The Spirit of Collaboration
If I may toot the horn of the craft beer movement a bit: there’s a camaraderie and sense of community amongst the beer geeks, from the drinkers to the brewers and everyone in-between, that is truly unique. Competitions are almost always healthy, entered with the knowledge that at the end of the day, we’re all going to sit down and enjoy a couple cold ones regardless of the outcome. The most notable result of this brother/sisterhood is the collaboration beer, where two or more breweries get together and see what happens when ideas starting being bandied about.
Collaborative wines or liquors are almost unheard of, and while over the years the number of ‘collab’ beers has grown to the point of parody I still believe that their spirit exhibits the best of beer culture. More often than not, collaborations are once-per-year or one-time-only deals, but let me give you a rundown of some that you should be able to find right now without going too far out of your way:
Collaboration Not Litigation Ale (Avery/Russian River): Both Colorado’s Avery Brewing Company and California’s Russian River Brewing Company make Belgian-styled beers named Salvation. It would have been easy for the two to sue the hell out of each other for the name and moved on, but that’s not what they did. What they did was get together, have some beers, and decide to blend the two Salvations together into a new, third beer. This was the first collaboration that I can remember having, and its story became a tenet of my own beer geekdom as it related to openness and not thinking territorially. Russian River will be coming up again very soon in this column.
Land Ho! (Heavy Seas/Devil’s Backbone): Virginia and Maryland working together. Baltimore’s Heavy Seas is a fixture in the region’s craft beer scene, where Lexington’s Devil’s Backbone is only starting to grow its name in the D.C. area, though it’s doing that quickly. This joint effort is a “Black Pils”, with all of the clean, grassy, refreshing feel of an old-school Pilsner with enough malt to color it black and add a touch of chocolate and caramel.
Sobrehumano Palena’ole (Maui/Jolly Pumpkin): A favorite of mine from SAVOR that just arrived recently in Virginia, Sobrehumano is the work of the gang at Maui Brewing Company with Michigan’s Jolly Pumpkin Artisanal Ales. Using tart cherries from Michigan and Hawaiian passion fruit, this Amber Ale is refreshing, complex, and bracing all at once.
BRUX (Sierra Nevada/Russian River): Told you Russian River was coming up again. This one, if it isn’t available by the time you read this, will be in the area next week. Working with the legendary Sierra Nevada Brewing Company, Russian River brings the Belgian influence to BRUX with a re-fermentation of this Pale Ale with Brettanomyces yeast, giving it subtle yet funky notes of spice and tropical fruits. BRUX won’t last long, so if you’ve enjoyed Wild Ales don’t miss out.
Saison du BUFF (Stone/Dogfish Head/Victory): When three of the biggest and baddest craft breweries in the U.S. got together a few years back and decided to make a beer together, most of us were expecting some kind of hop-based ordinance that would be inaccessible to mere mortals. Instead, we got Saison du BUFF; a subtle, refined, easy-drinking take on the Belgian style using the full Scarborough Fair (parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme). The herbs come through almost like a grassy hop character in the brew, which is made at each brewery in turn during years when it’s released. Stone’s version is just arriving, but it should still be feasible to track down the Victory and Dogfish Head-made ones too.
Until next time.