Review: Craft: The California Beer Documentary

Craft: The California Beer Documentary provides a solid overview of the history and (relatively) current state of the craft beer industry in California. It spans from the birth of craft beer with Fritz Maytag's purchase of Anchor Brewing in 1965 on through 2014ish, with a few minor updates in the epilogue.

Several industry titans are interviewed, including Sierra Nevada founder Ken Grossman, Stone Brewing founder Greg Koch, Pliny the Elder creator Vinnie Cilurzo, and many others. A variety of regions within California are represented, showcasing the diversity of character and beer found throughout the state.

In addition to brewers and brewery owners, representatives of brewpubs, yeast suppliers, and even the famed UC Davis brewing program discuss what craft beer means to them and where the industry might be headed next. Popular topics of conversation include the ever-changing definition of craft beer as well as whether the market has reached its saturation point.

It's fun to hear first hand from the men and women behind our beer. Their insights are fascinating, and the personal stories they share often even more so. For example, Cilurzo's anecdote of how he came to own Russian River Brewing is classic. Basically the old owners were getting out of the beer business, and he traded his severance package for rights to use the Russian River name. The rest, as they say, is history.

One thing I would have liked to hear more about, and this is a testament to how quickly the industry is moving, is the ongoing trend of independent breweries being swallowed up by the big guys. The epilogue mentioned the acquisitions of Lagunitas, Golden Road, and St. Archer, but the movie was released before Ballast Point's $1 billion sale to Constellation. Such transactions are having a dramatic impact on the industry and will continue to do so. Additional insights in this area would be most welcome.


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