Drink beer, eat ice cream, help climate
November 1, 2015
For those looking for a way to combat climate change, a nonprofit with local ties has a suggestion: Drink beer and eat ice cream.
Sound too good to be true? Maybe. But the novel concept is designed to protect Aspen's livelihood as well as any other community that relies on snow.
The idea stemmed from a partnership between New Belgium Brewing Co., headquartered in Fort Collins, and Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream, from Vermont, which were looking for a way to fight climate change, said Auden Schendler, vice president for sustainability at Aspen Skiing Co.
The two "super progressive" companies approached Schendler for advice, he said.
"They said, 'We're going to do this, and we want a charity that will benefit from it,'" he said.
So Schendler said he gave the companies a list of four charities, and they chose Protect Our Winters, a nonprofit that enlists snow-sports athletes to lobby government officials on the issue of climate change. Schendler happens to be chairman of the Protect Our Winters board.
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And that's when Salted Caramel Brownie Ale ice cream and Salted Carmel Brownie Brown Ale were born. That's right — beer-flavored Ben and Jerry's and ice-cream-flavored New Belgium.
"What's missing on climate change is a social movement like there was with civil rights or marriage equality," Schendler said. "How you leverage change (is) in a constructive way.
"So drinking beer and eating ice cream becomes an act of citizenship."
The plan is for Ben and Jerry's and New Belgium to release the flavors in limited batches — the ice cream is out now, and the beer will be released this week — and turn over a portion of the profits to Protect Our Winters, which will allow the organization to continue to expand its lobbying efforts.
"We think (we'll receive) a lot more than $100,000," Schendler said. "Maybe $150,000."
Schendler, also the author of the book "Getting Green Done," about implementing pro-environment solutions, said he believes a "sea of change" has occurred when it comes to American society's views on climate change.
"It happened in the last six months to a year," he said. "We used to have these pitched battles (about climate change) in Washington, D.C. Now everything's changed."
The Earth's physical changes — 2014 was the hottest year on record, and 2015 "blew it away by a mile" — have become harder to ignore and deny, he said. People and organizations that once denied, doubted or were silent about the issue are speaking up, like the pope and the Weather Channel, Schendler said.
"Like all things, you reach a tipping point," he said. "We reached a tipping point."
Now it is not possible for someone to run for office on a platform denying climate change and expect to be elected, Schendler said.
But enough politics — back to ice cream and beer. The brewmasters at New Belgium came up with the Salted Caramel Brownie Brown Ale recipe first, said Jeff Kurtenbach, the company's "high-mountain beer ranger" and a Roaring Fork Valley resident. The beer has a "rich, chocolatey, malt-like sweetness and a dry finish" and a medium to heavy body and is brewed with roasted chocolate and caramel malts, he said.
Once the beer was done, New Belgium sent it over to Ben and Jerry's, where flavor gurus turned it into a concentrate and added it to the Salted Caramel Brownie Ale ice cream, Kurtenbach said.
"I think that's a first," he said.
The flavor was unveiled last week at a fundraising party in Washington, D.C., for Protect Our Winters, featuring the bands Galactic and Dr. Dog as well as several snow-sports athletes, said Christopher Miller, Ben and Jerry's spokesman. Miller said the athletes were impressive.
"Last week's visit to (Washington) was unlike any other visit I've made," Miller said. "The winter-sports athletes … have an ability to talk to policymakers with passion and authority that people from the business world don't have."
The ice cream is out now and should be available nationwide until about the end of the year, he said. An Aspen Times photographer found pints of the flavor Friday at City Market in Aspen. An impromptu taste test in the Times newsroom produced rousing, unanimously positive reviews, with several surprised comments about the pleasant, malty beer flavor.
The beer will be out next week and will be available at several liquor stores in the Roaring Fork Valley, including the Grog Shop in Aspen, Sundance Liquor in Snowmass Village, Four Dogs in Basalt, Sopris Liquor and El Jebeverage in Carbondale and Roaring Fork Liquors in Glenwood Springs, Kurtenbach said.
New Belgium is planning two upcoming "ice-cream socials" featuring the beer and ice cream, he said. The first is set for Cripple Creek Backcountry in Carbondale on Dec. 16, and the second will take place at the New Belgium Ranger Station in Snowmass Village on Dec. 17.
"It will be done by Jan. 1," Schendler said. "Buy it when you see it."