Red Panda beer

Zipline Brewing Co.’s Red Panda Wheat, part of the Zoo Brew series, sold out in July.

The Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium and Zipline Brewing Co. are partnering on a new series of animal-themed beer, the sale of which will support conservation efforts for four zoo species.

Each of the four beers in the limited edition “Zoo Brew” series will have a special recipe and label highlighting a different species: the red panda, the African elephant, the rockhopper penguin and the snow leopard.

The first of the series, the Red Panda Wheat, will officially debut July 14 at the zoo’s annual “Brew at the Zoo” event. It will be available in 750-milliliter bottles and on draft at all three Zipline locations in Lincoln and Omaha as well as retail locations within Zipline’s distribution area. Each of the next three beers will be released quarterly.

Proceeds from the beer sales will be given to the Omaha zoo, which will then invest the money into field projects specifically related to each species, said Cheryl Morris, vice president of conservation at the zoo.

“That’s part of the reason those species were selected. We already had existing partnerships with conservation groups in the field with each of those species,” Morris said.

The idea for the series came about when a zookeeper who also worked at Zipline approached Morris about partnering with the brewery, Morris said.

“We were super stoked to be a part of it,” said Diana Gutsche, brand ambassador for Zipline. “(The partnership) is pretty unique.”

Gutsche said each beer recipe has been formulated with the theme species in mind. The Red Panda Wheat, for example, includes red wheat and bamboo shoots (the red panda’s favorite food). The African elephant beer, she said, will feature African hops. The penguin and snow leopard beers are still in the planning stages.

Bottle labels will feature an illustration of the theme species as well as information about challenges they face in the wild, Morris said. Red pandas, for example, are threatened by habitat loss and food shortages brought on by deforestation. In recent years, however, the creation of national parks has helped to protect much of their habitat space in China and Bhutan.

Sales from the red panda beer, according to the zoo, will support replanting of bamboo food sources and providing education and economic alternatives to people living in red panda habitats.

The point of the beer series, Morris said, is to broaden awareness of issues like these in a feel-good way.

“Conservation issues that face our species a lot of times can be tough to look at and tough to think about and tough to read about. Sometimes they’re very sad stories,” she said. “We really didn’t want that. We want people to feel good about being part of it ... right here in Nebraska.”

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