Although it's trendy to bash India Pale Ales these days as being the death of craft beer, reality shows that they're what has helped to give the industry life: The Boulder-based Brewers Association reports that IPAs make up more than 27 percent of the entire market for craft beer. Plus, they are delicious.
Breweries know this, which is why most keep a minimum of one or two hoppy selections on tap at all times. But as with any beer style, some breweries do it better than others, and three of the Denver area's best IPA specialists got together earlier this week to cook up a new creation.
The crew of Cannonball Creek Brewing in Golden and Station 26 Brewing in Denver gathered at Comrade Brewing on Tuesday to collaborate on a beer that will be served at the third annual Collaboration Fest, which takes place March 19 at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. All three breweries have won awards and acclaim for their hop-forward beers.
Not content to stay in their comfort zones, though, the brewers at the three spots decided to use three hops varieties – each brewer brought one – that they didn't have much experience with: Idaho 7, Azacca and Jarrylo. “We are taking the opportunity to use some newer hops varieties and just see how it turns out,” says Cannonball co-owner Brian Hutchinson, who won a contest in 2009, when he was at the Mountain Sun Pub, called the Alpha King Challenge, which glorifies the hoppiest of hop bombs.
“I would like to be known for making quality beers across the board, but it's no secret that 40 to 50 percent of our beers on tap are hop-forward,” he adds.
Station 26 owner Justin Baccary and brewer Wayne Waananen, who has been making hoppy beers for twenty years, had planned to brew with Hutchinson for a while, but when they ran into Comrade owner David Lin recently at an event, they decided to make the collaboration a group effort.
“We are all fans of each other's beers, and as taproom-centered breweries, we all recommend each other to people all the time,” Baccary says.
At 8 to 8.5 percent ABV, the double IPA will be brewed with the three hops varieties, along with pilsner malt and some wheat. It doesn't have a name yet, although the group is playing with “Triple Threat” or “Hop Trifecta.” Comrade head brewer Marks Lanham was in charge of the actual brew.
In addition to collaborating, all three breweries are growing themselves. Cannonball Creek is focused on keeping up with the ever-increasing demand in its taproom for beers like Featherweight Pale Ale, which won two GABF awards, and its continuing Project Alpha series of IPAs.
Comrade just added two new fermentation tanks, so it can make more Super Power IPA, a fresh-hopped version of which won two GABF medals. And Station 26 will release cans in March of Single Hop Mosaic, the third in a series of single-hopped IPAs that typically sell out of liquor stores quickly.
The Brewers Guild is expecting about 3,000 people at Collaboration Fest, where there will be more than 85 collaborations between hundreds of breweries, mostly from Colorado, but also from out of state and even from other countries. Tickets for Collaboration Fest are on sale at TwoParts.com.