The Story of Beer, Climate and Advocacy:  Brewers Declare for Carbon Pricing

by Randy Salim, BCL Food & Beverage Sector Leader

Andy Tveekrem is a long-time brewmaster and the co-founder of Market Garden Brewery in Cleveland, Ohio.  In April, Andy was BCL’s guest speaker for a special webinar to talk about the effects of climate change on the brewery industry and why he signed on to support the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act.

Andy Tveekrem

Andy Tveekrem

Brewmaster Andy shared several stories about the impact of climate events on his industry, including how the recent drought in Europe had not only led to a poor barley harvest--high protein levels that are not ideal for beer--but had also caused the canal and river levels to drop.  These conditions caused a ”double whammy -- a poor quality harvest and the inability to transport it economically.”

Andy also spoke about his trip to the hop harvest in Yakima Valley, Washington in September 2017, when he had witnessed the impact of six major wildfires which had inundated the region with bad air quality.  Andy noted, while the hops fields had been spared during the fires (a serious concern with the increasing number of days registering extreme temperatures), the hazardous air quality was difficult to bear for all in the area, especially hazardous for those working outdoors during the hops harvest.  

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Discussion also turned to the international beer industry as climate change is affecting the beer industry around the world.  Hops are a global commodity. Germany, California’s Yakima Valley region and New Zealand are some of the larger hops producers, with many other markets spreading out global supply.  Having widespread hops resources helps mitigate some of the “whipsaw effects,” so that when harvests are affected in one place, supplies are available elsewhere. But climate change impact has added more price pressure on hop and barley supply across the world, presenting supply chain disruptions.  For example, throughout 2007-2008, drought-induced hops failure in Australia resulted in Asian brewers seeking U.S. hops with “open wallets” and an ensuing market disruption.

Andy noted about these events, “It’s apparent to me that [climate] policies need to happen, and lobbying for change at the national level is one of those things. Most brewers I know are concerned about climate change but getting them to land on one key solution is the challenge.  We can all see that the political winds have shifted and more people are talking about it than ever before, but can we get something done?”

The main policy focus in the industry this year has been to renew the tax cut package for small brewers.  No one wants to “upset the apple cart” too much until that is renewed in perpetuity. This policy has helped grow U.S. breweries from just 80 brewers in 1980 to over 8,000 this year.  “Profitability drives sustainability. Brewers need to be in the black to make investments in eco friendly things.”

As to why he signed on to the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act, Andy explained, “I want to do something.  This seems like the most logical approach because of the dividend being kicked back to consumers versus it going to the government.”  And the beer industry is clearly subject to climate effects.

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Andy’s solution?  Get more brewers to take action. “Bring up climate and talk to brewers about it.  Brewers are very interactive with the public. If you are visiting your local tap room strike up a conversation. The more people hear climate stories bubbling-up from the ground level, the more they will be inclined to do something about it.  It would be really helpful to have a business case studies outlining the impact on the bottom line of a carbon price--and the benefits to our industry. That would help a lot.”

To join the BCL/CCL BrewTeam email us at brewteam@citizensclimate.org and support the Brewers Climate Declaration!