Can a UK brewery ′make the Earth great again?′ | Environment| All topics from climate change to conservation | DW | 16.03.2018
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climate action

Can a UK brewery 'make the Earth great again?'

Sourced from areas most affected by global warming, Brewdog's Make Earth Great Again "protest" beer promises to promote climate change awareness. But is it enough to bring about policy change?

Scottish brewery Brewdog has released Make Earth Great Again (MEGA), a limited edition beer to "shake the world by [its] shoulders and remind leaders to prioritize climate change issues."

The brewery was inspired after  United States President Donald Trump announced he would withdraw the US from the 2015 Paris Agreement to keep the rise of global temperatures "well below" 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), compared to pre-industrial levels. 

Although Trump has hinted at rejoining the Paris accord, he insists he can renegotiate a deal more than 175 countries have already ratified, saying the agreement signed by the Obama administration "was a bad deal for the US."

Trump's stance toward the risks of climate change prompted Brewdog co-founder James Watt to "make a statement."

"MEGA is a reaction to declining interest from notable world leaders to the biggest issues facing our planet and civilization," he said. It was brewed to "have a direct, positive impact on climate change."

Polar bear vs. Trump

To bring attention to the warming planet, Brewdog carefully selected ingredients to brew a crisp, imperial strength saison-style beer "from areas most affected by global warming," such as water from melted glaciers and cloudberries found in the Arctic, where ice continues to recede amid unprecedented high temperatures. 

The beer is also fermented at higher temperatures than other Brewdog beers "as a metaphor for global warming."

At Brewdog's location in Shoreditch, London, serves MEGA from a beer tap built into a life-sized replica polar bear as a "powerful reminder" of the impacts of global warming. 

Bottles of MEGA, with a cartoon of a polar bear fighting a robot Trump on the label, were sent to the White House in an attempt to grab his attention. Trump didn't react.

All proceeds from MEGA are to benefit 10:10 Climate Action, a nonprofit organization based in London that lobbies for climate protection legislation.

Having donated around £7.1 million (€8 million) in 2016, the independent brewer has set a goal of donating up to £45 million (€51 million) over the next five years.

Alice Bell, director of communications at10:10, told DW Brewdog's MEGA release has prompted important conversations.

Read more: 'Trump Forest' on its way to sucking up America's extra emissions

Grabbing headlines

"We know climate change feels like a tough topic to talk about," Bell said. "By bringing it to people in bars, pubs and shops around the world, Brewdog and MEGA have created a real opportunity for people to come together and break down the usual silence."

"Through this partnership, we've seen real growth in people talking to us about climate change and what they can do about it," she added. 

Bell points to media coverage and feedback her nonprofit has received regarding MEGA. 

"With nearly 500 pieces of [media] coverage, MEGA clearly caught the media's eye," she said. 

Showing a bit of corporate responsibility by donating to charities and promising more sustainable practises has long been a strategy for companies to raise their profile.

And an anti-Trump stance - particularly one encapsulated in an irreverent design like that on Brewdog's MEGA bottles - is all the more headline grabbing. 

Brewdog isn't the only British brand to ridicule the US head of state. Renewable power provider Ovo Energy recently launched a billboard campaign featuring an unmistakable yellow-haired figure going up in flames.

Still, climate credentials aren't necessarily a priority for British beer drinkers picking a pint.

A drop in the ocean

Ricky, a patron at Brewdog's brewery in Birmingham, told DW wouldn't pay more for a beer just because the money went to a good cause. 

Mike, at the same location, told DW he only cares about taste, and isn't worried about the brewery's efforts to promote climate change awareness.

And, in the grand scheme of things, the money MEGA will raise might seem like a drop in the ocean. 
Patricia Espinosa,  Executive Secretary of the UN Convention on Climate Change, recently told Thomson Reuters Foundation trillions of dollars were needed to tackle global warming. 

"The truth is, the transformation we need requires not $100 billion — it requires trillions, and it requires a huge mobilization of resources."

But she stressed that we all have our bit to do. 

"Each and every person, every company, every government at all levels, every institution really [needs to] include climate change in their assessments of risk, in their decisions about how they operate," Espinsoa said. "That would bring the transformation."

The shift eco-friendly brewing is perhaps a trend in the right direction.

Brewing goes green

Climate-conscious craft beers are appearing beyond British shores.

Deutschland Fritz Wülfing von Ale-Mania (DW/S. Meinecke)

Fritz Wülfing of Ale-Mania wants to make beer more sustainable

Fritz Wülfing of Ale-Mania Brewery in Bonn, Germany, told DW he has been developing "a local and eco-friendly business" to raise climate change awareness, by not using chemical additives that could damage the environment. 

He's also an advocate of selling beer in cans rather than bottles, saying that shipping heavier, harder-to-package bottles is more environmentally damaging than distributing lighter, easier-to-package cans.

Wülfing believes, however, that "the German market is not ready for canned craft beer."

Jan de Grave, communications director for Brewers of Europe, said the European Commission has been getting active, encouraging European brewers to "continue pioneering their work on sustainability" throughout the brewing sector and related supply chains.

Grave explained that efforts to reduce the beer industry's environmental footprint "should be endorsed by the summer of 2018" and would be backed by the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. 

That partnership could have a real and lasting impact on the industry, he added. 

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