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December, 4, 2016

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Loons and lager: birders, brewers form flock

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-and-beer 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, bird-rich 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 US$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 late-spring 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.

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