We've seen protest take many forms in recent times, be it Colin Kaepernick seemingly ending his career (and enraging The Donald) by taking a knee before NFL games in the states or the Aria-winning AB Original providing a focal point for the ongoing debate around Australia/Invasion Day with January 26. And, for the past few months, a group of women have been using their beer (and other alcoholic drinks) to raise awareness on a range of issues.
The thinking behind The Sparkke Change Beverage Company is that the drink in your hand can be used to attempt to change the world – or at least help change a nation's way of thinking.
Since launching in early 2017 following a successful crowdfunding campaign, the self-described "team of young social activists" has set out on a mission to push for social change via a growing range of alcoholic beverages, drawing attention to some of the bigger issues in society today via slogan-covered cans.
The founders of the company are Rose Kentish and Kari Allen. Rose is an award-winning winemaker with more than 17 years in the industry; Kari is an executive marketer who researched the Australian craft beer industry and, according to Sparkke's head brewer Agi Gajic, found the industry “lacked a little of diversity and inclusion” and thus set out to create a brand encompassing more than just beer, wine and cider.
The result has been cans bearing messages such as "Nipples are Nipples" – promoting gender equality, "Boundless Plains to Share" – advocating for refugees' right to a safe place to live, "Change the Date", "What’s Planet B?" – raising awareness of climate change, and "Say I Do" – focusing on marriage equality. As well as promoting these messages (and future ones), the company funnels ten percent of its direct sales and four percent of trade sales to support organisations that promote them.
“There is a certain amount of time that we are going to have a product label and then we will get a new statement,” says Sarah Lyons, Sparkke’s winemaker (pictured below left with her partner, Bonnie).
“The products will stay the same, just the message will change every 60,000 cans,” says Agi.
“We are a very collaborative company like that: we listen to our community and take on their thoughts and ideas. We are really big on social media, having a lot of conversations with people about our causes. When we choose a cause, the whole team chooses it together,” she adds.
Underneath the messages are, of course, drinks. Under the mentorship of Rose, Sarah and the team launched Wine and Bubbles in a can, while, on the beer side, ex Young Henrys brewer Agi has developed a mid-strength pilsner and a New England pale ale to add to the core range.
As for the decision to can all of their offerings, wine included, Sparkke reel off a host of reasons – less energy consumption to recycle; lighter therefore travel better; chill faster; better for the product.
“There are all these reasons why the cans are cool but, for the wine alone, there are even more reasons, such as portion sizes, and on premise restaurants will have less wastage,” says Sarah.
Within the Sparkke range, you'll also find a ginger beer, a hard lemonade and a cider that collected gold at the Australian Cider Awards. In the company's first 90 days of operation, it also raised more than $10,000 for its partners, which include Mums 4 Refugees and Her Words.
The business joins a small but growing band of brewing companies looking to raise funds and awareness on a range of causes, including former Melbourne FC captain David Neitz's Brewmanity and The Good Beer Co that has been raising funds for protection of the Great Barrier Reef by the Australian Marine Conservation Society and recently released Love 2, a beer promoting marriage equality, with Bright Brewery.
At a time when it's easy to look at much of what's taking place around the world, including some actions in this country's name, it's reassuring to be reminded that much of the time – to paraphrase the oft-used one-liner – good people make good beer.