There is a chain of stores in northern Virginia called Total Wine and More, and, if you haven't been there, the "More" part stands for "tons and tons of beers from everywhere." It's a goddamn paradise.
I was cheerfully strolling down the aisles of their Alexandria store the other week when my eyes, as they are wont to do, started finding beer labels adorned with our feathered friends. This may not come as a surprise, but there are a heck of a lot of beers that use birds in their names or labels. As a staunch supporter of avian-themed things, I applaud these beer companies in their thematic choices. But that doesn't help me much at the register. With so many bird-themed beers out there, what's a thirsty birder to choose? I am here to help.
Regular readers of this blog (are there those?) will know that I am a stickler for avian accuracy in my products. It's not enough for some company to just slap some winged thing onto the label (I'm looking at you, Akron RubberDucks), ornithological accuracy is important. At the same time, I don't want to drink something that tastes like crap. It could be called Coastal (Gray-Cheeked or Hepburn's) Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch Life Bird Ale, but if it tastes bad then it ain't worth it.
So to grade these things I am using a hybrid solution. To judge the quality of the suds I am using the BeerAdvocate Overall Score (BOS) from the famous Beer Advocate website. BOS scores on the site run from 0 (garbage) to 100 (world class). I am not taking the type of beer into consideration. To that number I will add another 0-100 score of my own subjective determination, judging the overall use and presentation of the bird at hand. Then I'll divide the number by 2 to get a final 0-100 score. Ya good?
Quick caveat: I'm going to miss probably a lot of beers. There are, conservatively, a trillion different beers in the world, and some of them are not forthright about their use of birds. If I didn't see it on the shelf, or can find it easily online or YOU DON'T LET ME KNOW OF THEM, then I can't rate them. Doing the best I can. Let's go.
UPDATE 3/1/2015: I've added Birdhouse Pale Ale from Brewer's Art at the bottom.
Golden Wing Blonde Ale - Finch's Beer Co.
BOS score: 76
Birdist score: 50
Total score: 63
So, I can't really knock it because it's at least a real image of a bird. Like, it's not some anthropomorphic cartoon mess, it's an actually-proportioned bird. But, it's a sparrow, not a finch. A Harris' sparrow, I think. It's not, say, a golden-winged warbler - which would make sense for the beer name - or a finch, which would make sense for the company name. I can only do so much.
Beer review quote: "It has been a long time since I have had this beer. But from what I can remember this beer was ok. " Can't argue with that.
Cardinal Pale Ale - Nebraska Brewing Company
Birdist score: 25
Total score: 54
Cardinals have orange beaks, not yellow. Cardinals have orange beaks, not yellow. Cardinals have orange beaks, not yellow. Cardinals have orange beaks, not yellow. Cardinals have orange beaks, not yellow. Cardinals have orange beaks, not yellow. Cardinals have orange beaks, not yellow.
Beer review quote: "Drinkability was good, my can was gone quickly, and If I'd a had another, I woulda drank it."