Have a beer and save a rare species.
That’s the idea behind the partnership between Auburn University Museum of Natural History’s Alabama Natural Heritage Program and Opelika’s Red Clay Brewing Company.
Red Clay will debut a new beer called Drymarchon Berliner Weisse today during the first “Science Pub” event.
Proceeds from the beer will benefit conservation efforts of Auburn University scientists to save the eastern indigo snake.
David Steen, a faculty member in the Department of Biological Sciences and researcher with the Alabama Natural Heritage Program, said he thought the partnership would be a good idea after visiting Red Clay Brewing Company.
“I noticed that they had a beer called Alabama Snakes, and so I asked them if they wanted to develop a relationship with the Alabama Natural Heritage Program and actual Alabama snakes,” Steen said.
Steen, who has a Twitter following on his account @AlongsideWild of more than 16,000 followers, said the eastern indigo snake used to be present across the South, but now is only found in the Florida peninsula and southeastern Georgia.
“To get the animal off of the endangered species act, we need to establish new populations of this animal where it went extinct,” Steen said. “We're trying to do that in Conecuh National Forest and we're also trying to do that in Apalachicola Bluffs and Ravines Preserve in the Florida Panhandle.”
The program, which has received a major portion of its funding from the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, has introduced more than 100 eastern indigo snakes in Alabama at the Conecuh National Forest since 2008, according to Steen.
"Snakes are hard to find,” Steen said. “In the very early years of the project we had radio transmitters in the snakes and that research showed they are sticking around. …Now the next question is are they establishing a population, and that's tricky. However, we have found a handful of females with eggs so that does suggest that they're at least reproducing.”
200 snakes to be released
Plans are in the works to release an additional 200 snakes into the forest.
“Even people that don't like snakes tend to like indigo snakes because they eat copperheads and rattlesnakes,” Steen said.
Red Clay’s new beer, Drymarchon Berliner Weisse, is a sour beer named after the genus name of the eastern indigo snake, Drymarchon couperi, according to John Corbin, a co-owner of Red Clay Brewing Company.
The brewery will also include something extra with the new beer, the option to add flavor with the beer when ordering at the bar.
“A lot of breweries will do a blueberry Berliner weisse or rasberry Berliner weisse,” Corbin said. “And instead of us sort of limiting ourselves to one flavor, we're making just a good traditional Berliner weisse”
The “Science Pub” event at Red Clay kicks off at 6 p.m. and will feature a presentation called “Do Spiders Really Have Superpowers?” from Jason Bond, chair of the Department of Biological Sciences.
Steen said the restoration of the eastern indigo snake is about more than just returning a species to Alabama.
“These species represent a part of our cultural and natural heritage,” Steen said. “When we're missing a species in our natural habitats I think we really lose a lot. Not just an animal, but a part of ourselves and a part of the ecology of the system.”