Just because great brewers come together to collaborate on a beer doesn't mean that the beer will be twice as tasty. And just because dozens of breweries from Colorado, from out of state and even from a foreign country are coming together for a Collaboration Fest doesn't mean the beer is going to be any better than it is at any other festival.
No, what collaborations do is strengthen the craft-beer industry -- one that has exploded in the past five years in Colorado, adding hundreds of new jobs and giving Coloradans (those 21 and over, at least) bragging rights to a fun, engaging hobby they can be close to.
They also create a way for breweries that sometimes compete for consumer attention and dollars -- and even for talented staff -- to hang out under friendly circumstances.
Later this month, the Colorado Brewers Guild will host the first-ever Collaboration Fest as part of its annual Colorado Beer Week, featuring at least forty different projects. They include everything from an all-female cast of Colorado Springs brewers to a roundup of several current and former brewers for the Mountain Sun and Vine Street Pub breweries, to a pairing between Ska Brewing and some colleagues in Sweden.
"You have one person in charge of not screwing things up, and the rest of the guys are helping out," says Brian Hutchinson, who was the head brewer at Mountain Sun before leaving in 2012 to start his own place, Cannonball Creek Brewing in Golden. "But really, it's a chance for some camaraderie and to learn from each other, too."
The Mountain Sun collaboration, which took place at the Vine Street Pub in Denver, was one of the largest and one of the most interesting, in that it featured some star power, as well as several brewers who have moved on or gone on to start their own places.
In addition to Hutchinson, participants included Mountain Sun brewers John Fiorilli and Brad Landman; former Oskar Blues head brewer (and current Eddyline brewer) Dave Chichura; Telluride Brewing co-owner Chris Fish; Jagged Mountain Brewing co-owner and head brewer Wayne Burns; and brewery consultant Dave Mentus, among others.
Since Mountain Sun has been around for more than two decades, many of these current and former brewers had never worked together before, says Hutchinson, who also enjoyed having another chance to brew on a system he helped put together.
The beer they made is a stout that uses some unusual ingredients, like malted sunflower seeds, buckwheat and rarer hops varieties from the Southern Hemisphere. It was developed via an e-mail thread between all of the participants.
Collaboration Fest, which will be held in conjunction with Imbibe Denver, takes place from 3 to 7 p.m. on Saturday, March 22, at the Curtis Hotel. Tickets are $50 (plus fees) for general admission, and $80 for VIP. For tickets, more information on the event and for a list of many of the collaborations, go to imbibedenver.com.
Colorado Craft Beer Week takes place March 21-29.
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