Beer created for endangered bird

A Texas brewery and the Travis Audobon society have teamed up to create a beer to raise awareness of an endangered songbird species whose habitat is under threat.

The golden-cheeked warbler breeds in just 30 counties in central Texas. It nests in oak trees using bark from juniper bushes. Illustration from one of John Gerrard Keulemans’ ornithological books.

The golden-cheeked warbler is native to central Texas but its trees it uses for nesting in and making its nests out of, oak and juniper, have been cut down in huge numbers for timber and to clear ground for housing, roads, farms for livestock and, flooded for lakes and reservoirs.

To raise awareness of the bird’s plight, The Travis Audubon Society has partnered with Blue Owl Brewery, a sour beer specialist, in Austin to create a brew dedicated to the warbler.

Head brewer Davy Pasternak decided to incorporate elements of the bird’s habitat and behaviour into the beer.

As such it was fermented in oak and Black Spanish grapes, a hybrid American variety grown in the Texas Hill Country right in the heart of the bird’s range, were added to give a light rosé tint to the beer and some tannic grip.

Pasternak told a local news station: “The character from the grapes that you get, it’s got a slight amount of tannins, but nothing that’s too harsh, so similar to a rosé, it’s very refreshing, so it has this sort of earthiness from the oak, and grape vinous quality from the grapes.”

Jordan Price, membership director of the Audubon added: “We really wanted to draw attention to a serious problem.

“The golden cheek warbler is endangered. Its habitat is getting more and more fragmented.

“It’s a tiny song bird and it only breeds in 30 counties in Texas and nowhere else on the face of the planet.

“We want the public to know this bird exists, and we want them to contact their elected officials. Let them know that this is a valued bird and that we really appreciate and believe that it deserves protection.”

Blue Owl Brewery will donate a portion of the funds raised from the beer to the Travis Audubon although Price said the main thing was for the public to “recognise this bird exists and love it as much as we do.”

The beer is being launched at the Blue Owl Taproom tonight (25 August).

Laudable as the initiative is, if the bird favours juniper trees for nesting materials (they use the bark), the drinks business also thinks more gin in central Texas using local juniper fruit is clearly called for.

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