Collaboration brewing is a serious interest of mine. The idea of two or more brewers getting together to create something synergistic is very appealing to me as both a writer and a drinker. When I consume collaboration beers, I imagine the brewers – especially if I know them personally – brainstorming and impressing each other, making compromises, and ultimately representing themselves in one glass, together.
Opportunities to sample collaboration beers have grown, especially since the number of craft breweries continues to climb. From classics like Schneider Weisse Hopfen-Weisse, to new cult favorites such as Collaboration Not Litigation, collaborations have become the norm. These projects offer new or tiny breweries the opportunity to show themselves off to a new market or gain the use of equipment or space. The can also open up established breweries to new markets.
This year featured five beers, each brewed by two breweries. Some pairs were geographically disparate where others were neighbors. And while some brewing duos seem to have a similar philosophy, others certainly don’t.
The verdict? There wasn’t a bad beer in the bunch.
The official results were as follows:
Horatio!, Dave, Proud Mayor, Danger-Wheelie, and Farmhouse Bavaria.
The rankings didn’t quite line up with the praise and criticism I heard from my beer community, made up of some professional brewers, Barley’s Angels, the 16 oz Society, and more. But the reality is that it was very difficult to choose.
The middle of the very good pack was Dave, a solid “pale lager” brewed by the folks behind St, Paul’s Bang Brewing and Dave’s Brewfarm. What may have worked in favor of this pair is their similar values and philosophies. Each has an emphasis on sustainability and stewardship. It was also seasonally appropriate but may have lacked in intrigue.
Similarly, there were absolutely no flaws in the Proud Mayor, created by Summit and Bent Paddle. The malt complexity and restrained hopping were so characteristic of these two breweries there was no surprise how successful this collaboration was. It felt very authentic. Perhaps what didn’t work was the weather. It carried a bit of weight for the near-90 degree day.
The flop of the bunch wasn’t a total miss, but it did fall short of the rest of the ballot. The graff made by Dangerous Man and Sociable Cider Werks was monotone and a bit smelly. I was initially intrigued that the color was dark – it felt like the Dangerous Man fingerprint on the recipe given their exceedingly popular dark beer styles. Unfortunately the lack of carbonation left it a bit lifeless and the rotten egg smell was indicative of stressed yeast.
>>>credit: Kristen England
Hugely successful to me and those around me was the beer that took last place – Farmhouse Bavaria from the most unlikely pair – Schells and Bent Brewstillery. With incredibly refreshing character and citrusy bitterness from Mandarina Bavaria hops, this tart wonder was in my top picks. If I didn’t have to try five beers I would have had three of this one. Clearly this beer brought out the best from both brewers, each of whom have extensive experience with farmhouse and sour ales.
According to Bent Brewstillery’s head brewer, Kristen England, Jace and Kristen set out to make a unique brew, something not often found in the local scene. “The idea was a funky, sour version of something like Dupont Avril but dry hopped,” he explains. They were going for funky and no problem generating ideas together.
>>>credit: Fair State
Finally, the crowd’s pick was my top choice, too. Fulton and Fair State flexed their fermentation skills to make Horatio!, a slightly sour wheat beer, finished with Nelson Sauvin and rhubarb. The fruit alone would add a hint of sour character, but the beer from start to finish was very solid. The tropical and vinous hops invited in some seasonality and the results were very pleasant. It felt like a finished product that could top local summer beer must-try lists.
Look for these beers on draft at the breweries involved in the next few weeks. Farmhouse Bavaria is currently on draft at Red Stag and its associated restaurants. It will be available at Bent Brewstillery in the coming days.