Saturday, March 21, 2015

Collaboration is the Fulfillment of the Craft Beer Ideal

If the craft-beer movement has been a revolution against the bland, watered-down beer that America got served for 50 years after Prohibition ended, then the nine beer makers that gathered at Caution Brewing Co. on March 4 were taking part in the Colorado Peach Party.

The action was minimal; mostly brewers talked about each others' businesses, though some sharing of recipes and tips on maintaining equipment pervaded the conversations. But by creating a Peach Fuss Ale - a pumpkin-peach beer made in reaction to Budweiser's ridiculous Super Bowl commercial attacking a segment of the beer industry that is growing rapidly while American light lager stagnates - they let the world know the brewing war will be fought by coalition.

And as that beer and roughly 75 others are served today at the second-annual Collaboration Fest, a massively expanding festival from the folks at Imbibe and the Colorado Brewers Guild, these craft brewers will be joining together in a way that no other industry does. They'll share tips with competitors that will help their businesses grow, they'll figure out new joint projects to undertake in the next year and they'll have a hell of a lot of fun doing it - maybe the most important and defining characteristic of the event and the movement.

"Brewers like getting together. They really have a good time when they all get in the same room," said PJ Hoberman, co-founder of Imbibe and proud father of his growing Collab Fest child. "I think the fact that craft beer in America has grown up under the shadow of these behemoth companies means it has always had the attitude of 'we will band together, because we can't take down these giants on their own.'"

There will be giant collaborations - more than 10 female brewers and brewery owners pitched into the Lady Collab, for instance - and there will be plenty of one-on-one teamings. And beer geeks will overrun Sports Authority Field to find them.

Peach Fuss will be one of the stars of the show for its ability to capitalize on the hottest and strangest beer style out there. But there are a lot of other stories that will be worth examing.

One of the favorites that I discovered in hitting a couple of the collaborations, for example, was that of Diebolt Brewing and Denver Beer Co. getting together to make a Biere de Mars for the festival. Denver Beer's new production facility isn't too far from Diebolt, which made it somewhat of a natural collaboration. But when Jack Diebolt and Denver Beer's Nick Bruno got together (pictured above) to make it, they also dreamed up the idea of creating a Sunnyside Beer Festival to announce to the metro area that this up-and-coming westside neighborhood is a place to which beer travelers now can journey.

"We're trying to get Sunnyside on the map," Diebolt said.

One of the newest breweries at the Peach Fuss gathering was Broomfield's Nighthawk Brewing, whose owner, Ethan Hall, also owns a paintball business. There's high competition and little collaboration in that industry, Hall said. In brewing, it's completely different.

That's why Collab Fest is such an important statement. It lets the world know that craft brewing is not only on the rise but is doing so in a way no other industry has done. And that's worth celebrating.

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