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Two Denver Breweries Make Beer on a Raft on the Platte River

Saturday's voyage began by inflating the raft and cooling some boat beers.EXPAND
Saturday's voyage began by inflating the raft and cooling some boat beers.
Jonathan Shikes

Shortly after Denver was founded in 1858, startup lager breweries began to spring up on all sides of what is now Confluence Park, helping to sate the thirst of fortune seekers, miners, merchants and profiteers. Over the past few decades, a new wave of breweries has set up shop in the neighborhoods bordering the South Platte River. But until last weekend, none of them had actually brewed a beer on the river itself.

That milestone was achieved on Saturday morning, though, when a cadre of salty mariners from Mockery Brewing and Baere Brewing — with assists from Stem Ciders and Confluence Kayaks — cast off on a twelve-foot inflatable blue raft loaded up with a ten-gallon pot full of boiling water and malted barley.

With the raft inflated, the mash paddle and the raft paddles were ready for the boiling wort.EXPAND
With the raft inflated, the mash paddle and the raft paddles were ready for the boiling wort.
Jonathan Shikes

The aim of the two breweries was to continue the narrative behind an epic series of collaboration beers that the owners have brewed over the past five years for Collaboration Fest, which is coming up on April 4, 2020.

To kick off the unusual project, the intrepid crew carried a raft, paddles and some makeshift brewing equipment to a sandy spot along the Platte between the Denver Aquarium and Confluence Park. There, they boiled water in a giant pot and added barley before tying the pot, inside a double-insulated sleeve, onto the raft. Then, with six crewmen aboard, the raft floated under bridges and through rapids — with beers in hand — to Globeville Landing, where they disembarked.

The brew kettle is strapped in.EXPAND
The brew kettle is strapped in.
Jonathan Shikes

From there, the whitewater-worthy wort was transferred to Mockery at 3501 Delgany Street, where it was combined with a healthy dose of apple juice from Stem Ciders. The mixture will be be fermented in a wooden vessel known as a Squarrel Barrel, and the resulting beer, called Mocking Baered Episode 6: Without a Paddle, will be a beer/cider hybrid known as a graf ale.

The idea was created, as so many others have been, after drinking a few beers, says Zach Rabun, co-owner of Mockery Brewing. And it was "surprisingly successful," he adds. "I can't say that we'd change anything at all."

Calm water prevailed at the beginning.
Calm water prevailed at the beginning.
Shawnee Adelson/Colorado Brewers Guild

It's the latest chapter is a series of fictional stories that began in 2016 with the protagonist being shipwrecked on a desert island. "All he has for survival is a barrel of beer that has long been infected," Rabun says. That beer was called Mocking Baered Episode 1: Lost on Lacto Island, a kettle sour IPA.

But things became rapidly more rapid.
But things became rapidly more rapid.
Shawnee Adelson/Colorado Brewers Guild

Rabun continues to spin the entire tale of all the collaboration beers made so far: "The next year the Island caught on fire, resulting in Mocking Baered Episode 2: La Isla Esta Quemando, a smoked pineapple saison). To escape the inferno, the hero used the barrel that washed up on shore with him to escape to safety (Mocking Baered Episode 3: Stuck in Rumination, a rum barrel-aged English double IPA). After surviving the sea voyage, our hero washed up on shore and was rescued by a friendly baker. The baker shared his famous recipe for French Toast (Mocking Baered Episode 4: Intercontinental When I Eat French Toast, an imperial stout aged in a combination of rum and whiskey barrels).

"Then our hero hit the road in search of more adventure along the Oregon Trail. He took some of the baker's sourdough culture with him for sustenance (Mocking Baered Episode 5: Morale is Low, a Sourdough Saison). What would an Oregon Trail expedition be without a river crossing? And we arrive at Mocking Baered Episode 6: Without a Paddle, a Graf-style ale fermented on oak."

All in all, brewing beer on a river turned out to be a success.
All in all, brewing beer on a river turned out to be a success.
Shawnee Adelson/Colorado Brewers Guild

Collaboration Fest takes place at 2 p.m. on Saturday, April 4, at the Fillmore Auditorium. Hosted by the Colorado Brewers Guild, it features more than 120 collaborative beers, some of them one-time creations, from Colorado breweries working with other breweries around the state, the country and the world.

Tickets range from $65 to $85, though significant processing fees are additional. You can save some money by going directly to the Fillmore's box office at 1510 Clarkson Street. 

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