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The Drinking Birder

October 8, 2007
Ok, so this post is not entirely about birds. It’s about one of my other favorite things, beer. Not that swill you can find tapped in frat houses or advertised on football commercials, but real beer. The kind made with barley not rice (I’m looking at you Budweiser), with hops grown with the same care a vintner has for his grapes, by folks who care about quality and creativity and that feeling you get when you share a great beer with a great friend on a crisp fall day. That friends, is what I love about beer and why I went to the World Beer Festival in Durham this weekend along with my buddies Mike and Ben (neither of whom are birders, but nobody’s perfect).

It’s a good thing I have another topic to fall back on, because my Saturday morning at Mason Farm was D-E-D dead. I had hoped that the minor weather system (it brought a whole quarter inch of rain!) would have dropped some birds my way but that was not to happen. I saw maybe 20 birds, not 20 species, but 20 actual individual birds. I could have named them, that’s Rick the White-eyed Vireo and Trevor the Blue Jay. Best bird was a slightly late Indigo Bunting, named Janice by the way. So because I fancy myself some sort of “bird blogger”, an avian author, a ornithological orator, perhaps a purveyor of plumed prose if you will (purple too, if this post is any indication), I’m taking this opportunity to search the Beerfest for those beers which have allusions to birds in either the name of the brewery or the beer in lieu of a field trip post. So come along, dear reader(s), on a wild, drunken snipe hunt. Don’t worry, my wife will DD, she’s great about that. Thanks Danielle!

Brewers often use animals in their labels so birds, while not as popular as wolves and bears and lions, had somewhat of a presence at the beerfest. I found 3 brewers in particular, plus an additional type of foreign beer that use birds heavily in their logos. I tried all of them, though I remember some better than others. And here are some thoughts.

I’ll start with some local guys from down the road in Hendersonville Farmville, the Duck-Rabbit Brewery. The logo is based on a philosophical exercise by Wittgenstein (a beery swine who was just as schlossed as Schlegel) in which the figure looks like a duck or a rabbit based on the viewer’s perspective. To my eyes it looks most like a rabbit , but that could be because I’ve never seen a duck with a weird lumpy head like that. In any case, Duck-Rabbit specializes in dark beers, and makes some pretty good ones too. At the Beerfest I had their Porter, but being a local brewer I’ve had lots of their stuff in the past. In my opinion their darker ales are nothing special, but their porter and milk stout are excellent. I don’t know how far they distribute beyond North Carolina, but you ever see them out there they’re worth checking out.

Next is a Czech beer called Golden Pheasant. I had not heard of this one before, perhaps because it wasn’t very good. I’m not a huge fan of Eastern European beers in general. They’re typically lagers, typically thin, and typically not very hoppy. A hops-head like myself find them lacking in the taste department. The logo is pretty cool but they would have been more ornithologically accurate had they used an actual Golden Pheasant instead of what appears to be a Ring-necked Pheasant colored gold.

Third is the Wild Goose Brewery from Frederick, Md. They’re a pretty straight-forward operation of the type you can find in most cities. The Pale Ale I tried was a solid if not spectacular beer, very drinkable and true to the American Pale Ale style. I couldn’t find anything wrong with it and would probably buy it regularly if I lived in Maryland. The logo shows a pair of Canada Geese flying past a setting sun, it’s the same on all their beers, though they have a seasonal beer with a Snow Goose which pretty clever. Seems like it’s only a matter of time until they make an Imperial IPA with an Emperor Goose on the label, a joke only birders would probably get.

Last is the Mendecino Brewing Company from Ukiah, Ca. Many of their beers are named for a raptor (and one for a heron), though the Red Tail Ale is the only one that’s ornithologically correct. Other beers include the White Hawk IPA and the Black Hawk Stout. While White and Black Hawks do actually exist, the pictures on the labels don’t look like those birds at all. The beer is enjoyable enough though, not the best I’ve ever had but quite good in its own right and the art on the label is really sharp, even though a belly band is missing and the red on the tail is a little too deep. Nonetheless, it’s neat to see a brewer with so much commitment to birds, even if they’re not birdwatchers themselves.

So the Beerfest was great fun, and I sampled many many good beers. Perhaps next year there will be some new brewers that use bird images in their labeling. If they need a ornithological consultant / beer taster, I’d just like to throw my hat into the ring for that. The ball is in your court brewers.

  1. Sky Girl permalink
    October 8, 2007 10:39 am

    I actually enjoy finding new wines that have birds on the labels. There are a bunch!

  2. Sean Wilson permalink
    October 8, 2007 4:42 pm

    This is such a nitpick, I’m almost embarrassed to point it out. But Duck-Rabbit is based out of Farmville, NC (not Hendersonville).

    I agree about the lumpy-headed duck, however. I see rabbit!

  3. October 8, 2007 5:02 pm

    Oh geez, how embarrassing. You’re absolutely right, of course it’s Farmville. For some reason I thought Hendersonville, I don’t really know why. Should have checked it.


  4. corey permalink
    October 8, 2007 8:37 pm

    When out in CA last year I sampled the wares of the Mendecino Brewing Company and enjoyed them too.

    Great post…beer and birds go together so well!

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