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!


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