Colorado Brewers Create Terrible Beer To Warn Of Climate Crisis

Image via New Belgium Brewers

Yr Dok Zoom is a big fan of the beers from New Belgium Brewing in Fort Collins, Colorado. They're best known for their Fat Tire Ale and Voodoo Ranger IPA; I'm partial to their "1554" dark ale and would be very unhappy indeed if Republicans ever try to cancel the 1554 Project. A few years back, I was duly impressed by the company's commitment to climate action: Founders Jeff Lebesch and Kim Jordan encouraged employees to bike to work, and the workers even voted to forgo a bonus so the company could invest in expanding a Wyoming wind farm to power the brewery. The company says it's now, as of 2020, "America's first certified carbon neutral beer."

So it's not too surprising that New Belgium decided to create a concrete artifact that would help demonstrate how its customers' favorite beverage could be affected by the climate emergency. For Earth Day earlier this month, New Belgium released a limited run of what it's calling "Fat Tire Torched Earth Ale," to simulate what beer might be reduced to if climate change continues unabated. It's made wth drought-resistant grains, dandelions, and water infused with a smoky scent to suggest a West devastated by wildfire. In a promotional video, New Belgium research and development brewer Cody Reif admits, "If this was the beer of the future, I'd probably drink less beer."

New Begium's website explains the dystopian simulation at work in the beer:

This beer uses the kind of ingredients that would be available in a climate-ravaged future ... and they're less than ideal.

Instead of fresh hops — we're using hop extracts and dandelions. Instead of just malt — we're incorporating various malt extracts. Instead of purified water — smoke-tainted water.

The Washington Post wrote about the project Friday, which is how we heard about it, but here, let's go with the paywall-free Scientific American story, shall we?

"The future of beer is here. And it tastes awful," the company crowed in a sardonic print ad for its unpalatable brew. The Torched Earth Ale logo features the company's iconic red bicycle in a denuded landscape, its rubber tires melting.

According to New Belgium, Torched Earth is much more than a bad beer. It's a sensory warning that climate change could wreak havoc on both the ingredients and the conditions needed for successful brewing.

"The resulting dark starchy liquid with smokey aromatics is not likely to win any awards but does highlight the stakes of climate change for beer lovers everywhere," the company said in a release.

The effort is aimed at getting consumers to think concretely about the implications of climate for the stuff that makes life good, which includes beer, and to get them to push companies to adopt plans to become carbon neutral by 2030. Torched Earth Ale is really a promotional tool for New Belgium's "Last Call for Climate'' campaign, which calls on Fortune 500 companies to adopt their own plans for meeting 2030 carbon goals. Consumers can look up major companies at the website and either tweet at them to get their act together or congratulate the minority (30 percent) of Fortune 500 companies that do have carbon plans.

In a press release for Earth Day, New Belgium CEO Steve Fechheimer said,

If you don't have a climate plan, you don't have a business plan. Aggressive action to help solve the climate crisis is not only an urgent environmental and social imperative – it's also a no-brainer for companies seeking to create long-term shareholder value, compete with rivals like China, and create good-paying jobs here at home. As a medium-sized company, New Belgium can only have a medium-sized impact. We need more of the big guys to step up, too.

The company points out that as the climate crisis worsens, ingredients for beer would become harder to get, especially hops, which in the US are mostly grown in the Pacific Northwest. And look at all the fires in that region just last year. The company also plans to release a detailed blueprint for the rest of the brewing industry, aimed at helping "any brewer measure their carbon footprint and take steps to become carbon neutral."

Unfortunately — or not, for the sake of your taste buds — it looks like New Belgium has sold out its entire run of Torched Earth, so you'll have to find some other bad beer for your re-watch of Mad Max: Fury Road. (Heck, you might even have some good beer, to remind you of what we stand to lose.) All profits from the project will go to the Colorado-based climate activist group Protect Our Winters.

And even if Benjamin Franklin never actually said "beer is proof God loves us and wants us to be happy" (He did write something similar about wine), we should commit ourselves to making sure the planet stays habitable for humans — and for hops and malt, too.

[Scientific American / WaPo / Drink Sustainably]

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Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.


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