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  • Writer's picturePaige Latham Didora

collaboration beer: history

This is installment two of the Collaboration Beer Series.

When I mention collaboration beer, many people immediately think of the famed “Collaboration Not Litigation Ale”. More than one person has mentioned this beer to me lately when I tell them I have collaboration on the brain. And don’t worry, I’ll get to that.

But the truth is that the history of teaming up to brew begins several years before the Avery/Russian River beer. It begins relatively precisely, actually, with a man you may have heard of — Garrett Oliver.

Oliver claims that he was the first brewer to collaborate on a commercial brew. While I trust him (I mean, have you looked in his dreamy eyes??), I have to think that, over the ages, brewers must have utilized each other to advance the brewing profession. So I will deem this a discussion on modern beer collaboration.

The year was 1997 and Oliver had made a serious name for himself. He had been brewing commercially for almost 10 years, apprenticing at Manhattan Brewing Company and going on to become brewmaster of the Brooklyn Brewery.


Oliver was enthralled with Peter Scholey’s Brakspear beers and he wanted to deliver a quintessentially British beer to the people of New York:

“The original idea was basically, I make a beer with you and you make a beer with me—our beer reflects our character, and you can come brew something British here. I went over there and brewed that beer, which became quite popular; it had a big American hop character, a lot of Cascade in it, heavily-dry-hopped. They had never done anything like that.” –Garrett Oliver

Oliver did not stop there. He believes that Brooklyn brewed at least six commerical collaboration beers before any other American brewery had even tried one. Although many of these beers were only available temporarily, one is still being produced to this day, the Brooklyn and Schneider Weisse creation called Hopfen-Weisse.

bottles hopfen-weisse

Drexler chose Palisade and Amarillo hops while Oliver picked the German Hallertau.

Germany isn’t alone. Belgian brewers also have a history of collaborating with American brewers. De Proef is one brewery with a long and notable record of joint ventures. Several of their specialty beers are collaborations, and favorite partners include Lost Abbey, Port Brewing, Bell’s, and Allagash.

Their recent Tropical Tripel collaboration with Cigar City brewing was a hit, in part because Cigar City is not as widely distributed as De Proef and it offered an opportunity to taste something from the famous Florida brewery.

De Proef began their tradition of collaboration after being inspired by Washington’s Long Shadows winery project in which young vintners work together with the best in the profession.

Finally, and most famously, Avery and Russian River have been coming together to create their Collaboration Not Litigation Ale since 2004, much to the enjoyment of beer drinkers everywhere.

The legend begins when both breweries discover that they are making final preparations to release a Belgian beer called Salvation. Rather than tie each other up in red tape and lawsuits, they decided to continue with their brews independently and both released them in their respective markets successfully. In 2004 when Adam Avery visited Russian River he decided to take the situation to the next level– to actually blend the beers!


Vinnie Cilurzo of Russian River traveled to Avery to brew his Salvation on their system and the two brewers decided on a ratio. It was first brewed in 2006, dubbed Collaboration Not Litigation, and is still in production today.

Sources and further reading : Imbibe Magazine Beer Collaborations / Avery Brewing Our Ales: Collaboration not Litigation Ale / Long Shadows Wine Collaboration Project / De Proef Brewmaster’s Collection / Oliver’s pivotal Brooklyn Bridge Bitter / Schneider-Brooklyner Hopfen-Weisse / Deschutes Class of ’88 Series


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