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Column: Look out for this Cerulean Warbler the next time you go birding
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An elusive Cerulean Warbler from Wild Heaven Beer has been spotted in Avondale Estates, Georgia. - photo by Kelsey Podo

If you see my gaze drifting toward a nearby tree or dashing to a window, chances are, I’ve probably spotted a bird. 

No, I’m not deranged. I just happen to get a thrill out of bird watching. We basically live among miniature dinosaurs, and who doesn’t love dinosaurs?

I blame my ornithology professor, Bob Chandler, for sparking this fervor in me for birding. It’s addicting and makes me feel like I’m on a perpetual treasure hunt. 

Anyway, I came across one of my favorite avians yet — the Cerulean Warbler. 

No, as you’ve probably already guessed, I’m not talking about the actual avian species. This warbler is of the fermentum family and made of blueberries. 

When I saw it at Wild Heaven Beer in Avondale Estates, I went into full birding mode and honed in on my target. This vibrant blue-hued beer didn’t stand a chance. 

Eric Johnson, Wild Heaven’s brewmaster, whom I consider a wizard-level brewer, said the beer’s name was indeed inspired by the cerulean warbler, a passing migrant of Georgia. 

The bird flaunts striking blue plumage, similar to the color of — you guessed it — blueberries. 

Johnson said the beer’s creation was a team effort between himself, Jacob Wages, the assistant brewer, and Josh Franks, the head brewer. 

Unlike some sour beer you’ll find that slams your tastebuds with one strong sour fruity note, Cerulean Warbler offers an entertaining experience. With each sip and as the liquid’s temperature changes, different layers reveal themselves.

Cerulean Warbler

Brewery: Wild Heaven Beer 

Alcohol by volume: 6%

Style: Blueberry sour ale

Bottom line: Like drinking a glass of fine blueberry wine

I would describe it as drinking a fine wine. I couldn’t help but savor the beer and all the fun notes — including a welcoming hint of blueberry syrup —hidden beneath its surface. 

Instead of adding fruit at the end of the brewing process like in many kettle sours, the blueberries in this tart brew were a part of its fermentation. 

“When you’re using fruit, especially if you’re allowing it to be part of fermentation, the finished product picks up wine-like aspects to it,” Johnson said. “With many fruited beers, the fruit juice or puree is dumped in at the tail-end of beer. It’s flavoring at that point. But, when it’s used most successfully, it should be a part of fermentation.”

Fermenting fruit can prove a risky business. Luckily for Johnson and his team, they’re sorcerers of their craft. 

“Mixed fermentation is like a wolf,” Johnson said. “You could get something great, or it could also kill you and you have to dump it.”

With Cerulean Warbler, Johnson said they took a blonde ale fermented with brettanomyces and lactobacillus then added hundreds of pounds of blueberries to the mix. The finished beer was then blended with some 2 to 3-year-old mixed fermentation barrel-aged beers in French wine barrels and aged for six months.

The result — a powerfully blueberry-forward beer that maintains the elegance of a wine. It’s not too tart, nor too sweet. Honestly, it’s superb.

Wild Heaven is located at 135 Maple St. in Avondale Estates and 1010 White St. SW in Atlanta. If you’re looking for some of their brews in Hall County, swing by Downtown Drafts on the square. 

For more information about Wild Heaven’s tasty concoctions, visit wildheavenbeer.com.

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