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New Belgium creates "Torched Earth" beer that tastes like climate change: "Like eating a Band-Aid"

Beer with a bite
Intentionally foul beer created to highlight a growing threat of climate change 05:56

The New Belgium brewery in Fort Collins, Colorado, is famous for its Fat Tire ale and sizable supply of suds. But recently, CEO Steve Fechheimer decided to craft a new beer, created to highlight how climate change threatens breweries.  

"It's not usually good business to make a bad product," Fechheimer told CBS News senior national and environmental correspondent Ben Tracy.  

His brewmaster, Dave Glor, said he was confused when he was asked to make the beer because he's "not usually asked to make bad-tasting beers." 

The beer is called "Torched Earth," and Fechheimer said the drink "tastes like eating a Band-Aid." New Belgium doesn't really want consumers to buy the drink, but wants people to learn something from it.

Tracy asked: "What is the future of beer if we don't really address climate change?"

"I think beer is not gonna not only become very expensive but is not going to be the same quality of beer that people get to enjoy today," Fechheimer said.  

"And so, when we say 'expensive,' what's a future six-pack if climate change runs rampant?" Tracy asked. 

"We've talked about a six-pack of Fat Tire costing $100," Fechheimer replied. 

The three main ingredients in beer are clean water, barley and hops. All of those ingredients are threatened by climate change. Weather extremes such as drought and flooding are ravaging crops across the country.  

The main source of New Belgium's water is the Poudre River. Historic wildfires fueled by climate change have burned the forests in the canyon and polluted the river with ashen runoff — making the water supply at times unusable. 

"We view climate change as an existential threat to New Belgium," Fechheimer said. 

"Torched Earth" is a wake-up call for consumers. Instead of clean water, it is brewed with the smoke-tainted version. High-quality hops are replaced with climate-resilient dandelion root, and barley gets swapped for buckwheat. 

"It's a window into how terrible things are at a somewhat selfish level ... that might be the least of our worries," said Fechheimer.

New Belgium is aware that beer pales in comparison to the deadly impacts of climate change already impacting the planet. The brewery is trying to do its part by powering much of its operation with solar panels. 

Katie Wallace, New Belgium's director of environmental impact, said "Torched Earth" is meant to start a conversation. 

"If climate change is our client, then yes it's a PR stunt for climate change and the goal of that is to raise awareness for climate action," Wallace said. 

Glor said "Torched Earth" is not meant to be putrid, but simply probable. 

"It was an exercise in exploring the way we might have to make beer, not how we want to make beer," said Glor.  

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