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Conservation groups offer tastes of beer and nature for a good cause

Visitors at this year's Sweetbriar Nature Center Taps

Visitors at this year's Sweetbriar Nature Center Taps and Talons fundraiser will see a peregrine falcon. Photo Credit: Sweetbriar Nature Center

The beer is the star at craft-brew tasting events hosted by local conservation organizations, but the wings often steal the show.

At the Sweetbriar Nature Center’s Taps & Talons Craft Beer Tasting, for instance, the release of a rehabilitated bird of prey tends to awe beer drinkers as a hawk spreads its wings and circles away to freedom.

“It’s an exciting experience,” Sweetbriar board chair Elizabeth M. Santosus says of the release, a tradition expected to be a part of the festivities again this year.

And at the Seatuck Environmental Association’s Bats & Brews Benefit, the annual bat lecture is almost as popular as the liquid refreshment from participating breweries such as Blind Bat in Smithtown, says Seatuck’s executive director Enrico Nardone.

“The beer tent is packed, but it’s also always standing-room-only in the lecture tent,” Nardone says.

Here’s where you can sample dozens of local beer releases, learn about indigenous wildlife, and contribute to a good cause — all in one scenic, sociable setting.

3rd Annual Taps and Talons

WHEN | WHERE 2-6 p.m. Sunday at Sweetbriar Nature Center, 62 Eckernkamp Dr., Smithtown

INFO 631-979-6344, sweetbriarnc.org

ADMISSION $30 ($15 designated driver)

Held on Sweetbriar’s 54-acre nature preserve, this fundraiser pays for enclosures, medical supplies, veterinary bills and other animal care expenses incurred in the center’s efforts to rehabilitate injured and orphaned Long Island wildlife, Santosus says.

About 11 Long Island breweries will hand out samples in the beer tent. “I’m a wildlife lover to begin with, so to be a part of something where they are rehabilitating a wild animal is great,” says Stephen Pominski, an owner and head brewer of Barrage Brewing Co. in Farmingdale.

Pominski says he’ll be offering a fall release, Assault ’n’ Fudgery, which he described as “a salted caramel fudge porter.” He’ll also be serving the Seinfeld-inspired Yada Yada Yada, a chocolate peanut caramel brown ale.

Another participant, Anthony Celentano, owner of Tap and Barrel in Smithtown, says he’ll pour “some vintage pumpkin beer and other rare offerings.”

Guests can buy snacks from a food truck operated by Island Empanada restaurant of Ronkonkoma, relax to live music by nightclub entertainer Tony Sidito, and meet and take photos with some of the resident birds of prey, including a great horned owl, a screech owl and a kestrel falcon.

Bats & Brews Benefit

WHEN | WHERE 7-11 p.m. Oct. 22 at Seatuck Environmental Association/Suffolk County Environmental Center, 550 S. Bay Ave., Islip

INFO 631-581-6908, seatuck.org

ADMISSION $80 ($25 designated driver)

If you’re batty for craft brews, raise a cup with 300 conservation-minded beer-lovers inside a giant, Halloween-decorated tent in front of historic Scully Mansion, headquarters of the not-for-profit Seatuck organization. In addition to its Islip nature center, Seatuck operates the South Shore Nature Center in East Islip and the Sherwood Jayne Farm in East Setauket.

Relax amid the fall foliage as a brewer makes a presentation about craft-brewed beer. Then sample dozens of craft beers by 20 breweries from Long Island, Brooklyn and Queens. The Decoys rock and roll band from the South Shore provides the live entertainment.

As for the bats — well, they can be found on the 70-acre property, but they’ll be hibernating by October, according to Nardone. You can learn about these nocturnal, flying mammals at the popular bat lecture by Kelly Speer, a bat researcher anddoctoral candidate in comparative biology at the American Museum of Natural History’s Richard Gilder Graduate School. Speer’s topic: “Bats, bugs and bacteria, Oh My!”

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