There’s nothing quite like a cold beer to finish a long workweek. Unless, of course, that beer reminds you of the threats of climate change, whether suffocating heat waves, explosive wildfires, mega-droughts, devastating floods or their risks to human health and the environment.
That’s actually the goal of Torched Earth Ale, a new beer from New Belgium Brewing Co., based in Fort Collins, Colorado. With each sip, you’ll get a not-so-subtle reminder that your favorite brew may no longer taste the same if we don’t take immediate action to slow climate change and adapt to its effects.
Torched Earth Ale is part of New Belgium’s Fat Tire family of beers, which the company says “became America’s first certified carbon neutral beer in 2020.”
How does Torched Earth taste? In a word, awful.
“If this was the beer of the future, I’d probably drink less beer,” said Cody Reif, R&D brewer with New Belgium Brewing, in a promotional video about the beverage.
The dark, starchy brew is made with less-than-ideal ingredients that would be more available and affordable to brewers in a climate-ravaged future, including smoke-tainted water, climate-proof dandelions and drought-resistant grains.
The brewing company said that extreme weather events and constant drought would cause the loss of entire crop years, placing perishable ingredients like hops and malt at risk. Torched Earth Ale’s smoky hint is a reminder that ingredients could be perpetually tainted by smoke from wildfires, which have grown larger and more dangerous in recent years.
This is certainly true of the brewery’s home state of Colorado and across the western U.S., where 2020 brought the worst wildfire season on record in many areas.
Beer is big business. Reports from Climate Central, a nonprofit climate communications organization, illustrate how much the beverage contributes to local economies.
Citing data from the Brewers Association, Climate Central reported that the craft brewing industry alone contributed more than 580,000 jobs in 2019. The economic impact was highest per capita in Colorado, Vermont, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Maine.
For New Belgium, its campaign is more than just about raising climate change awareness by promoting a less-than-delicious beer. It’s also about motivating its drinkers to demand climate action.
Along with the beer, New Belgium is launching the “Last Call for Climate’’ campaign, a call to action for Fortune 500 companies to adopt a 2030 climate plan, an essential step on the journey to net-zero emissions.
“If you don’t have a climate plan, you don’t have a business plan,” said New Belgium chief executive Steve Fechheimer in a press release. “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.”
Only 30% of Fortune 500 companies have a “meaningful” climate action plan, the brewery claims.
”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,” Fechheimer said.