Friday, March 18, 2016

How to Make a Collaboration Beer

Collaboration Fest, scheduled for Saturday afternoon, has become one of the can't-miss festivals in Colorado. This year, 140 breweries from 21 states and five foreign countries are scheduled to roll out 85 new beers — many of which push the envelope on flavor profiles and creativity.

But for those of us who cover the beer industry, even looking on at this spectacle and tasting as much as we can put down was not enough. So, under the leadership of Brewtally Insane authors Mark and Patti Robinson, a small team of beer writers teamed up with Sir James at Lost Highway Brewing and found out what it was like to make our own collaboration entry.

First of all, the terms "our" and "collaboration" are being used loosely here. Mark and Patti deserve almost all of the credit for coming up with the idea. And 100 percent of the actual making of the beer was done by Lost Highway, lest you fear what kind of scourge might be in that glass when you walk up to the brewery's booth tomorrow.

But Patti came up with the idea of mixing in a classic Belgian ingredient and creating a chocolate stout, something the Denver Belgian-style brewer that also operates the Cheeky Monk had not done before. And after the beer writers decided on using Ghirardelli Chocolate, head brewer T.J. Compton decided to use an English-ale yeast in the beer, feeling a Belgian-ale yeast could clash too much with the chocolate.

For brewing day, we largely stood around watching T.J. and Sir James work. I felt lazy right up until I attended a later collaboration brew between New Belgium and Ratio Beerworks and realized that most of the brewers there too stood around sampling and chatting while a few people added ingredients and ran the equipment. It just goes to show that a lot of the great beers are made into what they are in the idea stage.

The beer writers' collaboration may not set the festival on fire. But it offered a chance to hang out with a great group of people and discuss beer in general. And I guess that really is the point of tomorrow's event.

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