With 112 beers on the menu, it's going to be extremely difficult for the giddy attendees of the fourth annual Collaboration Fest to know where to begin. This year's version of the event, which takes place Saturday, March 25, from 4 to 7 p.m. at the National Western Complex, is the biggest ever, bringing together 188 different breweries that teamed up in pairs, trios and even bigger groups to create one-off brews. Each beer was created specifically for Collab Fest, and most of them won't ever be seen again.
The depth and breadth of styles and techniques is truly outstanding this time around, which is why it's fun to seek out a wide variety of beers. Thankfully, the organizers of the festival, the Colorado Brewers Guild and Two Parts, have created a complete list online of all the beers, so you can study up before the big event. From that list, I selected fifteen beers that I am going to seek out first — some because of the breweries involved, some because of the unusual styles or ingredients, and some simply for the whimsy of the collaboration.
Collaboration Fest tickets, $60 to $85 are still available at collaborationfest.com.
Oaked Weissenbock and Oaked Rye Dunkelweizen
Upslope and Resolute
Veteran Boulder brewery Upslope and young upstart Resolute, in Centennial, weren't happy making just one beer together; they had to make two. The Oaked Weissenbock features "neutral, first use, medium toasted French oak," while the Oaked Rye Dunkelweizen was brewed with "Colorado grown and malted rye malt and aged on medium toast French oak cubes."
West Side Is the Blessed Side
Little Machine and Joyride
Belgian tripels were originally made by monks in Belgium, so perhaps it makes sense that this beer, also a tripel, was blessed by a father from St. Dominic's Church on the west side of town. Joyride and Little Machine actually made two versions of the beer — one with added red grapes and one with white grapes. The grapes symbolize the communal wine, the breweries say. Both versions were blessed.
Lemon Zest Grissette
Alpine Dog and Mountain Toad
Grissette is a low-ABV style of beer with a light malt character, similar to saison, say Denver's Alpine Dog and Golden's Mountain Toad, which got together to make this version of the style. Lemon Zest Grissette gets its "body from wheat and flaked oat additions with moderate farmhouse style esters and peppery aromatics." The breweries decided to work together because they both love the outdoors.
Slow Death and Ritual Knife
TRVE Brewing and Burial Beer
Denver's TRVE and North Carolina's Burial Beer have developed a close relationship over the past two years, based on a similar ethos, so it makes sense that they produced two beers for Collaboration Fest. The first is Slow Death, a whiskey-barrel-aged dark mixed-culture ale with cinnamon and lemon peel. The second, Ritual Knife, is a brandy-barrel-aged black braggot.
Various Boulder County breweries
Calling themselves the Masshole Brewers Transplant Alliance, or MBTA, this group of brewers decided to make a hoppy wheat beer to honor their home state of Massachusetts. The Alliance consists of 12Degree Brewing, Asher Brewing, Bootstrap Brewing, Gunbarrel Brewing and Sanitas Brewing along with Boulder-based beer writer Dan Rabin. Obstructed View was inspired by the Boston Red Sox and "dedicated to anyone who has ever sat directly behind a post at Fenway, the world’s greatest (and least user-friendly) ball pahk," the brewers says. "Obstructed View is wicked session-able and packs a may-jah dose of tropical and citrusy late-addition hops, including loads of Meridian, an intriguing new hop variety. This beer is perfect for an afternoon in the bleechahs yelling at knuckleheads."
Jagged Mountain and Vail Brewing
Foraged beers are becoming more popular — and this one sounds interesting. Put together by Denver's Jagged Mountain and Vail Brewing Company, it's an amber ale made with Colorado spruce, elderberry and black currant, then finished in gin barrels.
Uberpower Triple IPA
Comrade and Uberbrew
Last year's GABF Small Brewery & Brewer of the Year award went to Montana's Uberbrew, which also took home four medals, including a gold for its Imperial IPA. So, yes, I'm going to seek out any collab it works on with Denver brewers. Thankfully, Uberbrew teamed up with a whopping four different Colorado breweries. The one I'm hitting first, though, is a collaboration with local hops geniuses Comrade Brewing. The result is Überpower Triple IPA, hopped with more than ten pounds per barrel of Mandarina Bavaria, Chinook, Citra, Simcoe and Mosaic hops. It weighs in at 10 percent ABV.
Halfpenny and Seedstock
Centennial's Halfpenny Brewing and Denver's Seedstock Brewery, both of which opened in 2016, are quietly turning out on-point German-style lagers and ales. So I'm excited to try this obscure beer, which, according to Ron Pattinson's 2015 article in BeerAdvocate has "its roots in a handful of villages: Ammerbach, Ziegenhain, Winzerla, Wöllnitz, and, naturally, Lichtenhain." Brewed continuously for a few hundred years, it disappeared for a while in the 1980s and ’90s before being resurrected as a style. Made with lightly smoked malt and almost no hops, it has a weakly sour taste that comes from spontaneous fermentation, Pattinson's article notes.
Orange You Surprised It's Not an IPA?
Odd 13 and New Image
Yes, yes, I am surprised it's not an IPA, especially since Odd 13 Brewing in Lafayette and New Image Brewing in Arvada have brewed some of the best hazy, juicy New England-style IPAs in Colorado,. Nevertheless, they decided to brew something completely different for Collab Fest: an Imperial Stout with citrus. That's why this festival is so fun.
Smoke’em If You Got’em
Living the Dream and Pikes Peak
Littleton's Living the Dream and Pikes Peak Brewing, out of Colorado Springs, got creative and "weird" this year, putting together a smokey peach ale that they describe as being "like eating a grilled peach in a glass."
Crystal Springs and BRU Handbuilt
Both of these Boulder County breweries got their start in their owners' garages, which seems like as good a reason as any to collaborate on a beer. Together they made a "Colorado/New England/Vienna style Mexican Dark Lager, that is an amalgamation of complex yet softly elegant maltiness with a dry and slightly bitter finish."
Cerebral and Great Notion
Try to tell me you don't want to drink something called Blurpleberry. Go ahead, try. You can't. Because it's not true. Created by Denver's Cerebral and Portland's Great Notion, Blurpleberry is an IPA hopped with Citra, Mosaic and N1/69 (that's a hop), brewed with oats and conditioned on lactose, boysenberry and vanilla beans. This one is going to be interesting.
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Chocolate Orange Belgian Tripel
Ratio and Weldwerks
Rising Colorado stars Ratio Beerworks in Denver and Greeley's Weldwerks Brewing got together to make a Belgian Tripel brewed with pure liquid cacao and orange zest. ’Nuff said.
Rye No More (No More)
Bierstadt and Call to Arms
Whenever either of these two breweries, Bierstadt Lagerhaus or Call to Arms, get together with another brewery, you can expect something different or unusual. So it's no surprise that the collaboration between the two is a hoppy rye lager, which isn't something you see very often. The beer, which was traditionally lagered for 145 days in Germany, where the style originated, features Lemondrop, Mandarina Bavaria and Mosaic hops. It's a tribute to Bierstadt brewer Ashleigh's favorite band, Mumford & Sons, according to the breweries.
Enemy of the People IPA
Great Divide and the Beer Media
I would be remiss if I didn't include the beer that Great Divide graciously agreed to brew on behalf of Denver's besotted media: you know, the enemy of the American people. As part of a possible future beer, Great Divide is experimenting with some of the more citrus-forward flavors common in New England-style IPAs, as well as the style's hallmark haze. One of those experiments is Enemy of the People, made with oats, flaked white wheat, Magnum, Amarillo, Huell Melon and Azacca hops. The beer was brewed by Jacob Johnson and Bryan Harris. Participating media (we drank a lot of beer and made jokes) included Westword, Denverite, 9News, Denver Business Journal, Porchdrinking, Focus on the Beer, American Craft Beer Radio, the Brewtography Project, Brewtally Insane and Brewski-Reviewski.