Beer lovers, rescue birds flock together at Arizona brewpub

Posted Tuesday, May. 06, 2014  comments  Print Reprints
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The Perch Pub &

Brewery

• 232 S. Wall St., Chandler, Ariz.

• 480-773-7688; perchpubbrewery.com

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It’s fair to say that Perch, a new Arizona brewpub in the Phoenix area, has some obvious differences from most of its competitors. First and foremost: Even after hours, this place is always full, and it’s a noisy crowd.

Locals say the area’s craft brewery scene is exploding, with at least six related businesses opened during the past year and another 12 openings expected in 2014. According to John Alvarado, owner of Arizona Brewery Tours, a company that takes patrons on guided brewpub bus tours, the lively scene involves about 30 breweries and brewpubs to date.

At Perch, each day of business starts in an atypical way: Owner Rebecca Lavenue spends three hours cleaning cages for 70 or more exotic birds that reside in an enormous aviary above the pub’s patio garden.

“They love their daily showers,” she says, smiling. “They open up their wings and sing to me.”

Since almost all of these birds were previously living in abusive situations, one imagines they might be singing in happy gratitude to Lavenue, their rescuer. The stories are many and varied.

For instance, there’s Luna, an elegant white cockatoo who sits peacefully in her cage, seemingly clueless to the trauma she likely suffered earlier when a previous owner smashed her cage, with her inside of it, against a wall.

Located in the Phoenix suburb of Chandler, Perch was named to honor the birds that have found sanctuary there. While thirsty patrons enjoy their chocolate porters and crisp India pale ales, along with food such as green chile pizza, smoked beef and bacon burgers and hummus, the ambiance is established by a pleasant cacophony of trills, squawks, melodies and a few racy words from the establishment’s menagerie of macaws, Amazon parrots, cockatoos, lovebirds and cockatiels. There’s even an African grey parrot on site.

The birds flit about within an expansive 12-by-25-foot aviary and three more large cages built by Lavenue and her husband and their co-owner, former restaurateur Suzanne Seacrest.

Opened in mid-February, Perch has made an unlikely transition from its original status as a dilapidated antique mall with a small aviary. Lavenue notes that the previous owner had suffered some serious health problems and the birds housed on the property had suffered neglect.

As lifelong animal lovers, Rebecca and Kenneth Lavenue liked the birds but were initially unsure of what to do with the place. Rebecca is a neurosurgical tech at various Phoenix-area hospitals and Kenneth is a concrete salesman.

“I just thought it was cute,” Rebecca Lavenue says sheepishly.

They tried opening a smoothie shop there but she says it never took off. Then a friend suggested a brewpub, and it seemed a good fit. Meanwhile, Rebecca Lavenue had contacted the Arizona Exotic Bird Rescue for advice in caring for the birds that had been left in the aviary, and the organization, in turn, asked if she would be willing to take in more birds.

“I wasn’t really a bird person,” she recalls, “but I was learning fast. For example, we saw that the birds were really hot, so we put in a misting system to cool them down.”

There were surprising lessons along the way as well. Rebecca Lavenue recalls how she told rescue contacts that she could take in a few new birds; shortly thereafter, 10 severely abused birds arrived.

“The aviary’s main structure was made of wood,” she adds, and they soon discovered that this is part of an Amazon parrot’s diet. “They ate it all within three to four months,” she explains. “We had to put metal sheeting on top, but that was just a Band-Aid.”

She also tells how the misting system fogged up the glass because of the hard Arizona water, and required that a new aviary be built — this time using steel and 12-foot-high cages to allow the birds to fly high and avoid public viewing when desired.

Bird deliveries have continued, and the aviary is well-populated now. Cages have cards that describe the type of birds inside and provide additional information.

“I don’t even know how many we have,” Rebecca Lavenue says. “People are constantly asking me if I can take more birds. I just took in a 60-year-old Amazon parrot that the rescue was going to put down. I told them to let him live out his life with us. People just don’t realize when they decide to take in a bird as a pet that these birds can live up to 70 years or even more.”

Indeed, according to the nonprofit Best Friends Animal Society, there are hundreds of thousands of parrots that have been rescued by the approximately 100 established parrot sanctuaries and thousands of smaller rescue groups in the U.S., each housing an average of 100 to 2,000 parrots. There are at least as many exotic birds that should be rescued, living in appalling neglect and abuse.

In May, Perch will begin serving up its own brews, crafted by its brewer, Andrew Bauman. First on his list will be a rosemary IPA and a grapefruit Belgian.

“I’ve always incorporated food in my beers,” he says.

The pub will offer two or three dozen brews from other breweries from Arizona and elsewhere, and notably, will have two taps as “collaboration brews.” These will be partnership efforts with a home brewer, or a philanthropic entity, or even with another brewery.

“We’ll come up with a vision together, let’s say a mango beer to help birds that come from the jungle,” Bauman explains.“Then we’ll have a ‘relief party,’ and give a substantial portion of the profits to the charity that is partnering with us.”

The birds at Perch are not up for adoption, but its owners do try to encourage patrons to adopt birds that are in need of homes elsewhere.

“Everyone loves the birds,” Rebecca Lavenue says. “They interact, they’re funny, they sing (even Do Re Mi from The Sound of Music). One even yells ‘Grandma, Grandma,’ and another calls out ‘Hi, boy.’ Birds are wonderful — and we hope we foster that love, and the education about their care, in others.”

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