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🗣️ "The Future of Beer With Climate Change"


Photo by Wil Stewart / Unsplash

Host: Travis Loop
Guest: Katie Wallace | Director of Social and Environmental Impact | New Belgium Brewing
Category: 🗣️ Opinion

Podcast’s Essential Bites:

[2:54] “For many years, New Belgium has been keeping an eye on climate change. We were the first to ever commission a carbon footprint study for beer and have been committed to reducing our impact for quite a while. And as a part of that we also review annually the risks to our supply chain. So we see climate change as a big business threat. […] We have had things like barley sprouting on the field and being rendered useless for brewing, because it's too warm and wet at the end of harvest season. We've had droughts, smoke taint and, and issues even like hurricanes, decimating fruit crops, and we use fruit for some of our beers and we've had some pretty close calls with that. So every year we check in on the threats to our supply chain. And then the instances are just growing in frequency and severity. So we're quite concerned about what that means for the future of beer.”

[4:03] “Just last week, we got a quality report from our barley crop for 2021. And with the unprecedented and lasting heat waves, we actually are going to see reduced quality of barley and potentially reduced availability of barley for brewing this harvest season. We had the largest wildfire in Colorado's history right here in our watershed […]. So […] our utilities are not able to pull the water from that river. So we are maximizing the use of our contingency sources as well right now. […] So we're just starting to see some of these things that have been predicted for quite a while. But they're coming to fruition and are causing quite a bit of concern. And I think so many of us if we don't see it, it's hard to believe it. And we felt that through beer, we had the opportunity to just kind of emulate what is expected to happen as these events grow more severe and frequent, as climate change worsens. And we wanted to give people something they could touch and feel that would give a taste of what climate change would be like if we don't tend to it quickly and aggressively.”

[7:27] “Recently, someone […] asked if this was just a PR stunt. And we're like, yes, it is a PR stunt. We are hoping to gain more attention around the impacts of climate change. And of course, beer is the least of our worries, but because that's something that we have to play with and help demonstrate the consequences of inaction through, then we for sure meant for it to be a PR stunt that draws attention to the need to address climate action. And, behind the scenes, it's worth saying that it's not only a PR stunt. We are committed to science based targets initiative. We launched the first carbon neutral certified beer, we fund barley breeding to improve the resiliency of barley. So there's a number of things that we do that are […] driving action, and not just a PR stunt. But this is something we could add to the mix of our projects that helps to increase awareness.”

[9:47] “We expect a six pack could cost as much as $100 in the future […] and that is due to the number of risks there are to our water sources to our supply chains in general and to the distribution and cooling of the beer due to disruptions and energy delivery. So we think that if a number of those disasters coincided, you'd be looking at shortages and barley supplies, higher expense for energy and fuel and potentially an inability to access primary water sources and […] all those things would increase the price of the beer.”

[11:33] “It's actually the first carbon neutral certified beer in North America. There are a few other carbon neutral certified beers across the world. There are other countries that unlike the United States have federal carbon neutral certification standards. And I hope that the US can get there one day, because it really helps to unlock a lot of market potential.”

[15:27] “We actually did some research through Nielsen […]. We looked at beer drinkers and how important it was to them that a beer was certified carbon neutral, and about 74% of them, before even hearing the definition of carbon neutral certification, thought it was important. And once they heard the definition of carbon neutral certification, 86% of them thought it was important. So if we really look at […] satisfying the consumer and looking at the long lasting demand, there really is a strong demand for that from consumers, which actually helped us to tap into the marketing budget for some of the costs of our offsets and carbon neutral certification.”

[17:15] “It's probably worth articulating that through our certification, it's not just enough to only buy assets in perpetuity, we actually need to make a measurable reduction on our actual absolute emissions over time. So we are both committed to all of our beers being carbon neutral certified by 2030, but we're also committed to the science based targets initiative of making drastic reductions in our absolute emissions, to limit warming to that 1.5 degree Celsius. […] We have to reduce our operational greenhouse gas emissions by 55%, from 2019 to 2030. So over time, we'll be reducing our reliance on offsets and investing in more renewable energy on site or more renewable energy community solar fields, etc. We are looking at solutions again for barley farming and funding. We fund barley breeding research so that we can move towards barley varieties that are less impactful on the climate and also preserve soil health and increase the resilience of barley throughout increases in climate change. And trying to also drive more recycled content, we helped to found the glass recycling coalition, and that can help to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

[23:18] “Water efficiency measures throughout the brewery are critical. It's much harder for craft beer when you have a lot of hops and different ingredients. […] Water is a process aid […] throughout delivering and integrating all the many ingredients and things that craft beer lovers enjoy, all that flavor. And so it's tougher to make, […] oftentimes requires more water.”

[24:01] “There's a fair amount of process water reuse throughout our brewery. So we actually capture the water from the internal rinse of our bottles when it's cleaning […] and we use that then for the external rinse to wash the bottle off. […] That saves us close to 2 million gallons of water here. On our front lawn, we installed artificial turf, because it's high traffic and that saves us about 350,000 gallons of water a year. […] We move to dry lubricant on our bottling lines and so that saves about […] 1.5 million gallons of water a year. And so there are lots of things you can do inside the brewery to drive efficiency.”

Rating: 💧💧💧

🎙️ Full Episode: Apple | Spotify
🕰️ 29 min | 🗓️ 08/23/2021
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