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The Sustainable Brewery: Making Beer on Hard Mode

It’s not easy to prioritize the planet and its people alongside the product, but even small steps taken by small breweries can have a big impact. Water use is one area where breweries can make an outsized difference.

John M. Verive Mar 14, 2022 - 14 min read

The Sustainable Brewery: Making Beer on Hard Mode Primary Image

Photo: Matt Graves

In spring of 2021, Colorado’s New Belgium dropped a limited-edition beer meant to give drinkers a taste of the future. The brewery packaged only about 100 cases of the ale, called Fat Tire Torched Earth. It didn’t make a lot of ISO lists, and it’s unlikely that it stole the show at any bottle shares.

By most accounts, it tastes pretty bad—and that was the point. (“A beer not fit for man nor beast,” writes a reviewer named “Slick T.” on Untappd. “That being said, when, not if, the earth is scorched, this is my go-to.”)

Torched Earth was a glimpse of what beer may taste like once climate change desolates agriculture and depletes the water supply. The statement beer was part of New Belgium’s larger strategy to combat climate change and promote sustainability—not just in their breweries, but in the brewing industry as a whole.

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