Drink Up! A Beer that Benefits the Great Barrier Reef

You probably don't need much of a nudge to try a new IPA. But if you want to do your part in protecting the Great Barrier Reef, taking a swig of a new Aussie craft beer is the noble thing to do. Australia’s Good Beer Co. has brewed up its first batch of Great Barrier Beer, an Indian pale ale with notes of peach and passion fruit that’s meant to bottle up the essence of the iconic Reef (those who have drank it describe it as “effervescent, bright, crisp, and a sweetness with a summery zing” and has having a “nice acidic finish)The social beer company is teaming with an eco-friendly brewery to make the beer, as well as bars and vendors to get it to the masses.

As rising ocean temperatures threaten to kill off coral in the reef, the do-good beer company is giving half of its profits to the Australian Marine Conservation Society

James Grugeon, founder of Good Beer Co., says he was inspired by social enterprise beer companies like Two Fingers Brewing Co. in Britain, which gives profits to a prostate cancer charity, and Finnegans, a Minneapolis-based company that donates to food banks.

“The vast majority of Australians see the Great Barrier Reef as part of their own identity and feel a responsibility to protect it for current and future generations,” says Grugeon. “I wanted to make it really easy for people to do that — by enjoying a good beer.”

Just last month, a new study from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies revealed unprecedented levels of coral bleaching in the Great Barrier Reef, with 93 percent of the 1,429 miles of reef affected on some level. When water becomes too warm, corals expel the algae, known as zooxanthellae, that lives in their tissues, causing the corals to turn completely white, or bleach. While coral can survive the bleaching, they are under stress, become susceptible to disease, and can eventually die off. Runoff and pollution, overexposure to sunlight, and extreme low tides are other factors that can contribute to coral bleaching, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Ingrid Neilson, communications manager with the Australian Marine Conservation Society, says the donations from Great Barrier Beer sales help fund a campaign to convince Australia’s politicians to reduce the country’s contribution to global warming by ending industrial developments along the Reef’s coast and stopping farm pollution that’s flowing into the Reef’s waters.

The solution, Neilson says, is to move away as quickly as possible from coal and gas, and toward renewable energy sources. “If we cannot do this swiftly, we will lose the Reef as we know it within our lifetimes,” she says.

In addition to increased sea temperatures, the Reef is also threatened by ocean acidification and more severe tropical cyclones due to global warming, Neilson says.

At the moment, Great Barrier Beer is only being distributed in Australia, but Grugeon says the company is working on exporting it to the United States, as well as New Zealand, Europe, and Asia. (Though we have to question the drawbacks of international shipping for a beer that represents preserving our planet.)

Good Beer Co.'s mid-strength IPA (3.5% ABV) is brewed by Queensland craft brewers, Bargara Brewing Company, based in Bundaberg at the foot of the Great Barrier Reef. The brewing company crowd-funded its first batch in January and is now working on a second batch. Among the beer’s first fans is Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who visited the brewery to taste it firsthand. Matt Emerson, owner of craft beer bar Brewski, who started selling the beer at his bar in Brisbane, says it was the fastest-selling beer he’s ever had on tap.