An award-winning microbrewery has launched a special Christmas beer to help save North Wales’s threatened bird species.
Dovecote Brewery in Denbigh are releasing their Turtle Dove tipple in memory of the bird made famous by the carol The 12 Days of Christmas and with part of the proceeds going to the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB).
Turtle doves are now extinct in Wales but micro-brewers Richard and Sue Green, from Tremeirchion, are hoping that donating 10p from the price of every pint of Turtle Dove sold will help other rare species like the curlew and the black grouse and might even encourage the turtle dove’s return.
The beer has been specially brewed by Richard and is on sale at the Salusbury Arms, the pub in their home village of Tremeirchion, near St Asaph, which the couple recently took over and re-opened after it had been closed for 14 months.
It has now gone on sale at the Salusbury and at the Dove micro pubs in Rhyl and Prestatyn as well as the taproom at the brewery and at the Hoptimist chain of micro pubs in Abergele, Rhuddlan and Llangollen they run in partnership with Cwrw Ial, the Eryrys-based microbrewery.
The idea for the charity support came from Dove Rhyl manager Lauren Howell who said: “I saw a story about the extinction of the turtle dove in Wales and I thought it would be good to support the RSPB to help other endangered species.
“I had a word with Richard and Sue and they thought it was a great idea and we really made it happen quickly and it’s getting the thumbs up from our customers too.”
Richard said: “We like to do a seasonal Christmas beer and this one is a special recipe which combines those lovely warm spices like ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and a hint of cloves with a chocolate malt to give it a nice, warm character.
“Our brewery is on the Colomendy Industrial Estate in Denbigh and Colomendy means dovecote in Welsh so we like to keep the dove theme going in naming our beers.
“We do Dove From Above and Little Dove and our Dove Down Under picked up an award at the Great Taste awards earlier this year.
“It’s sad the way turtle dove numbers have declined but hopefully this will help some of our other under-threat species.”
The turtle dove was once a common summer species in Wales after making the 3,000-mile migration from sub-Saharan Africa but in the last 20 years it has suffered a catastrophic 93 per cent decline.
Three years ago one of the last turtle doves to be seen in Wales was spotted in Tremeirchion, near the Salusbury Arms, but the journey to Wales is perilous and huge numbers are shot and trapped as they pass through France, Spain and Morocco and in their wintering grounds in Senegal.
RSPB Conservation Officer Martin Clift, who works across Denbighshire and Flintshire, said: “We’re delighted that Dovecote Brewery have come to the rescue of our under threat species in North Wales like the curlew and the black grouse.
“It is one of the most important areas in Wales for the curlew and the black grouse which are both at risk.
“Well over half our native curlews have disappeared in the last 20 years and now one of their main strongholds in Wales is on the Denbigh Moors, just up the road from the brewery.
“Their numbers have been dropping since the early 70s and although curlews can often be seen on the Dee Estuary these are overwintering here from Scandinavia.
“The black grouse is found on the Clwydian Range, Llandegla Moors and Llantysilio Mountain so it is also local to the brewery.
“The problem for them is that we have created a landscape that’s hostile to them with patches of forestry which harbour foxes and carrion crows on the uplands where they nest on the ground.
“On the ground the chicks are vulnerable to predators for quite a long time and we’re working on a project to find out what we need to do to help them breed more successfully.”
Richard, an industrial chemist originally from Walsall, in the West Midlands, and Sue, from Rhyl, set up Dovecote Brewery in Denbigh 20 months ago when he decided to make his home brewing hobby into an alternative career.
They started brewing in June 2017 and use the finest ingredients including mains water from Llyn Alwen on the Denbigh Moors, where the curlew nests, and almost all their production of 12 different beers now goes to their own pubs.
Richard said: “We wanted to grow a self-sustainable business and that’s why it made perfect economic sense to open our own pubs and to do it in a particular way.
“We’ve tried to create a special atmosphere with no music, electronic games or food but you can be sure of a warm welcome, good conversation and a great choice of craft beers, gins and ciders.
“The footprint of each Dove or Hoptimist outlet is more compact than your usual pub, but we have a wide demographic and appeal to ladies and gents alike.
“It’s something we believe in and know it works, so much so that we are now looking to roll it out further afield.
“We have looked at a number of potential new sites all around North Wales and our intention is that further expansion will happen very soon.”