Beer Man

Twelve Beers and Six Trends to Look For at Collaboration Fest

Collab Fest takes place Saturday, April 2.
Collab Fest takes place Saturday, April 2. Danielle Lirette
We've told you about ten of the craziest beers you'll find at Collaboration Fest on Saturday, April 2; we've told you about one that is so weird that it got its own story; and we've lined up a few of the simultaneous releases happening around town. But the festival, which returns after a two-year hiatus, also features some classic styles, some fun twists, some first-of-a-kind teamwork by talented brewers and a lot more.

In fact, there will be a grand total of 95 collaborations from 135 different breweries (most in Colorado, though a few are from out of state), and the styles are wildly broad and diverse. They include everything from trendy hazy IPAs, adjunct stouts and tart and fruity beers, to West Coast-style pales and IPAs, wild and sour ales, saisons and lagers — a whole sweeping load of lagers, from light to dark.

And as always, the fest — which is produced by the Colorado Brewers Guild — will likely be a harbinger of upcoming trends, not to mention a peek inside the turbid brains of the state's brewers. We hope that one of those trends is an end — even if it's a slow end, with some bumps along the way — to the pandemic, which has prevented festivals like this from happening at all since March 2020. In fact, it's remarkable that the Guild was able to push forward on this at all, a testament to a lot of stress and hard work.

Here are twelve interesting collaborations that we'll be looking to try on Saturday, along with six trends or ideas that you can keep an eye out for at the fest and afterward.
click to enlarge Petri dish art from the Inland Island yeast company, which collabed with TRVE Brewing. - INLAND ISLAND
Petri dish art from the Inland Island yeast company, which collabed with TRVE Brewing.
Inland Island
Twelve Beers to Look For

TRVE Brewing, Inland Island and Troubadour Maltings
This mixed-culture beer was made with yeast and microbes from Inland Island and malt from Troubadour Maltings. The beer, called Sense of Earth, is based on Acid Rye, a malt that Troubadour created just for this brew. Acid Rye was steeped and "allowed to sit for a very long time, developing lactic acid and some wild yeast funk before being kilned," TRVE says. The brewery also wanted to make the beer with two specific Inland Island bacteria strains, which were added to the fermenter with a house kveik yeast strain. It "has notes of candied orange, lemon, and sourdough bread crust."

Burns Family Artisan Ales and River North Brewery
These two breweries combined their superpowers on a pair of beers that will be at the festival — and both sound very intriguing. The first is Caribbean Calculation, an "easy drinking 6.9 percent ABV tropical stout," Burns says. The second is Saison Postulate Imperial Dark Saison, which rings in at 10.9 percent.

Cannonball Creek Brewing and Ratio Brewing
A pair of new-school breweries with old-school souls, Ratio and Cannonball Creek riffed off of Cannonball's award-winning Featherweight Pale Ale to create Last Splash New Zealand Style Pale Ale, which was brewed with Nectaron hops from New Zealand. The "lean foundation of pilsner and Vienna malts creates a soft canvas for vibrant hop expressions of passion fruit, pineapple and peach rings," Ratio says.

Fritz Family Brewers and Wibby Brewing
Wibby Brewing has been cranking out award-winning lagers — and lagers only — from its Longmont brewery since 2015, while Fritz Family Brewers has quickly garnered a great reputation for making inspired lagers after opening in Niwot just nine months ago. We're excited to try the pilsner that they came up with as a team, and to taste something from two breweries whose beers we don't get to sample often.
click to enlarge Joyride Brewing teamed up with Westbound & Down on a Cold IPA. - JOYRIDE BREWING
Joyride Brewing teamed up with Westbound & Down on a Cold IPA.
Joyride Brewing
Joyride Brewing and Westbound & Down Brewing
These two breweries have been friends for years, and one of Joyride's former beer makers now works at Westbound. And since they have a shared appreciation for West Coast-style IPAs, they got together to try out the newest trend, which are cold IPAs. The beer is called Brewing for Science.

Los Dos Potrillos Cerveceria, Resolute Brewing and Peak View Brewing
The breweries behind this south Denver neighborhood collaboration wanted to do something different and stretch their know-how, so they landed on a strong smoked beer that they are calling Asthma Cat Dark Wheat Wine. It is made with s'mores adjuncts like cacao nibs and marshmallow "to create the experience of sitting around a campfire with good friends," the brewers say.

Bootstrap Brewing and Epic Brewing
For their project, Son of a Bootstrap White Stout, Bootstrap reworked Epic's Son of a Baptist Coffee Stout, which is a lower-ABV version of its famed Big Bad Baptist. With a thick white base that is supposed to resemble makgeolli, a traditional Korean rice wine, the beer is heavy with coffee and cacao flavor so that it tastes like a stout. It will also be on tap briefly at both breweries this weekend.

Copper Kettle Brewing and FlyteCo Brewing
We Totally Collab'ed, I've Been Drinking All Day. That's the name of this fun-sounding imperial schwarzbier from Copper Kettle and FlyteCo. The lager beer is "dark and delicious, with a touch of smoke and notes of chocolate and plum. It clocks in at a whopping 9.6 percent ABV," Copper Kettle says.
click to enlarge Julia Herz is the head of the Brewers Association's American Homebrewers Association division. - AMERICAN HOMEBREWERS ASSOCIATION
Julia Herz is the head of the Brewers Association's American Homebrewers Association division.
American Homebrewers Association
Odell Brewing Sloan’s Lake Taphouse and the American Homebrewers Association
Longtime Brewers Association (BA) craft beer director Julia Herz returned to the organization last year as new head of its American Homebrewers Association (AHA) division — and she brought her skills behind the kettle along with her. This particular recipe, Cherry Chicka Stout, by Herz and BA director Paul Gatza, had previously won a gold medal as a small batch and has been upsized at Odell. "Seek out the dark roasted malt notes balanced by pie cherry acidity and cherry fruit notes," the AHA says.

Great Divide Brewing and Knotted Root Brewing
These two breweries are stepping out of their comfort zones by teaming up on a style that neither has done before, an unfiltered Japanese-style rice lager. The beer was fermented with a sake yeast blend to lend "peach and rose esters to the aroma and give it an extremely dry finish," the breweries say.

Mirror Image Brewing and Phantom Canyon Brewing
Like a lot of brewery collabs, this one has a "meet cute" story from when some of its staff met for the first time at Wynkoop Brewing's Day of Darks festival last year. They loved each other's beers and decided to brew something together that neither had tried before: a rye marzen aged on sugar maple wood.

Black Project Wild & Spontaneous Ales and Jade Mountain Brewery & Teahouse
This "entirely unique" beer will be a blend of Jade Mountain's 100 percent red koji rice ale and Black Project's "beautiful sour barrels," the breweries say. It's called Divine Arrow.
click to enlarge The CBG and festival sponsor On Tap Credit Union got together at Barrels & Bottles Brewery to make a cold IPA. - COLORADO BREWERS GUILD
The CBG and festival sponsor On Tap Credit Union got together at Barrels & Bottles Brewery to make a cold IPA.
Colorado Brewers Guild
Six Trends to Look Out For

Say hello to cold IPAs

Cold IPAs are hot (see our story on the new style). And you can try at least four different ones at the fest, including: StrangeTail XI, from Strange Craft Brewing and Freetail Brewing; Brewing for Science, from Joyride Brewing and Westbound & Down; and Welcome Back, which Barrels & Bottles Brewery made in collaboration with the board of the Colorado Brewers Guild and On Tap Credit Union. In addition, Wibby, Fritz Family and Timnath Beerworks got together to do a cold pale ale.

The surly return of West Coast-style IPAs
There may be just as many clear and/or somewhat bitter pale ales and IPAs at this festival as their hazy, sweeter counterparts. What does that mean? Well, it means that a number of breweries got together to make something they wanted to drink — and that they hope the public is ready to drink again, too. Not that the big haze bombs are going anywhere anytime soon. But drinkers may be discovering that clear beers made with modern hop varieties are just as juicy these days — and that they sparkle in the light.

Bigger lager presence
Many of Colorado's most well-known or well-respected lager brewers will be attendance this year, including Bierstadt Lagerhaus, Wibby Brewing, Cohesion Brewing, Fritz Family Artisan Ales, Seedstock and Prost Brewing, which should significantly raise the profile of lagers in our ale-heavy world. In addition, a number of other breweries are bringing out the bottom-fermenting yeast for their collaborations, including Call to Arms Brewing, Joyride Brewing, Copper Kettle, FlyteCo Brewing and Goldspot Brewing.
click to enlarge Find this Nashville Hot Chicken beer, brewed with chicken demi glace, at Collab Fest. - SPICE TRADE BREWING
Find this Nashville Hot Chicken beer, brewed with chicken demi glace, at Collab Fest.
Spice Trade Brewing
Turning beer on its head
Marshmallows, tamarind, herbal tea, Szechuan chiles, ramen noodles, smoked pineapple, peppers of all kinds, chicken demi glace, coffee, ginger and lots and lots of fruit. You'll find all this and more in some of the Collab Fest beers. But that's not the only thing turning beer on its head. There are also new brewing techniques and a variety of hop-derived oils and other products that brewers are trying out in their experimental creations. Not to mention rice beers, white stouts and hazy sour IPAs. So while traditional styles are finding their place again at craft breweries, boundary-pushing one-offs may carry the day.

Hugs and handshakes?
Okay, this isn't really a beer trend. But it will be interesting to see how beer lovers, brewers and the craft beer-adjacent return to social interaction. Maybe you've already worked that out over the past month or two with loosened restrictions and easing COVID numbers, but then again, maybe you haven't. Handshakes and hugs? Fist bumps? Will you still wear a mask when not drinking? For many, this may be the first beer fest they've attended in more than two years. It will be crowded. It will be messy. Hopefully, it will be glorious.

Brewers who've gone on to new jobs collaborating with previous employers
One of the amazing things about the craft beer world in Colorado is that — despite us all being human — there are more friendly stories than there are unfriendly ones. One of these threads can be found in the fact that there are more than a dozen collaborations between brewers who have gone on to new jobs (or started their own companies) and their previous employees. As in no hard feelings. They include Mainstage Brewing co-owner Sam Scruby and Upslope Brewing, where he was once head brewer; Verboten Brewing and Ursula Brewery, which now employs Verboten's longtime lead brewer; and Primitive Beer, which was co-founded by Brandon Boldt and Wild Provisions Beer Company, where he used to work. Other similar collabs include Black Bottle Brewery and Mythmaker Brewing; The Post and Windfall Brewing; Odyssey Beerwerks and Woods Boss Brewing; Raíces Brewing and Downhill Brewing; Los Dos Potrillos and Jagged Mountain; Spice Trade and Counter Culture; and Westbound & Down and Joyride.
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Jonathan Shikes is a Denver native who writes about business and beer for Westword.
Contact: Jonathan Shikes