Stop the Cray – Drink Away! A look inside a new collaboration for invasive species education

MSU Extension and Trail Point Brewing Co. have joined forces to spread awareness of troublesome aquatic invasive species through a new innovative outreach and education event this summer.

For decorative purposes.
Invasive species Red Swamp Rye beer sign for official tap release at Trail Point Brewing Co. Photo Credit: Kelsey Bockelman, MSU Extension

A new collaboration is “brewing” this summer. Michigan State University Extension natural resource educators are partnering with a West Michigan brewery, Trail Point Brewing Company, to protect what matters most to Michigan residents: our pristine water bodies. Together, they created an invasive red swamp crayfish themed beer that is currently on tap and will be hosting an educational community event on Saturday, June 24, 2023, from 2 – 6 p.m. at Trail Point Brewing Company in Allendale, Michigan. The event will include the Red Swamp Rye IPA both on tap and canned, local conservation partners booths, games, live music, and much more for adults and youth alike.

Brewing up a collaboration

Access to clean water is a vital resource to all of Michigan residents, our environment, health, and especially our economy. Businesses, like Trail Point Brewing Company, rely on clean water access to provide quality craft beer to Michigan residents.

When asked about this new initiative, Jeff Knoblock, one of the Trail Point’s owners, said, “Trail Point is grateful for the opportunity to work with MSU Extension’s Center for Lakes and Streams. When we first heard about the mission to create awareness in protecting one of our most precious resources, we couldn’t be more excited to participate. We have a strong love for the outdoors and of course the resource of water to help us create what we do as brewers.”

It is with this mission in mind that MSU Extension natural resource educators and Trail Point Brewing Company have joined forces to raise the awareness of aquatic invasive species prevention.

Aquatic invasive species

Aquatic invasive species, or “aquatic hitchhikers,” are non-native species that can cause harm to the economy, environment, or human health – and they are no strangers to Michigan’s waters. Invasive species have been sighted in our waterways since the early 1800s and since then, many regulations have been put in place to protect our waterways.

However, invasive species are still able to spread through many different outlets like boating and fishing, accidental release, and the pet and ornamental trade. These invasive species can outcompete valuable native species for food and habitat, cause water quality issues, and be a nuisance to those enjoying our waterbodies.

Common Michigan invasives that you may have heard of include Eurasian watermilfoil, zebra mussels, red swamp crayfish, and curly leaf pondweed. All of these can threaten our clean water resources in a variety of ways, which brought this unique collaboration to fruition.

Red swamp crayfish

For decorative purposes.
Example photo of an invasive Red Swamp Crayfish. Notable characteristics are bright red bumps on claws and a black wedge-shaped stripe on the underside.

Meet the invasive red swamp crayfish (Procambarus clarkii) – the first of this invasive species beer series. Known for its voracious appetite, this aquatic invader and tough survivalist is a prohibited species in Michigan, meaning live possession is illegal. Even with set regulations, red swamp crayfish have been found in the pet trade, classrooms, live bait, and in the food industry. This crayfish is typically 2 – 5 inches long and can be identified by its unique bright red bumps on its claws and a black wedge-shaped stripe on its underside. Keep this menacing mudbug out of our waters by never releasing live crayfish and cleaning, draining, and drying boats and fishing gear. Sightings should be reported to the Midwest Invasive Species Information Network (MISIN).

More information on aquatic invasive species and prevention can be found on the MSU Extension Clean Boats, Clean Waters website, Facebook (@MichiganCBCW), or Instagram (@michigan_cbcw). Questions about invasive species or this program can be addressed to Kelsey Bockelman, MSU Extension Water Resources Educator, at

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