Hoarding and zombie beer: How big beer is trying to strong-arm its way to victory

Beer is probably one of the most refreshing drinks to have on a hot night. Cold, crisp, it’s ancient recipe perfected through the generations as each round of humanity takes a shot at making the nectar of the gods. I am not going to tell you what to drink here, I’ll leave that for your snobby beer friends (I might be one), but what I am going to talk about here is how AB (Anheuser Busch) InBev is trying to stick it to craft breweries by using methods that date back to the 1920s.

In total they own 32 brands worldwide, making AB the largest beer manufacturer in the world. There is nothing wrong with owning companies and making a product that people want, but what is wrong is when you use dirty tactics in order to ensure that you are at the top. In the U.S. there are a few hundred, if not thousands, of craft and micro breweries and many of these breweries go after numerous types of beer. None have mastered the yellow piss beer flavor that has been the national standard for decades like AB and the other major beer makers. That isn’t to say microbreweries hate it, I can’t speak for them, but it’s just not their flavor.

Making these odd concoctions takes something called hops. Hops are a flower that is used in brewing almost all beer and imparts onto the drink a citrus or bitter taste. Depending on how much you use you can make a vast assortment of beer and that usually means having to use a lot of it. Using hops to pave a way to victory, breweries like Modern Times, Firestone, New Belgium, Green Flash, and Stone have either teamed up to make fantastic beers or have kept the distribution of it fairly even. The community within the craft beer scene is truly fantastic and very profitable as more and more craft beers have begun to take a vast amount of shelf space in the beer isle.

This hasn’t made AB happy as they’ve seen a large slide in sales and have resorted to using dirty tactics that range from buying a large stake in RateBeer (Without disclosing it to the public) to straight up shaming. Just watch this commercial:

Because if you don’t like Bud you’re the other and being the other is bad. Don’t question. Consume. Also, that tagline “Brewed the Hard Way” what’s hard about it? Do their brewmasters sit up to 3 am babysitting a batch because of poor refrigeration as the beer maker can’t afford to buy a new fridge? That’s the hard way as far as I can see it, and from what I can tell, AB isn’t doing anything the “hard way.” Seeing the ad above backfire, they then switched tones and I have to say, whomever made this ad did a very pretty good job.

I have no idea if the story in this trailer is real, I’d like to research that another day, but damn you for using an immigrant story! *Wipes tears away* Gets me every time.

Even with these ads trying to leverage their heritage or their use of a specific kind of tree in their brewing, AB found their sales only slowing and they weren’t the only big beer company to feel this pain. Instead of trying to out-do these scrappy craft beer makers, they decided to move for a more sinister approach by hoarding hops and buying out craft beer makers so they can turn around and sell their beer at rock bottom prices.

The pettiness is about as bad as our current political climate, meaning this is at 12 year-old levels of revenge. Oh, you like G.I. Joe? Great, I’ll go to every store in town and buy them all and keep them at my house. I hate them, more a Action Man man myself, but if you can’t have any, then I am all the merrier! And you make tie-dye t-shirts? Oh, that’s nice, but I bought another tie-dye shop and I am selling their organic blended shirts at half the price you’re selling them. I’m not making a profit, I’m just doing it because you suck!

This is what a multi-million dollar enterprise does when they’re being beaten at a game they’ve had cornered for half a century and frankly, it’s garbage. Hoarding hops is straight out of the 1920s, but the zombie breweries are next level. The term zombie, in the context of this industry, are craft breweries that are acquired by a big beer company and then used to undercut the market. Jacob McKean of Modern Times has this to say about the topic, “Not quality, not making dreams come true, not sharing information. The goal is to destroy craft beer from within by operating acquired breweries as zombie brands that wreak havoc in the marketplace long after the life has been squeezed out of them.”

When you walk into a bar and see a handle of Saint Archer on tap, you’re thinking you like Saint Archer and will get some. Except that keg of Archer was sold at super cheap pricing in order to drive out craft breweries that are also competing for tap space. If you’re a bar owner and you have the choice between Stone IPA or Saint Archer IPA, but the latter is half the price of the former, you’re going to go with the latter.

This is how big beer is choosing to win, not by innovation, but by starving out craft breweries or buying them out. It’s sad, but in the current state of American affairs this isn’t out of order as more and more craft companies are being bought out. If there’s one thing Disney has taught corporate America it’s that when you can’t innovate, just buy your way out of trouble.

Resistance is futile, prepare to be assimilated, I’ll take a Lagunitas.

Special thanks to Robert Binns for telling me about this topic.

Why I stopped playing Uncharted 4

It’s 5 AM and I am up due to a thought that has upset me personally: I don’t like Uncharted 4.

For me, the Uncharted series was one of escapism and fantastic adventure that was the closest I was going to get to being Indiana Jones. It felt like you were in the middle of a giant action/adventure movie and the Uncharted series has shown that Naughty Dog are technical wizards. The character of Nathan Drake was one I could relate to and have fun with as he was the rogue with a heart of gold. Seeing that Uncharted 4 was coming out, I couldn’t wait to see what Nathan and Elena were up to next after Uncharted 3.

And after playing Uncharted 4 for a good chunk of time, I’ve come to this conclusion: Nathan Drake is an asshole.

It’s like this: We’ve had 3 games to play and witness Nathan grow as a character, as a person. In U3, we even thought about what’s the point of treasure hunting in the first place? A great question to ask, especially when the main character always finds himself in the middle of a massive mystery only to have everything crumble down around him. The release trailer for U4 painted a Nathan who is desperate and was definitely out of the game and was forced back in.

The game starts with Nathan having moved on to a life that is quiet. He clearly loves his wife and wants to move on but cannot let go of his love for adventure. He is even tempted by his salvage partner to head out to a shipwreck, but since the permits for the expedition aren’t cleared, Nathan passes. Elena even says for him to do it! She knows that he is distracted and missing something in his life; to which he declines.

Then Nathan’s brother Sam shows up and Nathan instantly lies to wife about heading off on an adventure.

Nathan Drake is an asshole.

Sam is a character that was shoehorned into this game. He was never mentioned before and in Uncharted 3 I liked how Nathan had an obsession with Sir Francis Drake to the point that it is implied he changed his last name, but in U4 that is even taken away. The backstory in U3 is messed with in order for the player to have a connection with Sam. We flashback to a catholic orphanage where he and his brother were dumped by their dickhead of a dad. This is done in order to establish two things:

-The sibling relationship

-And that Nathan always knew how to use a grappling hook as if it were a third arm

Both of these elements, added to the lying, really spoiled Uncharted 4 for me. The character of Sam is interesting, but adding such a central character to the life of Nathan Drake that was never mentioned before to either the player or Elena is a massive pill to swallow. I know its been done before, but Nathan and Sam’s relationship is established in flashbacks as being such a huge portion of Nathan’s life that the fact we, the player, have never heard of him just doesn’t make any sense. Even if you are guilt stricken, how can you never have told your wife that you had a brother? This makes him an even larger asshole, because he has also lied to the player, which is a huge no-no.

I am all for updating mechanics, I am even alright with the grappling hook, but the way the game presented it to us makes no sense. If Nathan had the ability to use this damn tool all the long, then why didn’t he use it in the previous titles? It even borrows the movable crate mechanic from The Last of Us, to a ridiculous degree; and that degree being when I am in a tomb that has had no one else in it for hundreds of years and a giant box on tiny wheels moves like it was put there yesterday.

I’m not asking for realism here, realism is the dirge sung when fun is dead, what I am asking is that the next installment of a series be true to itself and its audience. Uncharted 4 didn’t do that at all. Mechanical updates make sense, you have to do something new, but what I am pissed at is the characterization. I know Nathan is the a-typical rogue and he will lie from time to time and he has in fact lied to Elena a few times in this series already; but that kind of bullshit, if it hasn’t cost him the girl already, is gone when you marry her. You could argue that Elena knew what she was getting into, but she was also willing to work with Nathan’s love for adventure, and he repaid that understanding with lies.

I’ve grown up with this series. I played Uncharted 1, 2, and 3 when I was single, dating, and now married. I am soon to be unlocking the title of Dad and when I went to play Uncharted 4, it was like hanging out with an old friend who you loved to hang out with only they haven’t changed at all. And after a few hours you realize why you stopped calling them.

At this point in my life, I don’t have time to hang out with shitty husband’s or people. Fact is, I am not finishing this game and the reason why is I don’t care about Nathan and that thought bothered me enough to wake me up and not allow me to go back to sleep.

P.S. Let me be abundantly clear, the technical aspects of Uncharted 4 are amazing and truly a high water mark, but the story is the pits.

‘Hellhole’ AKA the sci-fi book that I love even though I don’t like sci-fi

I am not normally a lover of science fiction stories. To date I have now read about three books in the sci-fi genre, one being a school assignment, another being a short story in a collection of other thriller/sci-fi stories and the latest a book that I actually chose, purchased and read. That last one if the book “Hellhole.” It is part of a series and I now want all the books because it is a book in this genre that I honestly truly enjoyed.

Written by Kevin Anderson and Brian Herbert, “Hellhole” transports the reader to a futuristic world in which planets are managed like the countries under Roman rule (albeit without the gladiators and religious persecution). The planets are divided into two categories: The Crown Jewels and the Deep Zone planets. The book starts with an attempted and failed rebellion. This sets the stage for a story divided between activities occurring in the Deep Zone planets (where the rebellion leader is exiled to the planet Hellhole) and the political movements among the Crown Jewels. The story ultimately involves multiple characters and has a multitude of twists and turns, all adding to my love for it.

Along with its engaging and well-paced plot, there are a host of reasons why I loved “Hellhole” such as:

The universe is futuristic without being implausible

“Hellhole” doesn’t limit itself by giving a possible date or year for when the events are occurring, giving it a huge amount of freedom. The organization of the planets, travel system and other factors that make up this universe are thankfully tight enough to comprehend but loose enough to make plausible.

The story ties back to humanity on Earth without weighing the story down with the past

Several times throughout the story different details tie back to humanity on Earth. These passing comments or side notes give the reader the implication of the characters’ ancestry and a gauge for how far they have come. Bless Anderson and Herbert though because they don’t waste time with a timeline of how far the story is from where we are now. The relation to humanity on Earth gives a small, brief origin for the characters without diverting the story. Also no mention of race (maybe racism will have actually died out by the time we can fly between planets like countries!)

The planetary system is unique without being overly complicated

As previously mentioned the planets are organized like countries while being governed like the United States: all planets under one ruler. By manipulating trade and transportation the reigning government is able to keep control (to a point as the reader finds out later). It is an efficient and easy to understand system without going into intense details about rules, regulations etc.

Readers get to know minor characters without being overloaded with a billion characters to keep track of just before killing them (cough cough George R.R. Martin you murderous fuck)

Between the con man on the run, the girl on the run from a murderous ex, territorial governors, an unknown alien race and others, “Hellhole” offers a host of different minor characters to get to know. They all play a role in the larger overall plot but don’t interfere with it by diverting the story to focus on their life stories. Additionally they don’t die off in droves so there is no need to always get to know a whole new cast of characters.

The plot includes a few twists that make you want to know (read) more

These include a hidden rebellion, an assistant seeking nobility status, alien consciousnesses joining with human minds, the book is jampacked with events you don’t see coming. It all works with and adds to the main plot though and makes you just want more.

The characters have a good amount of depth that makes them relatable

The characters were great. Love or hate certain character though the reader might, it just proves the level of depth the authors gave them. Each one has layers showcased without going into extensive detail and enough flaws to make them relatable. Its a great balance overall, provides humanity and a sense of reality to the characters and doesn’t give you one flawless hero who you feel you must love entirely.

Looking back after just finishing the first book it is easy for me to see why I loved the book and would gladly recommend it to others, whether they like sci-fi or not. I am looking forward to reading the rest of the books that wrap up this story. At this point I don’t have much choice in whether or not I buy them since my copy was signed and I got to meet the author. I couldn’t get rid of it even if I wanted to, and I don’t so I might as well get all of the books in the series and get through the entire story and pray that things don’t tank.

Now I must return to scouring the web for the second and third books (Anderson and Herbert let me buy your books, damn you)!

unnamedWritten by Brianna Gibbons, writer, book reviewer and avid reader. For more book-based talk, follow her on Twitter @Bookworm_ish.

Mad Max Fury Road: How to reintroduce a character

I’m heading to the flicks once more for another helping of Fury Road, and after posting my last blog about this film on Reddit I got to thinking about what the movie is; not the individual elements, but rather why did Miller make Fury Road the way he did.

Max has been absent from the screen for about 30 years, as Thunderdome released in 1985. Nowadays, most movies have a full on reboot for features that aren’t any older than 10 (Case in point: Fantastic 4). In a reboot you can redo the character’s story and whatever, but you lose out on the layers that the character could have collected over time. By keeping the character and making them older you get an entirely different person for the audience to experience and this makes the story infinitely more interesting than seeing Max nab his first bad guy with brilliant CG effects, again.

In some ways, Fury Road is a reboot without losing it’s soul.

This world isn’t the exact same mad world that was in the first three films. This is a place with history, an economy, and a mythology which wasn’t really established as well in the first three versions. Max has clearly been absent from it for as long as have we, and thus we all learn the same information at the same time. We are in as much of the dark as he is at the beginning of the film.

So, we have this character and his world, but he isn’t the same guy from the first three films. But, he is.

Besides the physical markings the knee brace, the jacket, the boots- Max states information that only he would know at the beginning of the film. The missing element to the current Max is hope. Hope is a recurring theme in the movie and Max even states, again, that it is a dangerous thing. Why is it dangerous? Because Max has had hope and has had it taken away. I’m not talking about his wife and kid, though that started it, but when he helped the group out in The Road Warrior (TRW) and then the kids at the end of Thunderdome, he regained more hope.

What if Max gained enough hope to settle down again? To try once more? I ask this because in the film we get flashbacks of a daughter character and some other tribal people, and clearly some of it is Max’s guilt and some of them are a spirit quest deal. While his first family had a son, who’s to say that he didn’t try to start again, only to have it go to shit once more? (Losing hope once again and driving him completely mad.) The one critique I’ve heard of Tom Hardy’s Max is that he isn’t roguish enough; but a proper rogue character has to have something to fight for before they reach their full rogueishness.

The world Max lives in is fire and blood and that is where we come in and meet the current Max. He is more animal than man, he is without conscience, and he is at his most pragmatic. He is about the immediate future rather than the long play. He is reactionary rather than calculating; I mean, in TRW he waits for his chance to get in and make a deal for gas, and same in Thunderdome. This Max is broken, alone, and bonkers.

How do we have the audience relate to that in a standard action movie length of 120 mins? You could show this information in some canned, terrible info dump of character exposition where we don’t care about how he lost his family (as that card has been overplayed to death and we just want to get to the action) or you go primal and more visceral. Miller upholds my golden rule, and that is: Don’t treat the audience or reader like they’re stupid. Using the imagery we get the emotions Miller wants us to have and we move on. To go back to the original question at the beginning of this paragraph, you give them a character that they can understand: Furiosa.

Furiosa is your typical action hero. She has a mission, a drive, and a moral code in her that is strong and leads the audience through the adventure. We’ve seen this character many times before, but only a few times with a woman at the helm. She says she is seeking redemption, but you cannot have redemption without the hope that you can fix what you have broken. All action heroes have hope in them; it’s what keeps them going to find the next job, to shove off into danger, because there is the hope that everything will be alright. Furiosa is the channel in which the audience can gain an understanding of the world and the film. She is the center of the film and because of her strong character she even helps Max find the humanity he has lost.

When they first meet Max is literally an grunting animal. Demanding things, taking what he wants, and generally not giving a shit about anyone else but himself; like a wild animal. By the end of the film, he has the tiny flame of hope inside of himself once again, so much so that when he sees that Furiosa is starting to come around again in the truck he has a bit more levity in his voice and finally says his name. Max can live again because Furiosa reminded him of who he is by being the person he once was and he literally saves her life in return.

This is why I say that Max is the focus of the film and Furiosa is the center. Furiosa is the hero of the film but we learn who Max is through this adventure and see what he is capable of doing. This is why Miller constructed the film the way he did, because we aren’t just shown who Max is, we experience who he is through the choices he makes, through the things he says, and through the people who are around him. Max is surrounded by people who have hope and when they lose it, he rekindles it. When things get dark, he shines, and we wouldn’t have gotten that through some BS talking head scene in the first fifteen minutes. By trekking through this story with him, we get to know this character on a deeper level.

And that is how you reintroduce a character.

P.S. Pardon the lack of humor in this post, but I needed to theory craft a bit, also craft in general and now I want Kraft Mac n Cheese.