. This is a phenomenon that is not unique to beer in any way. It is a point that I feel is missed by portraying this is some sort of fever-pitched battle. It is a “war” that cannot be won, because it cannot be fought; as soon as you are in the position to really fight the battle, you’re fighting on the wrong side.

The plight of the craft brewery, as far as I’m concerned, is much more about getting out from under the heavy thumb of distribution and neo-Prohibitionist laws, but that doesn’t tell a very good story.

Greg Koch of Stone posted a small excerpt/concept of his upcoming keynote address at the Craft Brewers Conference on his twitter feed.

“If you intentionally serve beers that you do not respect, you are an enabler of keeping people in their uninformed comfort zones. “

Hear, hear. Maybe they know more about it than I do, but it seems like all of these breweries throwing their weight behind the unmitigated hype of Beer Wars, but not also throwing a bone at, say, Beer Pioneers (which I am really excited to see), feels like a bit of a contradiction. I just hope Beer Wars lives up to the hype and is truly awesome. I’ll apparently never get to find out.

As a personal aside: I’ve actually been struggling with posting this. What kind of reaction is this going to garner? If I don’t hop on the Beer Wars bandwagon am I going to get blackballed by the very industry that I’m attempting to be a part of because I find this level of hype distasteful? Let’s hope not. Admittedly, there have been others that have seriously discussed the film, or what it means to the industry instead of just re-trumpeting blind calls to go watch it (Andy Crouch comes immediately to mind, I’m sure there are others), but they have the advantage of being well-known and respected voices in the industry. I may well be the jackass that tried to pop in on everybody’s radar just in time to try to shoot down their favorite pet project. Time will tell. In the meantime, I’ll have a beer.

Posted By: erik
Last Edit: 06 Apr 2009 @ 03:01 PM

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