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Flight of beers. Photo by Jennifer Schmennifer, CC BY-NC 2.0.

Beer makers brew up conservation benefits

The next time you order a cool one from your home-grown brewery, check the label: You might be helping save a shorebird.

Or setting aside some land for butterflies.

Or maybe even supporting a lion.

Local breweries across the nation have discovered species conservation. Their products and activities are proof.

Some brew-masters concoct limited-edition ales showcasing a creature of their choice. Others stipulate that a certain percentage of profits go to species preservation. Still others participate in festivals designed to promote the survival of animals that might be threatened in the wild.

All agree: Supporting the environment taps into something good.

Steve Bench knows. Not long after moving from Colorado to Atlanta two decades ago, Bench decided to create a brewery that didn’t lose sight of Georgia’s natural gifts. Today, SweetWater Brewing Co. hosts or helps underwrite clean-water festivals and other initiatives in each of the 19 states where the beer is sold. The brewery also founded Save Our Water, a campaign that annually raises $100,000 for clean-water programs.

SweetWater spokeswoman Tucker Sarkisian offered a simple reason for her boss’ interest.

“Without clean water,” she said, “you can’t make good beer.”

Nor can you have a healthy environment for the creatures with which we share this planet.

The founders of Night Lizard Brewing Co. understand. The Santa Barbara, Calif., brewery, set to open in July, takes its name from the island night lizard. Found on the Channel Islands off the central California coast, the lizard once was listed under the federal Endangered Species Act. In 2014, federal officials decided the species had recovered sufficiently and removed it.

A brown orange and white lizard climbing on a rock.
Island night lizard. Photo by USFWS.

The brewery plans to name all its products after other animals found along that stretch of California coast, said Meg Nasser, Night Lizard’s marketing and special-events manager.

A hiker, Nasser said she knows conservation initiatives need all the support they can get. “You can see how much things have changed” in the areas where she hikes, Nasser said. “You see how much wildlife is impacted.”

Gene Muller learned the same lessons in New Jersey. As a kid, he “basically ran around in the woods” of south Jersey. Now, that’s not so easy to do; residents of Philadelphia and New York have since discovered that region. Woods have made way for cul-de-sacs.

Muller, owner and founder of Flying Fish Brewing Co., of Somerdale, N.J., wants to ensure some of the state’s longtime residents – the winged, finned and furred variety – continue having a place to live.

The company recently created a small batch of specialty beer to raise awareness for one feathered resident. Proceeds from the sales of Piping Plover Ale went to Conserve Wildlife New Jersey.

A small white bird with gray back standing on a debris strewn beach.
Piping plover. Photo by USFWS.

“It’s kind of a mission of ours,” Muller said.

Call it conservation, with a dose of good business sense. Promoting a clean environment is good for his bottom line, too.

“Basically, beer is an agricultural product,” he said. “To make it, you need good soil, good water” – the same ingredients that make suitable habitats for creatures that swim, creep and fly.

Craft brewers have long embraced conservation causes, said Julia Herz, program director for the Brewers Association. Based in Colorado, the organization’s membership roll tops 5,000.

“Craft brewers are definitely known for their sustainability,” said Herz, who got started with a home-brew kit not long after she finished college. “Most brewers … are doing it to make the world a better place.”

That includes looking after animals, some threatened. Consider:

  • Odell Brewing Co. of Colorado recently created Celastrina Saison, a beer whose label is the scientific name for the hops blue butterfly. That little flutterer thrives on hops found along Colorado’s Front Range. A dollar from each bottle sold helps fund butterfly research.
  • North Coast Brewing Co. in California last year announced the creation of the North Coast Marine Mammal Research Fund. It will support rescue and research of the warm-blooded swimmers found off the state’s coast.
  • Pelican Pub & Brewery of Oregon recently rolled out Silverspot IPA, a beer named in honor of the Oregon silverspot butterfly.
A black and orange butterfly perched on a leaf.
Oregon silverspot butterfly (Speyeria zerene var. hippolyta). Photo by Peter Pearsall, USFWS.

“Brewers try to support local causes”, said Lauren Harrill, director of sales and marketing for the Metazoa Brewing Co. of Indianapolis. The firm’s name derives from the word “metazoan,” or having to do with animals. Its motto: “Drink Beer. Help Animals.”

Some organizations Metazoa supports, she said, look after animals that once entertained humans – circus elephants and racing dogs come to mind. Still others exist to protect creatures whose status in the wild could be imperiled.

For example: Cocoa Panthera, a chocolate ale, is designed to remind drinkers that the world’s big cats need space, too.

Five percent of its sales is distributed quarterly to a dozen conservation organizations, said Harrill. She declined to say how much money the company offers quarterly. “It’s a significant amount,” she said.

That’s worth a toast.


Mark Davis, Public Affairs Specialist

Reference to any specific commercial product, process, or service, or the use of any trade, firm or corporation name is for the information and convenience of the public, and does not constitute endorsement, recommendation, or favoring by the Department of the Interior.

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