Everybody loves a collaboration! The coming together of two alternatives to give you the ultimate finished article. Whether it be in music with David Bowie working with Lou Reed on his Transformer album; Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage teaming up as The Mega Powers; Celine Dion and Anastacia doing a duet cover of AC/DC’s You Shook Me All Night Long… Well maybe not, but you get the point. In the beer market collaborations are becoming ever more popular; mainly because of the well spirited craft beer community but also the nomadic character of some breweries and their own desire to work with their own influences.
There is the obvious excitement around your two favourite breweries joining forces to make a great beer by pooling together their skills and experience but also brewers who you’d place at opposite ends of the spectrum pique interest. One pairing in particular being Beavertown with their solid staple brews with big hop profiles such as Gamma Ray and Neck Oil working with wild yeast and blending aficionados Wild Beer Co. Last years Rubus Maximus; a wild ale with a shed load of raspberries was re-invented this year as Blubus Maximus; a wild ale with a shed load of blueberries. Let’s hope this pairing continues to bring us these fantastic fruity beers perfect for sharing on a cool autumn evening.
When I began putting this piece together Brewdog announced their latest Collabfest where the UK bars undertake a collaboration brew with a local brewery (in most cases…) and they are all released on draft over the weekend. I’m not sure how many are authentic collaborations due to sampling some a few weeks back at IMBC. However, rebranding/rebrewing of existing beers is not something I’m going to complain about! Especially when it went down so well the first time round.
I didn’t manage to attend the festivities on the Saturday but the Brew By Numbers collaboration; 16|04 Coffee and Chocolate Red Ale was on at IMBC this year and was delicious. Coffee beans were used in the fermenter instead of brewed coffee to add a gentle roast. And, on the Monday afterwards I popped into Brewdog Manchester and had the Northern Monk collaboration Professor Plum; a smoked plum saison. It didn’t have the intense smokiness I was expecting but the dry mouth feel was well complimented with the fruity sweetness from the plums.
Each year the Rainbow Project creates huge hype causing websites to crash and sell out within minutes. Glastonbury tickets sell out within minutes; this is seven bottles of beer and a new glass. Is this justifiable hype for a beer you’ve never drunk before; could be terrible and you’ve paid over five pounds a bottle? Even the best breweries can have an off day. I’d like to think our commitment is justifiable. This year’s event teamed up UK and US brewers doing colour influenced sour or farmhouse beers mainly. Where Firestone Walker, Crooked Stave and Prairie have become more readily available here; you can rarely, if at all, find Surly Brewing Co or Arizona Wilderness in the UK but this venture helps give you an insight in to their beers.
Another brewery from across the Atlantic that I am hearing great things about is Other Half in Brooklyn, New York. A friend of mine was over there earlier this year and did confirm what I have been hearing is true with their main range containing some majorly hop driven IPAs. I’m not planning on going back to New York just yet and I haven’t managed to source their beers over here so my opportunity to try some felt like it was getting further and further away. That is until a few weeks back when I saw on Twitter that the guys from Other Half were down at Beavertown doing a collaboration. Hey presto, Other Half beers available in the UK! Keep you’re eyes peeled; these beers will be a treat.
It’s not only breweries joining forces to produce craft beer collaborations; restaurants, shops, chefs and coffee bean roasters are also getting in on the action. Masterchef winner Tim Anderson worked with The Hanging Bat and Wild Beer Co to produce his Sake inspired strong ale for his Japanese restaurant Nanban using this years go to ingredient: Seaweed. An ingredient in both the Siren/Surly Rainbow project collaboration and Mad Hatter Brewing Company’s Indy Man Beer Con collaboration; using the seaweed to add the saltiness to the Gose style. Weird Beard’s brew in partnership with The Duke’s Head pub in Highgate, London and beer writer Matthew Curtis is a massively hopped red ale bursting with sweetness from the malt bill. With the next batch due out soon I’m looking forward to drinking this beer at its freshest.
I think my favourite collaborators have to be Buxton. Their core range is solid and not exactly short of variation but when they work with other breweries they don’t skimp on quality or quantity, generally resulting in 2 or 3 new and exciting beers. Whether it is their recurring Carnage series with To Øl or the XXXX and XS mild brewed with Rooie Dop and Oedipus you will not feel short changed by Buxton and the beers they produce solely or with their associates. I don’t believe anyone can argue about the praise received for their Omnipollo collaboration Yellow Belly, originally brewed for last years Rainbow project and subsequently brewed again since. At a whopping 12% and full of peanutty sweetness and big, bold chocolate it is definitely not a beer to shy away from. On keg it is great, on cask it is phenomenal.
Until next time as Marvin Gaye and Kim Weston sang…
“It takes two, baby. To make a dream come true. Just takes two” … (or three… or four)