Rogue Ales’ New ‘Wasted Sea Star Purple Pale Ale’ Shines Light on a Deadly Disease and Supports Research to Save the Sea Stars

by Carolyn Sotka

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Photo provided by Rogue Spirits and Ale.

Yesterday, Rogue Ales & Spirits announced the release of their new ‘Wasted Sea Star – Purple Pale Ale’, brewed to raise awareness about Sea Star Wasting Syndrome – an epidemic killing millions of sea stars along the Pacific Coast of the United States.

Rogue joined with Oregon State University and the Partnership for Interdisciplinary Studies of Coastal Oceans (PISCO) to craft the new ale using purple corn nectar, which pays homage to a native sea star rapidly disappearing from the Oregon coastline, a place the brewery also calls home.

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This 3-day series taken at Guemes Island, Washington, shows how quickly the disease can progress and the extent of damage that can be done in only few days. Photo credit: Kit Harma

Along the rocky intertidal zones throughout the Northeast Pacific, Sea Star Wasting syndrome is overwhelming purple sea stars (Pisaster ochraceus), keystone species of shallow tidal pools, to such an extent that it has been called the largest marine animal disease event in recorded history.

Identifying which virus is to blame is particularly tough because a single drop of seawater contains about 10 million viruses, but according a recent paper published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy (PNAS), scientists believe they have found a potential cause linked to a virus known as denovirus. Densovirus does not kill the sea star itself but instead weakens its immune system. That makes the starfish more susceptible to bacterial infections, which, once developed, ultimately leave it melting into a pile of mush.

Similar die-offs have occurred in the past, but never to this magnitude or geographic extent. Sea star wasting syndrome is a general description of a set of symptoms that includes lesions in the ectoderm, followed by decay of tissue, and soon thereafter fragmentation of the body and death–in short, it’s not a nice ride for the little guys.

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After months of research, scientists think they have discovered the pathogen at the heart of the starfish wasting disease that’s been killing starfish by the millions along the Pacific shores of North America. Video by Katie Campbell/KCTS9

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This is not the first time Rogue Spirits and Ale has highlighted a marine organism – here is the ‘Olde Crustacean’ brew. Photo provided by Rogue Spirits and Ale.

“We are extremely excited about this new partnership with Rogue to raise awareness about the importance of sea stars to healthy ocean ecosystems”, said lead PISCO-OSU investigator Bruce Menge. “Rogue’s new beer also recognizes the efforts of investigators across the country who are collaborating to understand this disease and its impacts.”

Rogue Spirits and Ale has over the years featured different ocean critters and donated to a variety of ocean-related causes. Past marine-themed beers include the ‘Spiny Lumpsucker Ale’, ‘Wolf Eel Ale’, ‘Shark Tooth Ale’ and ‘Sea Otter Amber’. One ‘Whale Ale’ was even crafted in honor of Keiko, the orca, the Oregon Aquarium’s most celebrated resident and star of the movie Free Willy before his release into open waters. In addition they sponsor activities like the annual surfing event ‘The Gathering Longboard Classic’ on Newport’s South Beach.

A portion of the proceeds from the sale of this beer will go towards the research of Sea Star Wasting Syndrome conducted by the PISCO. PISCO is a long-term monitoring and research program led by investigators at four universities along the U.S. West Coast: Oregon State University, UC Santa Cruz, Stanford University, and UC Santa Barbara.

Check out The Rundown on the PBS News Hour to learn about advancements in understanding the West Coast sea star plague and visit Rogue’s Spirits and Ale to learn about their over 60 different ales that use a non-pasteurized process with no preservatives, all natural ingredients.

Cheers to Rogue’s ‘Wasted Sea Star – Purple Pale Ale’ and the on-going scientific research to help prevent sea star die-offs now and hopefully for generations to come. -CS

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