Raise a glass to New Belgium Brewery in Fort Collins, Colo. for their newest venture (though before you get too excited, know that it has nothing to do with their seasonal Harvest Ale or overpriced cruiser bikes.)
The company filed to create the New Belgium Federal Political Action Committee, which, when it gets some pocket change, will be used to support candidates who advocate for causes like environmental policies that affect the brewing community.
This isn’t the company’s first foray into politics. Environmental responsibility defines the brand identity and workplace culture of the brewery, which lists its own metrics on the “sustainability” tab of its website. Along with 26 other craft brewers, New Belgium signed onto a letter to Gov. John Hickenlooper urging him to support stricter regulations on the oil and gas industry. Specifically, they expressed concern about how the potential for fracking to contaminate groundwater would impact the quality of their products.
“As a former brewer, you know that the most important ingredient in good beer is good clean water!” the letter reads, touching on the governor’s personal connection to the brewing community in Colorado. In 1988, Hickenlooper co-founded the successful Wynkoop Brewing Co. in LoDo, later capitalizing on the connections he forged and popularity he gained there to get elected mayor of Denver. And the rest is history.
But before all this beer brewing and running for governor stuff, Hickenlooper was a geologist in the oil and natural gas industry. His, shall we say, conflicted position on the regulatory issues surrounding fracking that have bubbled up throughout his tenure as governor may be a reflection of his eclectic past, but breweries in the state are hoping he’ll remember the good old brewery days as he helps determine policy that will affect the water they use to craft their product.
The New Belgium Federal PAC will also push for the Small Brewer Reinvestment and Expanding Workforce Act, introduced in the U.S. Congress this year, which would cut the excise tax on beer produced by small breweries like New Belgium or Wynkoop. The legislation faces strong opposition from beer giants Anheuser-Busch and Coors, both of which have their own PACs.
Catch the New Belgium folks to talk politics and beer at Tour de Fat—in Fort Collins this weekend and in Denver next weekend. (If you go, brace for hipsters. Hipsters everywhere.)
photo by Nat Stein