Collaborations have long been a part of popular culture. In music when Anthrax and Public Enemy collaborated to produce the song “Bring the Noise” and thus create a new genre of music. Or, when Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak collaborated to create Apple. Or with the advent of Wikipedia where we all collaborate to create a mass of information.
The results can be mixed at times, but the general consensus is that two heads are better than one. So in a craft beer market that currently holds more than 4,000 breweries, it’s no surprise that many collaborate with one another.
You may have noticed some great collaboration beers on the shelves at your favorite craft beer supplier or bar. Many are just what you would think, beers created by two or more breweries, typically owners and/or head brewers, exchanging ideas and coming together to agree on a solid recipe for a beer.
There are many examples of these on the market, whether it is the fabulous saison created by Stone Brewing, Dogfish Head and Victory Brewing Saison de Buff. A beer that was so popular at its initial release that it was recently re-released. There are endless examples of these types of collaborations whether it’s Russian River and Avery Brewing, New Belgium Brewing and Elysian, Allagash and Bell’s Brewing, or Sierra Nevada’s Beer Camp which is a collaboration series between Sierra Nevada and numerous breweries around the U.S. with a wide variety of great beers made every year.
Another popular collaboration is between breweries and homebrewers. Stone Brewing has done a number of collaborations with homebrewers, but a more widely available example of this is with Sam Adams. Every year the Boston Brewing Company holds its longshot competition where homebrewers submit beers and the winners get to produce their beer using the brewery’s equipment and have their beer bottled in 6 packs and shipped throughout the country. This is a great claim to fame for any homebrewer with aspirations of going pro.
There is a new style of collaboration hitting the market between Hollywood and breweries. I don’t mean Hollywood in a condescending manner, I have loved every beer I had that I would categorize under this filing.
The first big collaboration was with “Game of Thrones” and Brewery Ommegang. The popular HBO show and New York brewery released several beers together with resounding success with more planned for the future. Stone’s w00tstout collaboration with everyone’s favorite nerd Wil Wheaton and Fark.com creator Drew Curtis. The beer was first brewed in 2013 and became a much sought after beer and annual release for the brewery. W00tstout 4.0 is slated for a July release this year and Star Wars fans will most definitely want to take note of it!
Collaborations can create something wonderful that ultimately leads to something not so great, see Anthrax/Public Enemy lead to Limp Bizkit. However, among the craft beer family collaborations are created to innovate and make great beer better pushing the boundaries while bringing the craft beer community closer. It is a rare case of win-win; breweries gain more knowledge through working together and the public gains great beer.
Derek Warren is a beer fanatic, avid homebrewer and beer historian.