Written by Nick Connellan
Last night, 250 people assembled at The Triffid in Brisbane to take a vote: Australian blonde ale, or white IPA? In addition to being Australia’s first not-for-profit beer company, The Good Beer Co. may well be its first democratic one, too.
Founder James Grugeon realised the hardest thing about running a charity isn’t getting people to recognise your cause – it’s convincing them to put their wallet where their heart is.
He wants to solve this by selling beer and donating at least 50 per cent of the profits to environmental charities. To contribute, you don’t have to do anything but vote on what you want the product to be and then buy it.
“I was really keen on taking something that people do in their everyday lives and making it something that’s a really easy way to give back,” he says. “You could certainly do it with other products. But beer is something that’s enjoyed by a lot of Australians.”
On 1 December, the company will launch a crowd-funding campaign to raise money for its first beer, which will be brewed at Bargara Brewing Company, a one-year-old outfit based in Bundaberg. Based on last night’s results it looks like it’ll be a white IPA, though further voting is happening on Facebook today.
When the beer becomes available in February 2016, at least 50 per cent of the profits will be donated to the Australian Marine Conservation Society, one of the organisations which protect the Great Barrier Reef.
“It’ll be a slow-burn to begin with,” Grugeon says. Initially the beer will only be available through Bargara’s existing distribution channels, but he’s on the hunt for national distributors right now and later plans to target the corporate events market.
He’s treating this first beer as a sort of test, with different breweries and charities involved with future batches. The only requirement for breweries is that they’re environmentally responsible.
As at last night’s launch, everything will be decided by vote, from the next brewery and charity partner, through to the label design and beer style.
“A lot of it will be done online,” Grugeon says. “We’re going to work with our charity partners, the Australian Marine Conservation Society and a lot of other really great NGOs.”
Grugeon has long been keen on the environment. For the past 10 years he’s been running campaigns across the clean and renewable energy sectors in Australia and the UK, including a stint as CEO of Environmental Protection UK. During this time he’s consistently seen people shrink away from tackling climate change and environmental issues.
“Quite often I think people are just overwhelmed with how big a task this is and how difficult it is,” he says. “I’ve always wanted to make it really, really easy for people to take action.”
He’s taking advice from Two Fingers Brewing Co. in London, a two-year-old company, which donates to prostate cancer research; and the five-year-old Finnegan’s in Minnesota, which provides food for homeless people.
“This will be the first social enterprise beer in Australia,” Grugeon says, “and I can’t think of a better place to do it, really.”