Backyard Birds and Beer

By Ronn Friedlander

Aeronaut has had a strong connection to birds ever since we opened. Although this is partly because of my interest in them, it’s also because birds are the original “Aeronauts.” During our first few years, we released several beers with bird names, including “Lark and Linnet,” “Lyrebird Porter,” “Jackdaw,” and “Capercaillie.” Over time, we’ve moved toward more imaginative names and have ultimately phased out these recipes. As a call-back to our naming conventions we released “For the Birds” this year, which was a collaborative NE IPA recipe we put together with Mass Audubon. Our indoor taproom mural, painted by Rae Pozdro, also makes many references to birds as the OG Aeronauts.

Now that we’re all stuck indoors for a while, everyone is looking for new ways to stay productive, entertained, or distracted. If you’re not a birder, this might be a really good time to become one. It’s a nice hobby, and since birds aren’t self-isolating they are always around–even after you emerge, glassy-eyed from watching all of “Tiger King” three times. I thought I’d use this opportunity to share my love of birds and provide some backyard birding highlights. Here are a handful of easy-to-find/identify backyard birds (all of which I regularly see from my kitchen window), each paired with an appropriate Aeronaut beer for your enjoyment!

House Sparrow

Pairing: Hop Hop and Away Session IPA

I have to start this off with the house sparrow: they’re everywhere. In fact, I can hear them now outside chirping loudly as I write this. See if you can spot one right now. You don’t need to be a birder to recognize these fellas. They are abundant because they are adaptable and smart, they eat pretty much anything, they aren’t afraid of humans, and their loudness can overpower urban noises. Since sparrows are an overall approachable bird to start out with, I’d pair them with Hop Hop and Away. This beer is a good entry-level beer that offers bright and punchy flavors with a mild bitterness. As a result, we find that Hop Hop and Away is appealing even to people who “don’t like hops.” To round things out, this style is also a “session beer”, meaning you can enjoy it anytime, much like the sparrows.

American Robin

Pairing: A Year with Dr. Nandu American IPA

This is another classic and easy-to-recognize bird, even for non-birders. This time of year, robins can be seen in abundance on lawns, walking around looking for worms. They’re colorful, cheerful, and are full of personality–a perfect pair with our American IPA A Year with Dr. Nandu. This beer is also abundant (it’s our most brewed beer), and it has a strong mosaic hop profile that can stand up to the loud chirping of robins. 

European Starling

Pairing: Portal Traverse Oatmeal Stout

These chatty birds are often found in large flocks. Other times, you can hear them sitting on your neighbor’s roof warbling incessantly and making a variety of distinct sounds, including mimicking dozens of other birds. As you can tell by the name, European Starlings are not native to America. They were brought here from Europe in the 1800s by some folks who liked the fact that they were mentioned in Shakespeare’s plays. This bird would pair well with Portal Traverse, a smooth oatmeal stout that we collaboratively brewed with Loch Lomond brewery in Scotland. The dark color and the intercontinental nature of the beer is a solid match for the starling!

House Finch

Pairing: Robot Crush American Pilser

The house finch is also a pretty common backyard bird, but if you’re not tuned in, they’re easy to miss. They can look like sparrows from far away, but up close, you’ll notice more streakiness and a refreshing splash of red on their bib and face. These birds tend to perch higher up and are easiest to spot if you have a feeder. What I like most about these birds is their song: I hear it every morning. It’s actually easier to hear house finches than to see them. Try giving them a listen on All About Birds, a website put together by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. It’s a great tool for learning how to recognize birds and their songs. I’d pair this bird with our American Pilsner Robot Crush. Since it is a pilsner, this brew may also seem plain from far away. Once you crack open a can you’ll immediately discover it is anything but plain! It is refreshing, crisp, and bold, which is why it took a gold medal at GABF (sorry, couldn’t resist the boast)! As a bonus, the label has lots of red on it, which makes a nice visual complement to the house finch.

There are loads more birds you can see from your window. I hope as you find yourself with more time at home, you’ll take a moment to appreciate your feathered neighbors. I’ll be following up with some more posts on other birds you can watch while drinking a beer in your living room.

Ronn Friedlander is the CSO and a co-founder at Aeronaut. The views and opinions expressed on this web site are solely those of the original author, and they do not necessarily represent those of Aeronaut Brewing Co.

Bird photos courtesy of Ronn Friedlander