One hundred years ago, on Mount Burgess in Canada’s Yoho National Park, Charles Doolittle Walcott, former head of the Smithsonian Institute and the U.S. Geological Survey, discovered the world’s most important fossilized animals.
So, let’s lift a glass in celebration – and here’s the perfect drink for the toast.
The Burgess Shale Geoscience Foundation (the BSGF) and Big Rock Brewery have launched “Shale Ale,” a historical twist on Big Rock’s Traditional Ale. A limited edition beer made exclusively for BSGF, the Shale Ale label depicts Walcott surrounded by the 505-million-year-old Burgess Shale fossils, famous for their amazing diversity, bizarre life forms and out-of-this-world appendages.
Shale Ale was launched in Calgary – to great acclaim – at the annual technical convention of the Canadian Society of Petroleum Geologists, the Canadian Society of Exploration Geophysicists and the Canadian Well Logging Society.
In fact, Shale Ale stocks ran out during the gala, as the 3,700 geologically-savvy attendees enthusiastically saluted Walcott’s monumental discovery; the empties, with their amazing artwork labels, were taken home as collectors’ items.
“This is the champagne of beers to celebrate the contribution that geologists have made to science,” said BSGF executive director Randle Robertson. “Shale Ale kicks off our 1909-2009 Centennial Celebrations, which are designed to engage the public in geology, climate change and the history of exploration and discovery in the Rocky Mountains.”
During the past 14 years, the BSGF, a not-for-profit, geoscience educational organization based in Field, British Columbia, has guided more than 45,000 clients from all over the world to the Burgess Shale-Walcott Quarry and Mt. Stephen. These two fossil locales in Yoho National Park were protected, in 1981, when they were declared UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
“We are pleased to support the Burgess Shale Geoscience Foundation, to promote its vision to inspire appreciation for the earth and life sciences, and to continue to find ways to educate the public on the importance of current and future environmental issues,” said Jim Button, vice president-corporate and community affairs for Calgary-based Big Rock Brewery.
Button, new to the Burgess Shale, was “gob-smacked’ by the geological community’s passion for Shale Ale.
Why do geologists thirst for Shale Ale?
“Certainly beer and geologists are a natural fit, and, as such, Shale Ale was very well received at the conference,” said David Brown, an AAPG member and a senior petroleum geologist with the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board. “As a marketing tool it certainly highlighted the Burgess Shale and the efforts of the BSGF to enlighten the public about this geological treasure.”
Brown’s comments were echoed by Clint Tippett, a principal regional geologist with Calgary-based Shell Canada Energy.
“Geologists tend to be a bit more beer-oriented than most, partly by reputation and partly because socializing is central to the discussion of new ideas and the sharing of results in the geological community,” he said.
An AAPG member, Tippett volunteers as an instructor for the BSGF’s annual science teachers’ workshop, a four-day crash course on geology 101 that uses the Canadian Rockies as its teaching platform.
“Shale Ale raises the BSGF’s profile because it is a topic of conversation,” he said. “It obviously helps when the beer is a good one.”
“Shale Ale has an immediate connection and charm for geologists,” said Philip Benham, a staff geologist at Shell Canada Energy who also assists in the annual science teachers’ workshop. “My friends who are not geologists are intrigued by the label, and I have had to give them lectures on the Burgess Shale creatures.
“Clearly, the image designed for the label has captured their imagination,” he added. “It has served to educate the public about the anniversary and significance of the Burgess Shale more than I could have expected. So, as a marketing tool, I can’t imagine a better idea – good thing we registered the image.”
For more information on the BSGF and its extensive 2009 Centennial Celebrations, go to the BGSF Web site.