Over the weekend, Denver’s Sports Authority Field at Mile High hosted the third annual Collaboration Fest, the country’s most creative beer festival we know of. Conceived by Two Parts (formerly Imbibe) with support from the Colorado Brewers Guild, Beer Advocate, Visit Denver, and Molly’s Spirits, among others, the March 19 festival featured more than 85 collaborative beer projects from 149 breweries, representing 21 states and five countries. That’s a lot of beer, people.
Prior to the fest, brewers got together to plan, brew, and—of course—share a few pints. Here are three of their stories.
Former Future Brewing Co. + Brewery 85
Former Future Owners James Howat and Sarah Howat, along with Brewer Aly Hartwig, joined forces with Brewery 85’s Owner/Head Brewer Will McCameron and Brook Bristow of the South Carolina Brewers Guild to brew 130 gallons of a sweet tea amber ale with 13 pounds of authentic Southern sweet tea. At the fest, the brewers blended the collaboration ale with Former Future’s citrusy Berlinerwiesse for a funky take on an Arnold Palmer.
During their collaborative brew day at Former Future, Hartwig, McCameron, and Bristow took turns mashing in—that is, adding the milled grain to the mash tun. “We came together to celebrate the beers that we make separately,” Hartwig said, “but the fun is blending what we’ve both made in the place where we’ll be drinking it.” Guests of the fest enjoyed the two blended brews poured from a single pitcher for a creative, boozy Arnie Palmer.
“What’s cool about this industry is that everyone can be buddies,” Bristow added. “It’s about teamwork, and we’re all in it to succeed. Everyone comes together for one common goal, and that goal is to make great beer.”
Comrade Brewing Company + Station 26 Brewing Co. + Cannonball Creek Brewing Company
Another local collaborative project came from three Denver breweries: Station 26 Brewing Co., Comrade Brewing Company, and Cannonball Creek Brewing Company. “We three have been talking about wanting to do a collaboration for the past year or so,” says Station 26 CoOwner Justin Baccary. Comrade Brewer Marks Lanham agrees. “[Station 26 and Cannonball Creek] are two of our favorite breweries in town. We were hanging out, chatting, and likely had a buzz on when we decided to do something together.”
The three Colorado brewers decided to make an “IIPA” with lesser known hop varieties called Idaho 7, Azaca, and Jarrylo. “We wanted to keep this beer along the theme of using newer, lesser known hops—things we’d all been wanting to try to work with,” said Brian Hutchinson of Cannonball Creek. “We see this as a learning opportunity for ourselves.”
The brewers chose Comrade for the project because it had the most space, and ended up making 30 kegs worth. We didn’t want to do something super ‘out there’,” says Station 26 Head Brewer Wayne Waananen. “Not a wild beer, but something more stable and clean.”
“What’s cool about festivals like these is that all the beers are new,” Baccary adds. “No one’s tried these things before now.” Comrade CoOwner David Lin agrees. “This is a unique festival. It helps show how connected we all are, even across different states.”
Call to Arms Brewing Company + Denizens Breweing Co. + Conshohocken Brewing
Another brewery trio: Call to Arms Brewing Company, Denizens Brewing Co. from Maryland, and Conshohocken Brewing out of Pennsylvania, got together to make something totally different: a KettleSoured Rye Bread Kvass—an obscure Russian-style beer—brewed with bread.
“Basically, this has been a style we’ve wanted to brew since before we opened,” says Call to Arms’s Jesse Brookstein. “When we started working together with a local cottage food bread maker (Raleigh Street Bakery, our dreams became a reality.” To take it a step further, Call to Arms had Raleigh Street bake bread for the fest—a bread made with the beer that was made with the bread that was made with the beer’s spent grain. Follow all that?
Brookstein worked alongside Andrew Horne of Conshohocken (formerly of Avery Brewing Co.), and Denizens Head Brewer Jeff Ramirez (former Head Brewer at Mt. Sun Pub & Brewery in Boulder). “We’ve stayed in close contact with these two guys over the years, and when we found out we could collaborate with some out-of-staters, they were the easy choice,” Brookstein says.
As for the event itself, Brookstein is a huge supporter. “Events like these can really do more to drive the craft beer industry than craft beer can sometimes do for itself,” he says. “Collaboration beers have been wildly popular for years now, but no one ever thought to bring such an exciting part of the craft beer scene together under one roof. Well done, CBG and Two Parts!”
We agree. The weekend’s festival hosted more than 2,000 people, all excited to try the 85-plus new, exclusive brews for the first time. From wild sours and barrel-aged IPAs to non-beer treats like coldbrewed Novo Coffee on nitro and Polidori Sausage bites, it was the biggest, tastiest Collaboration Fest we’ve seen yet.
Where to drink post-fest Collaboration beers
The fest is over now, but the good news is that you can still find some of these super limited, exclusive brews on tap around the city. Here’s the list, beer drinkers. And remember: Don’t hate. Collaborate!
The Bakers’ Brewery, Broken Compass, Dillon DAM Brewery, Backcountry Brewery, Pug Ryan’s Brewery, and Breckenridge Brewery OG: Available in taprooms.
— Monica Parpal Stockbridge, Contributor