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Style and Substance: Beer Collaborations Part 2

Collaboration Fest!

Collaboration Fest!

Too many chefs can spoil the pot… except when it comes to beer. Last time we mentioned what happens when brewers, bravely combating the evils of thirst and bad beer, decide to join forces for the greater (beer consuming) good. These concoctions give brewers a chance to create small batch wonders using new ingredients or an opportunity to use new techniques. In the case of Crooked Stave and Upslope, their teamwork resulted in the Ferus Fluxus series, a beverage created together but stored separately to create a unique ale that’s all heart. Collaborations offer a possibility for beer lovers to introduce themselves to the same beer twice.

Stone Brewing, out of Escondido California,  is also famous for their three-way collaborative creations. Released only once each year, each edition to the family is highly unique. Examples include Dayman IPA, an IPA brewed with coffee (of all things!) in conjunction with Aleman Brewing from Chicago and Two Brothers Brewing from Warrenville, IL. Also released in this series of Stone collaborations was 2011’s Japanese Green Tea IPA, a softly hopped IPA with plenty of green tea overtones, from the brilliant minds at Ishii Brewing and Baird Brewing, both in Japan.

Perhaps the most famous collaborative beer out there is Collaboration Not Litigation, a team-up between Avery Brewing in Boulder Colorado and River River Brewing, in California. The story behind this beer is almost better than the brew itself. Both breweries realized that they each brewed a beer named Salvation. Instead of suing the pants off each other, they decided to create a beer together, in the name of community. And keep their own Salvation brews.

Two Salvations equal A Collaboration

Two Salvations equal A Collaboration

If you want to take advantage of what this heady collection of brewers has concocted, they will be gathering today (March 22nd) at the Curtis Hotel, 1405 Curtis Street, from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. to show off the results of their carbonated collaborations. The Colorado Brewers Guild and Imbibe Denver are presenting this inaugural event as part of Colorado Craft Beer Week. About forty different collaborative beers will be on hand varying in style, brewing technique and taste. Attendees will be able to explore a hoppy wonderland made of pure imagination (and yeast). A few high country brewers are engaging in a five-way team up while others include participation from national and even overseas brewers. Everything’s sure to be deliciously memorable so collaborate with your wallet and head down to the Curtis Hotel for the Collaboration Fest. Tickets are $50 for general admission and $80 for the VIP package (And yes, tickets are still available!). For more information about the event plus an extensive list of the collaborators dedicated to the conspiracy of good taste check out imbibedenver.com.


Collaborations in Beer, Part 1

Collaboration is the secret to innovation and the brewing industry is no stranger to working together. Processes run faster, easier and usually result in better products. Breweries love team building exercises as much as corporations do, although they usually cut out the trust-falls and tedious powerpoint presentations. When two or more breweries team up, it usually creates a wonderful “collabeeration.”

An average brewers day starts with the head brewer making sure all recipe ingredients are ripe and ready to go, adjusting the hot liquor (aka hot water) to the correct temperature, and ensuring everything is clean. After that, the entire brewing team leaps into action to make the brew day a success. When breweries collaborate on a recipe, the streamlined process to transform an idea into a beverage becomes a little more complex.

First, breweries have to agree to work together before they hop into a mash-up. Sometimes, it’s as simple as friendly breweries wanting to get together more often. Occasionally, the team-up is for publicity, a particular festival or other one-off event. Before the breweries can barrel forward, the logistics need to be worked out: When will the brew-ha-ha go down? Who will host? And of course the big question: what to brew?

The usual collaborations consist of one brewery visiting another’s facility and producing a familiar recipe or the two breweries coming up with a recipe together and then brewing it independently so that there are two versions of the same ingredients. Breweries can also meet at a single facility to create a collective concoction everyone had a hand in designing, creating one cohesive beer.

But why go through all the hop haggling hassle? Attention, creativity, and fun are the obvious reasons. Most patrons of craft beer love to see new brews on the shelf and if that beverage happens to have the name of two or more breweries on the label, all the better. Also consider that in a world full of exciting, and often small craft breweries, making oneself noticed is necessary to keep the doors open and vats full. From an artistic standpoint, collaborations keep the creative juices flowing for recipe designers. Like any creative endeavour it’s easy to get stuck in the same old rut using the same old ingredients day after day. A brewer using Zeus hops again and again might never know about the possibilities of using Mosaic or Saaz or any other variety of hops without the creative shot in the arm collaborations provide. Finally, sometimes friendships ferment to the point where brewers just really like each other and enjoy hanging out. They’ll agree to cross-promote each other’s products boosting everyone’s brews.

Have you collaborated to create a buddy brew? If you haven’t experienced the fermentation fun or just want to check out the creative connections, check out the Collaboration Fest in Denver on March 22nd. Breweries from all across Colorado will be teaming up to bring you some scintillatingly special beers. Be sure to check back next month for examples and explorations of famous collaborations!

Cheers!


Style and Substance: Winter Warmers

Santa likes beer too.

Santa likes beer too.

Tis the season to be cold! Fa la la la la la… This is the time of year when people reach for bigger, darker beers that have a higher alcohol content to keep them in warmest, jolliest of spirits. But what should fill your glass this season? In this inaugural edition of Style and Substance, we’re going to take a look at some popular and some less common styles to keep your cheeks rosy and your belly full of cheer this season.

(Note: All links go to the BeerAdvocate page for that style. Use them to help you find some winter warmers near you!)

Stouts

This general, catch-all style is what everyone thinks of when they think ‘winter beer.’ But what type of stout tickles your fancy? We’ve highlighted a few selections for your perusal:

Oatmeal Stout

These tend to be more balanced overall with a lower alcohol content (so you can have multiple pints) and a lovely soft mouth-feel from the added oats in the grain bill.

Milk Stout

If you like sweeter beers, check out one of these. Just like the name suggests, these beers have lactose sugar added during the brewing process which produces a much sweeter and smooth-bodied beer.

American Stout

If you are like us and want something traditional yet hefty, try one of these bad boys. This style tends to vary highly between different breweries, but generally will be more highly hopped (for balance rather than bitterness) and can have some pretty high alcohol contents. Expect coffee and chocolate notes as well.

Imperial Russian Stout

Okay, we’re cheating a little here as these could easily fit in the previous category. However these beasts deserve a little extra love. Brewed originally in England, this opaque, high alcohol style was often exported to Russia and was said to be a favorite of the Imperial court. Today, these beers are popular all over the world. With an alcohol content starting at 8% ABV and going up from there, they feature some of the most complex and layered flavor profiles in the beer world. Using flavors like dark fruit, bitter chocolate, toffee, exotic coffee, Imperial Russian stouts give you a beer you can really chew. These really lend themselves to sipping on a cold night watching the snow fall.

Belgian Dark Strong Ale

Beautiful color in this Quad!

Beautiful color in this Quad!

Often known as a ‘quadrupel’, or simply ‘quads,’ this is a style that originated in Belgium’s monastic breweries. Color wise, these are more of ruby-to-light brown than ‘dark’, per se. Quadrupels are seeing an upswing in popularity across America because they are very approachable for both novice beer drinkers and connoisseurs alike, specifically in the flavor profile. Expect lots of red fruit, such as raspberry or dark cherry and some notes of sweetness balanced with a strong malt character (toffee, biscuit) and spice from the yeast. Don’t forget about the booze content either! Quads start around 8% ABV and go up from there with most between 9 and 10% ABV. All of this results in a group of very interesting, and very crowd pleasing beers.

Porter

Not everyone agrees that porters are stout enough to keep people toasty warm, but we beg to differ. There is a style called Robust Porter, which is exactly as it sounds, porter’s cooler big brother that drives a convertible and everyone likes. These beers have slightly higher (between 5 and 7% ABV) alcohol content than standard porters (4 and 6% ABV) and they’re typically more highly hopped with a chocolate flavor as opposed to the coffee-bitter taste of other stouts. Really, go find one. They make excellent companions for those long, dark winter nights where anything could happen.

Scotch Ale

Sometimes nicknamed “wee heavy,” these beers are sort of all over the map style wise so it’s somewhat difficult to know what precisely you’re getting into when trying out new brands. So we’ll focus on generalities rather than absolutes. While lighter-color versions exist, most are going to be a hazy copper-brown, with low perceived bitterness and high alcohol content as many are between 7 and 10% ABV. These big belly warmers get their flavor and character from being highly malty (toffee, bread) and boozy. That spells a perfect evening in while the weather outside is frightful but the beer in your hand is delightful.

Hopefully this guide has given you some new ideas to expand your winter warmer selection or inspires you to revisit an old favorite and remember the ways to keep warm don’t end there! Take a magic malted mystery tour and try out many different styles to find what you really enjoy.

Now toss some deliciousness back (or tastefully sip) in front of a fire with friends and family. We hope that you have a pleasant and warm holiday season and a beer-y celebration!