Check out this mid-nineties Conan clip featuring beer connoisseur Michael Jackson and tell me what's odd about it.
Actually I don't care what you think; I'll just tell you what's odd about it: Even as recently as the mid-nineties, beer connoisseurism was such a strange concept that a beer expert's appearance on a talk show was played for laughs. Why did the idea of drinking beer for the taste seem so goddamn ludicrous?
Well, as we learn from Anat Baron's documentary Beer Wars, most of the blame lies at the doorstep of the giant American beer conglomerates, the big three (now two). After the end of prohibition, a large and varied group of beer companies rivaled each other for supremacy in the marketplace—each delivering distinct and flavorful beers to set themselves apart from the competition. The big three (now two), however, instead of creating a quality product, realized, "Fuck it, it's beer. It doesn't matter if our shit tastes like watered-down horse urine; it's got alcohol in it."
And so, instead of investing in research, the big three funneled all of their money and power into pummeling the American public with their inferior product. They advertised us into submission. Because the big three (now two) had for so long convinced us that taste didn't matter, we began to agree. The smaller companies, unable to match the resources of the big three (now two), eventually went under—leaving us with the notion that shitty beer was the way it always was and had to be. "Beer's supposed to taste not good, right?"
But with the legalization of home brewing in the late seventies, many Americans realized they didn't have to drink the swill peddled to them by the big three (now two). And it was inevitable that industrious start-ups would begin selling their home brews, pocketing a small chunk of change in the process. And thus was born the era of craft beer.
Although, how much of an era is this? It turns out that despite its ascendancy in recent years, craft beer has put but the tiniest of dents in the profits of the big three (now two). But that don't mean the big three (now two) haven't noticed. They have used every weapon at their disposal—coercion, deception, monopolistic dick thrusting—to ensure that craft beer never gets a toehold in the industry. If you haven't gotten the point by now, it saddens the big three (now two) when any American drinks anything other than watered-down horse urine.
And what of the actual quality of the documentary Beer Wars? Eh. Barton traffics in the sort of "I'm gonna put myself in front of the camera as much as possible, as well as record a running narration consisting of faux naive questions about the nefarious activities of the subject I'm investigating; thus making myself—just as much as the supposed subject of the film—the focus of the picture" style made popular by Michael Moore and Morgan Spurlock. And although I generally find this style grating, this film was no exception.
Nevertheless, Beer Wars does explore a subject of interest to me (despite my new-found healthy ways), and Baron does an admirable job exposing the underhanded tactics of the big three (now two) beer companies.
By the way, is anyone else thirsty? I...
OK, I'm just gonna end this review right here.