In the summer of 2015, as drought swept across the northwestern U.S. – where the vast majority of American hop production is centered – the question of climate change impacts on craft brewing hit home for many brewers and beer drinkers. As early as 2011, the sustainability director of New Belgium Brewery proclaimed that, “if you drink beer now, the issue of climate change is impacting you right now.” Today, we see the fingerprints of climate change all around us, as it is altering the atmosphere in which all of our weather events occur. In Minnesota, we see it in earlier ice-out days on frozen lakes, we see it in shifting migration patterns and the slow, northward march of our biomes, as well as increasingly frequent severe weather events. Climate change is here and now.
For beer brewers, the impacts of climate change are showing up in concrete ways, and posing a threat to their business models, which rely heavily on a healthy, resilient environment with clean water and suitable growing conditions for hops and barley. Drought conditions in the West have forced some breweries to rely more on groundwater in recent years, which can negatively affect the taste of the beer. Hotter summers have also threatened hop harvests in the Yakima Valley – ground zero for U.S. hop production. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) has documented these changes in a blog post on the threats that climate change poses to beer production.
Breweries are recognizing these impacts, and a number of leading breweries signed a climate declaration in 2015 as a call to action that urges policymakers to seize the economic opportunity of tackling climate change.
Bent Paddle Brewing Co. is at the forefront of the Minnesota craft brewing industry in its efforts to embed sustainability into the core of its operations. Bent Paddle recognizes that Lake Superior water is its lifeblood, and so has taken an active role in clean water initiatives, which they mention at each public brewery tour to send the message that a successful brewery can uphold a strong commitment to clean water. Furthermore, the brewery has pursued efforts to reduce its footprint as much as possible, by initiatives such as a comprehensive waste management program, energy-efficient brewing equipment and lighting, and the donation of their spent grain to local cattle farmers. From a community support standpoint, Bent Paddle has given back over $200,000 to local nonprofits and charities through their Paddle It Forward program in just the short three years since they opened.
This fall, Bent Paddle is bottling its sustainability values, in the form of a collaboration beer for Climate Generation’s 10-Year Celebration, “The Hottest Event of the Decade.”
“Sustainability is a core philosophy of our mission at Bent Paddle Brewing Co.” says Laura Mullen, Co-Founder and VP of Outreach for the brewery. “We strive to minimize our environmental footprint with every decision we make as a company and by leveraging our successful brand to highlight initiatives and causes that are important to us. That is why we partnered with Climate Generation to make a beer in celebration of their 10 year anniversary. Climate change is real and already upon us; we are grateful to have the chance to help Climate Generation further their outreach in a delicious and approachable way with this limited edition Black IPA. We hope that this beer brings people together to discuss what we can do now to address the threat of climate change over a pint of Climate Generation Black IPA.”
This special, limited-release beer will be available in 750ml bottles at select liquor stores as well as on tap at the brewery, local bars and restaurants, and our 10-Year event. A portion of the proceeds from the Climate Generation Black IPA will benefit our work to engage individuals and their communities in solutions to climate change. With this beer, Bent Paddle is brewing for a better climate.