Kegs for Conservation

The Phoenix Valley celebrates its iconic birds with a pair of customized brews.

Steven Prager is a firm believer in the power of beer. He’s seen the promise of a cold one draw mixed crowds—ranging from college students to die-hard birders—to the “Birds ‘n Beer” series at the Rio Salado Audubon Center in Phoenix. Now the Audubon Arizona naturalist and Toyota TogetherGreen grantee is tapping the popularity of a local brewery to raise greater awareness of the plight of the birds of Arizona—and to generate funds to protect their dwindling habitat.

Audubon Arizona has teamed up with Four Peaks Brewing Company to create two bird-themed brews: one in August for the Western Yellow-billed Cuckoo, named Western Rivers Ale, and another inspired by the Sandhill Crane to be released this winter. Both will be available on draft for a month at the Four Peaks pubs in Tempe and Scottsdale, along with artful posters and informative cards about each species to remind customers that they’re drinking for a good cause. At the end of each run the brewery will donate $1,800 to Audubon Arizona’s conservation efforts in the Phoenix Valley.

Prager wants the threatened cuckoo to get the attention it deserves. Most of the population summers in Arizona, where livestock and dams have degraded and fragmented the birds’ riverside turf. Contributions from beer buffs will go toward safeguarding Important Bird Areas like the Willcox Playa and restoring the Colorado River and its tributaries—the lifeblood of most cuckoo habitat. The money will also help Prager continue to pinpoint exactly where the mysterious birds nest. “We’re on the front end of revealing more about this species,” Prager says. “Until we do that, conservation isn’t going to happen.” A cuckoo rescue—now that’s something worth raising a glass to.