Flock­ing to a new tour that com­bines bird­ing and craft beer

The Denver Post - - TRAVEL - By Pa­trick Whit­tle

SABATTUS, MAINE» In the worlds of bird­ers and craft beer lovers, there’s a new par­a­digm, and it in­volves search­ing for ales along with the ea­gles, pair­ing stouts with swans and en­joy­ing some bocks in tan­dem with buntings.

Tours and events aimed at at­tract­ing both beer nerds and bird en­thu­si­asts are pop­ping up all over the coun­try, at­tract­ing bearded mi­cro­brew lovers, field-guide-wield­ing bird buffs and folks with a pas­sion for both suds and spar­rows. Bird-and­beer hap­pen­ings are taking place from Los An­ge­les to Min­neapo­lis to Hamp­ton, New Hamp­shire.

Beer and bird hob­by­ists say they are united by their mu­tual love of minu­tiae, rar­ity and va­ri­ety, whether search­ing for an In­dian peafowl or a lim­ited re­lease of In­dia pale ale.

Typ­i­cally, the trips be­gin with a hike and end at a brew­ery. One of the more suc­cess­ful tours is “Birds On Tap Road­trip,” lo­cated in beer-lov­ing, bir­drich Maine and now in its sec­ond year.

“There hap­pen to be a lot of peo­ple who like birds who like beer — we’ve an­a­lyzed this,” said Derek Lovitch, who leads Birds On Tap Road­trip tours. “And then, af­ter the third or fourth pint, we re­ally an­a­lyze this.”

Birds On Tap Road­trip is co­or­di­nated by Freeport Wild Bird Sup­ply, which is run by bird nut Lovitch and his wife, Jean­nette. They part­ner with

Maine Brew Bus, a lime green bus that shut­tles peo­ple to the state’s many brew­eries and serves as a kind of Mys­tery Ma­chine of Maine beer. The tours are $65 — li­ba­tions are in­cluded, but binoc­u­lars are not.

This year’s slate of tours be­gan in Fe­bru­ary and will run ev­ery sev­eral weeks un­til Dec. 11. Each trip has a theme, in­clud­ing “Surf and Suds,” which is a win­ter wa­ter­fowl tour, and “Grass­land and Grains,” a late­spring search for sand­pipers and spar­rows on the Ken­neb­unk Plains, a na­ture pre­serve.

This Novem­ber’s tour was “Fall Ducks and Draughts,” a chilly march around Sabattus Pond on the hunt for wa­ter­birds in­clud­ing hooded mer­gansers, com­mon gold­eneyes, buf­fle­heads and green-wing teals. All were lo­cated, and the group of about a dozen hearty bird­ers then de­parted by bus for trips to Bax­ter Brew­ing in Lewis­ton and Maine Beer Co. in Freeport.

The beer end of the trip was as suc­cess­ful as the bird bit. The group lo­cated a pere­grine falcon rest­ing on a steeple just out­side Bax­ter af­ter im­bib­ing. At Maine Beer Com­pany, the brew­ery was able to pro­vide fresh glasses of Din­ner, its sought-af­ter dou­ble IPA.

Par­tic­i­pants agreed there was no harm in hav­ing a lager along with the loons. (Though they ac­tu­ally saw only one loon.) Bran­don Bald­win, 40, of Manch­ester, Maine, went with his mother, Ca­role Bald­win, 73, of Skowhe­gan, and said the trip ap­pealed to both of them.

“She’s an avid birder who likes beer. I’m an avid beerer who likes birds,” he said. “It seemed like a per­fect cross­over.”

Bird-and-beer events some­times take dif­fer­ent forms. One, held on the rooftop of the Ace Ho­tel in down­town Los An­ge­les, brought bird ex­perts from the Na­tional Park Ser­vice to help peo­ple ob­serve birds in an ur­ban en­vi­ron­ment. Li­ba­tions fol­lowed. In Min­neapo­lis, a group called “Birds and Beers” gath­ers to brain­storm about se­cret hotspots and tips on how to take bird pic­tures us­ing a dig­i­tal scope.

Smut­tynose Brew­ery in Hamp­ton, New Hamp­shire, hosted a bird walk and brew­ery tour on the brew­ery’s own grounds. And in the Pine Bar­rens of New Jersey, peo­ple met for a hik­ing and bird­ing tour of Black Run Pre­serve in Eve­sham Town­ship fol­lowed by tours of Berlin Brew­ing Co., Lu­nacy Brew­ing Co. and Fly­ing Fish Brew­ery.

Some of the trips are or­ga­nized by pri­vate com­pa­nies and na­ture so­ci­eties and oth­ers are the prod­uct of lo­cal meetup groups that form on­line. Prices vary from noth­ing to about the price of a pro foot­ball ticket.

Don Lit­tle­field, a part­ner in the Maine Brew Bus com­pany that hosts the Maine tour, said it has proved to be a way to make beer fans out of bird lovers — and vice versa.

“It al­lows us to reach another dif­fer­ent de­mo­graphic,” he said. “There’s a lot of peo­ple who are not nec­es­sar­ily there for the beer. They are there for the birds. And then there are oth­ers who are not there for the birds — they are there for the beer.”

A group of bird­ing en­thu­si­asts use spot­ting scopes to view a pere­grine falcon on a dis­tant church steeple af­ter vis­it­ing the Bax­ter Beer brew­ery in Lewis­ton, Maine. The Maine Brew Bus tour group com­bines bird watch­ing and vis­its to mi­cro­brew­eries in south­ern Maine. Robert F. Bukaty, The Associated Press

Robert F. Bukaty, The Associated Press

A group of bird­ing en­thu­si­asts dis­cuss their day while sam­pling a flight of beers at the Maine Brew­ing Com­pany in Freeport, Maine.

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