“Here's why Collaboration Fest is a great event: if you're there, you are only drinking one-of-a-kind, one-off beers,” says Wayne Waananen, the head brewer at Denver's Station 26. “That's the joy of it.”
A couple thousand people will get to experience that joy on Saturday, March 21 at the second annual Collaboration Fest, which grew so much after its inaugural year that organizers have moved it to Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Conceived as the kickoff to Colorado Craft Beer Week, the festival will showcase about 75 different beers all made collaboratively by brewers across Colorado, as well as a few working out of state or in other countries. Examples include an imperial wit from Comrade Brewing and Crooked Stave; a tripel brewed with Bagstonge Belgian Ale from Ska Brewing and San Diego's Stone; a Brettanomyces beer made with cascara and plum from Fiction Beer, Chain Reaction and brewery-in-planning Cerebral; an all-Summit County collab; an all-Golden collab; and a Belgian-style white IPA that Station 26 worked on with a brewer from Florida's Cigar City.
“I think Collaboration Fest is one of the most unique events, not just in the state, but nationwide,” says Steve Kurowski, spokesman for the Colorado Brewers Guild, which planned the festival with Imbibe Denver and Visit Denver. “It shows how craft breweries work together, day after day, week after week, year after year, and that a rising tide can raise all ships.”
Guests, many of whom are veterans of the craft-beer festival scene, won't be able to say “been there, drank that,” at this event, he adds: “Every single beer is new, and that is a major attraction to people.”
The Station 26 collaboration with Cigar City came about because some of the taproom employees in Denver are friends with the Cigar City team. As a result, Andre Guionnaud flew out from Florida to work with Waananen and Station 26 owner Justin Baccary on their white IPA. Made with orange peel and oats, the beer will be similar to Coors's Blue Moon (which Waananen helped brew when it first came out in 1995 at the Sandlot at Coors Field), “but with a hell of a lot more hops,” he says. The hops are Amarillo, Citra, Lemondrop and Galaxy, which will lend citrusy notes to the beer – appropriate for Florida – and reflect Cigar City's well-known abilities with hoppy beers.
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Over at Fiction Beer, meanwhile, co-owner Ryan Kilpatrick had met Chain Reaction co-owner Chad Christofferson at another festival and the two decided to team up on a Collaboration Fest beer. “Cerebral joined the party later,” says co-owner Chris Washenberger, who is excited to be included in Collab Fest since his brewery going into a space at Monroe and Colfax Avenue isn't open yet.
“It's going to be a crazy-ass festival,” he says. “It's going to be great.”
Collaboration Festival takes place from 3 to 7 p.m. on March 21 on the second level of Sports Authority Field, overlooking downtown Denver. Tickets, $50 for general admission, are almost sold out. To grab one and see a list of all the collaborations, go to imbibedenver.com.