Humans aren’t the only ones who love hops. While we tend to like ours brewed, Colorado’s hops blue butterfly prefers them wild. These tiny, powdery-blue insects live along the Front Range in tangles of wild hops, a plant distantly related to the hops used for brewing beer.
Rob Schorr and Jeremy Siemers, biologists with the Colorado Natural Heritage Program (CNHP), came up with an inventive—and on-theme—way to study these rare butterflies. In the summer of 2011, the pair conducted a biological inventory for the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs to help the entity identify and manage rare species on its land. When Schorr and Siemers stumbled across several hops blue butterflies, they wanted to study the insect in-depth, but lacked the research money to do so. While brainstorming alternative funding sources, Schorr joked that a brewery would love this project. He was right.
Last fall Schorr approached Odell Brewing Company with a pitch: create a new beer to help raise research money for the hops-loving butterfly. This past weekend Odell released a limited-edition Celastrina Saison ale, named after the hops blue butterfly’s scientific name, Celastrina humulus. The seasonal brew is crisp, with hints of banana and clove and an earthy, spicy character.
Odell will donate one dollar for every bottle sold to the CNHP, which is affiliated with the Warner College of Natural Resources at Colorado State University. The money will help fund research on the hops blue, says Schorr. He hopes to enlist an undergraduate to help him map exactly where the butterfly lives on the Air Force base. Schorr hopes to better understand the butterfly's lifecycle, as well as discover when adult butterflies emerge, how many hops plants are needed to support the insect, and whether the population is healthy.
Get yours: Find Celastrina Saison at liquor stores where Odell is sold.
— Image courtesy of Rob Schorr