To raise awareness of how climate change will negatively impact the brewing industry without immediate action, Fat Tire, the flagship brand from New Belgium Brewing released a new beer for Earth Day. Torched Earth Ale, is a dark starchy liquid made with smoke-tainted water, dandelions and drought-resistant grains. And yes, it tastes awful. Its ingredients are some of some of the less-than-ideal components that would be available and affordable to brewers in a climate-ravaged future without aggressive action now to confront the climate crisis.
The idea, which comes from creative agency Red & Co, highlights the stakes of climate change for beer lovers everywhere.
In addition, Fat Tire is launching a sustained campaign asking beer drinkers to make a Last Call for Climate by demanding their favourite brands adopt 2030 climate plans. As of this year, 70% of Fortune 500 companies lack a meaningful climate action plan (one that will help companies achieve or be well on the way to achieving net-zero emissions by 2030, the year scientists say that catastrophic climate change could be irreversible without bold action). To make it easy, Fat Tire has created an online tool that allows users to see which Fortune 500 companies have plans already and which do not – and reach out directly to those that don’t.
Last year, Fat Tire became America’s first certified carbon neutral beer. New Belgium also announced plans to achieve net-zero emissions across the entire company by 2030.
“If you don’t have a climate plan, you don’t have a business plan,” stated New Belgium chief executive officer, Steve Fechheimer. “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.”
If the climate change crisis continues to grow unabated, traditional ingredients like barley will be far more expensive as growing regions shrink due to increased temperatures. Extreme weather events and constant drought will cause the loss of entire crop years, making perishable ingredients like hops and malt rare, at best. And all kinds of ingredients would become perpetually tainted by smoke from wildfires, which have rapidly grown hotter and more dangerous in recent years.
To make the limited-edition Torched Earth, brewers at New Belgium started with smokey malt to mimic the impact wildfires will have on water supply, then added drought resistant grains like millet and buckwheat, which are most tolerant to shifting agricultural zones. For bitterness, they added dandelions, which grow anywhere, and shelf-stable hop extract, a far cry from fresh hops, with far less aroma.
Fat Tire commissioned Torched Earth’s label artwork from Kelly Malka, a Los Angeles-based artist and first-generation Moroccan immigrant who has experienced firsthand the devastating direct impacts of climate change, including worsening wildfires and air pollution, in her own community. For inspiration, Malka drew on neo-futuristic worlds in popular films and television to depict the iconic Fat Tire bicycle in an uninhabitable world swirling with flames.
To help fellow beer companies on the journey to net-zero emissions, New Belgium also will be releasing a detailed blueprint as a model for the beer industry, a detailed resource that will help any brewer measure their carbon footprint and take steps to become carbon neutral.