August 7th was International Beer Day, yet another made up holiday designed specifically for brands to capitalize on their social media and PR channels.
And while most beer companies were celebrating, New Belgium Brewing decided to bring the party down.
In select areas on that day, a six pack of Fat Tire cost $100 to buy. According to CEO Steve Fechheimer, the stunt was to raise awareness about climate change.
Fechheimer told CBS4 the $100 price tag reflects what beer could cost in 50 years if more isn’t done to combat climate change, specifically legislation and citizen action. Climate change already affecting the brewery in Fort Collins in many negative ways.
“The biggest issue is the consistent availability of those key products — we need clean water, it’s over 90% of beer that you purchase, but our access to hops and barley are critical, citrus fruits often as well are a big part of what ends up in our beers. And the climate crisis is changing the growing season, it’s changing the growing locations, frankly some of the massive storms we’ve seen and the flooding has changed the availability of these ingredients to us,” Fechheimer said.
Fifty years is being optimistic. We were told the planet only has 12 years before this planet is irrevocably changed. Or if you're the BBC, eight more months. Back in July of last year, an environment correspondent led with the headline Climate change: 12 years to save the planet? Make that 18 months.
The real question is whether these scare or shame tactics help sway the public opinion, let alone do anything for the brand in the long term beyond the PR headline.
It's even stranger that the announcement coincides with the news that New Belgium is the first carbon-neutral brewery in America, "powering its brewing plants with solar and other renewables, and working with suppliers—particularly bottle manufacturers—to reduce their impact."
You'd think they'd want to celebrate that news rather than jack the price up for the day, especially during a time when tens of millions are out of work.
Stranger still, is that the price wasn't really a hundred dollars. According to Fortune:
"When customers take a sixer of Fat Tire to the checkout at certain partner stores (New Belgium wouldn’t say how many), the beer will ring up at the climate change–inflated price. The customer will then get some marketing materials explaining the motive for the stunt, but, a spokesperson says, will ultimately be able to get his or her suds for the usual price"
So not only was this stunt limited in scope, it was also a bait and switch. In order to pay the regular price, you first had to accept "marketing materials." I sure hope we aren't talking about something printed on paper, because that would defeat the purpose..
Most articles and advertorials masquerading as articles still manage to associate "New Belgium" with "craft beer," despite that fact it sold to a holding company late last year.
Today we’re announcing that New Belgium has agreed to join Little World Beverages USA, the US platform for Lion Kirin breweries, pending approval from our employee owners. To learn more read a letter from our founder Kim Jordan: https://t.co/R355QLMMhf pic.twitter.com/2eoQVQTfsy
— New Belgium Brewing (@newbelgium) November 19, 2019
Unsurprisingly, the news did not sit well with their fans who called them sellouts. It's hard to be David when Goliath is paying your salary. But at least they are carbon neutral.