Sometimes the best way to get someone’s attention is by shocking them.
And today, on International Beer Day, New Belgium Brewing Company is aiming to do just that.
To mark its flagship beer Fat Tire becoming the first nationally distributed U.S. beer to earn carbon-neutral certification, the company decided to adjust its pricing for 24 hours . . . to $100 per six-pack.
Most brands celebrate milestones with some discount promo hype, but here New Belgium is trying to make a point beyond itself. To give beer drinkers a peek at an impending—and expensive—future.
“We’re obviously in the middle of a terrible economic and health situation, related to the pandemic,” says New Belgium CEO Steve Fechheimer. “Unfortunately, it’s quite a small impact compared to that of climate change over time. We think it’s a good time to raise that awareness, because there is something to juxtapose it against and help people understand what happens when something significant impacts the economy and the way we live our lives. That’s what climate change is going to do. It’s slower than the pandemic, but it’s going to be more severe.”
For Fechheimer, the $100 six-pack is a way to raise that awareness.
“Beer is just one of many industries that is heavily dependent on natural resources,” he says. “Water, wheat, barley, hops, citrus fruits—these are things with supply chains being impacted today, and that impacts the beer we can make and the price we can sell it for. It’s a problem, but it’s going to be a much bigger problem.”
To promote the new pricing and the issue behind it, the brand is taking out a full-page ad in The New York Times, reminiscent of another counterintuitive marketing move, Patagonia’s infamous “Don’t Buy This Jacket” ad ahead of Black Friday in 2011. Like the outdoor retailer, New Belgium is a B Corp that wears its concern for the environment on its beer-soaked sleeve. Since 1991, the company has become the first wind-powered brewery, producing its own electricity on-site through solar and biogas technology, as well as advocating for climate change action alongside groups such as Protect Our Winters.
“We’ve always been talking about [environmental issues], and I think our fans are appreciative of that and expect us to lead on it, and this is another step in that direction,” says Fechheimer. “I’ll tell you, though, there will be just as many people who are upset with us today about this. And that’s okay. This is who we are, this is important to us, and we’re not going to hide how climate change is impacting our business, or that we think this is a giant economic and environmental catastrophe heading for us all.”
The brewery has set a goal of being 100% carbon neutral by 2030. There were some questions about New Belgium’s brand values after it sold last November to Kirin-owned Lion Little World Beverages. That move may have ended the company’s long-standing, widely heralded employee ownership structure, but Fechheimer says one major advantage of being a B Corp is having the flexibility to choose acquisition partners that benefit more than the bottom line.
“As we went through that process over the second half of last year, one of the things that was very important to us was joining someone who shared our convictions on these issues,” he says. “Lion has already made a lot of progress around carbon neutrality and have been leading on that and other issues in Australia.”
In terms of what being part of a larger company gives the brand right now, Fechheimer points to more financial flexibility and more time on campaigns and ideas like the $100 six-pack. “They’re hugely supportive of this,” he says. “They basically ask, ‘How do we help you do this?’ And we’ve been able to move quicker on this than we would’ve been able to had we remained independent.”
Now, to avoid living in a world where every six-pack costs $100 every day, the company’s awareness campaign (created with agency Red & Co) is going beyond just International Beer Day, with a new information and education site called DrinkSustainably.com.
“This isn’t normally what International Beer Day is all about, but we thought this year was a time to rebrand this day a bit and show as an industry how we can have a larger impact,” says Fechheimer. “It’s just a reframing of what’s still a very fun day.”