How green is your beer? 

For more than a year and a half, Colorado environmental activist Eric Sutherland has been on a mission to out New Belgium Brewery––the pro-sustainability makers of such venerated brews as Fat Tire, Skinny Dip and 2 Below––as hypocrites and liars.

His claim: New Belgium just acts sustainable to sell beer.

It all started in 2004 when the Fort Collins-based New Belgium ran ads claiming to power its brewery with 100 percent wind energy. Not true, says Sutherland, a former New Belgium employee.

“They have to use natural gas for their brewing, that’s just a fact,” Sutherland says.

He says New Belgium, like many corporations, buys renewable energy credits that allow them to claim a certain percentage of their power comes from renewable sources, like wind generators, when in fact it may not.

More recently Sutherland has been criticizing New Belgium’s “Save Our Rivers” ad campaign.

The new ads, one of which has run several times in the Independent, are part of New Belgium’s campaign to preserve the Cache la Poudre River, which the ads describe as one of Colorado’s “last free-flowing rivers.”

“It’s far from a free-flowing river,” Sutherland says. “There are several dams on it already, as well as several reservoirs that are fed by it, so I don’t know what [New Belgium] is talking about.”

New Belgium media representative Bryan Simpson has little to say about Sutherland’s crusade other than to dismiss him as “a disgruntled former employee” who is “a pretty extreme guy in his views.” Simpson also says that New Belgium is committed to sustainability through events such as their yearly “Tour de Fat,” which is coming to Missoula Sept. 1.

This year the event will showcase a local in each city who has committed to living for a year without a car.

Sutherland calls this and other New Belgium events nothing but greenwashing.

“They need to stop saying ‘we’re the groovy environmental company’ when they’re not,” Sutherland says.
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