“Two or more people or organizations work together to realize shared goals, (this is more than the intersection of common goals seen in co-operative ventures, but a deep, collective determination to reach an identical objective).”
I think that last part specially applies to brewing collaborations. The identical objective is great beer and we build that beer together.
First, we discuss ideas. Usually over beers, at beer fests, conferences and other social occasions. Often, one of us has a particular style or an unusual ingredient in mind that we’ve wanted to play with. Sometimes, there is an obvious connection between the breweries, like Avery and Russian River’s Collaboration Not Litigation being the answer to both breweries serving up a Belgian ale named Salvation.
Then, we go back and forth, tossing ideas at each other like spaghetti at the wall to see which ingredients stick. Beer is a very personal thing, we all have our own taste buds; our own likes and dislikes, favorites and rather nots. This is how we pair down what each of us are thinking can work for us, and how we start honing in on what will work together to create something unique and interesting, but ultimately, also drinkable and thus sellable.
The thing is, to me, a collaboration is a special brew. We brew beers all the time on our own, or in-house collaborations with our own teams and crews. So, personally, when we bring extra brewers together, I like to throw extras at it…we’ve got more hands on deck, why not put those hands to work by getting creative and adding some more ingredients!? Dave Simmons over at Pug Ryans and I have brewed a few and they always seem to have around 35 or 45 ingredients. And I’m not just talking about the basics like 12 different malts in a Baltic Porter, but maybe 3 different yeast strains with several kinds of wood chips soaked in port wine and/or liquor, and a half bushel of cherries and maybe some chai tea bags or fresh picked pine tips or !???!??
The point is, the possibilities are endless, why not try something new!??! And that is what is so fun about creating a collaborative brew! To me, the goal is always something new and different, something exciting and experimental. When Matt Simpson over at Kannah Creek and I started talking about what we wanted to brew, one of the first things he brought up was using prickly pear cactus. He said his grandma used to make an awesome jam with it and he’d always wanted to put it in a beer. I said, well, you’re near Palisade, and Palisade Peaches are in season, maybe peaches could work too. We agreed something stronger would better stand up to this combo and also rather quickly decided to use Belgian yeast and we kind of matched the style to the ingredients we had in mind and the Prickly Peach was born.
But that’s just the fun part. Working together is always a learning experience as well. And that is important since so many of us aren’t holding a degree in Fermentation Sciences. We’ve all got our own style, a different background, and each and every brewery has a bit of a different feel and general game plan about how to conduct business.
Some of us shoot a bit from the hip. Others are very particular and like to track and test all parts along the way. Some use chemicals and some primarily sanitize with heat. Cleaning chemicals and regimens and equipment wishes or new toys are great to compare notes on! Maybe, you even solve a lingering problem or one before it arises…or at least know who to call for advice when something odd starts happening in your brewery back home. There are also many different ways to process these extra ingredients. Do you add (*fill in the blank*) in the mash or the kettle or as a sort of “dry hop” in the fermenter, for example.
But perhaps the best part is the mutual promotion that goes along with them! We’re pointing fingers at each other’s’ breweries with a smile and telling our customers to go see so-n-so at this brewery, he or she brews a great _____! And, it makes great press too. Newspapers, magazines, radio and even local TV channels are often looking to add something positive to the pile of sad stories they have to deliver and like to get involved in these collaborative efforts.
What No Negatives!? You may ask…well, yeah, one: before you tap the first keg, half of your brew is gone, because it belongs to your partners in brewing. Or, if you brew an all Summit County type of brew, you might be lucky to get 3 or 4 kegs each once divided amongst 6 breweries! And then, there’s those fests and fundraisers. Some of our collaborations have been inspired and/or brewed for others and then they get a keg or three too. Which, in a way, leads us back to the beginning, the inspiration of this post…one of the coolest and most interesting beer fests around was just last weekend at Mile High Stadium in Denver, Collaboration Fest.
This year’s gathering of brewing minds featured 67 collaboration brews from almost 400 brewers and was served to nearly 3000 people!
That’s a lead in for what’s coming up next…favorite festivals.