Embracing Camaraderie and Creativity
If you’ve been following the plight of independent beer producers over the past few years, you know that much of the good news within the industry has been overshadowed by ongoing buyouts, layoffs and a barrage of cease-and-desist orders within the ranks. If we need an occasional reminder of the camaraderie, creativity and uniqueness of the beer industry, Denver’s annual Collaboration Beer Fest is just the ticket. The fifth incarnation of this popular springtime festival took place recently and was the kickoff and signature event of this year’s Colorado Beer Week.
The concept behind the festival is both simple and inspired. Two or more breweries join forces to create a one-off beer of their choice. The only restriction is that one brewery must be a member of the Colorado Brewers Guild, which hosts the festival along with local event organizer, Two Parts. For the 2018 Collaboration Fest, approximately 125 beers were produced by brewing teams representing over 200 breweries.
The festival has been staged in several different locations throughout its existence. This year, it moved to the Hyatt Regency Hotel in downtown Denver. The central location was easy to access by public transportation, a big plus for a beer event. The venue was spacious and easily accommodated the large, animated crowd. Hopefully, it will become the permanent home of the event.
The variety of beers – all created specifically for the festival – was extraordinary. More than any other beer event in the region, the Collaboration Fest taps into the creative spirit of participating brewers. “We get an opportunity to go crazy,” said Jeffery Green, of Very Nice Brewing, located in the small mountain town of Nederland. Green teamed up with Boulder’s Wild Wood’s Brewery to create Southern HEMPisphere, an IPA well-dosed with hops from New Zealand and Australia and augmented with toasted hemp seeds for added complexity.
Chris Black, proprietor of Denver’s legendary Falling Rock Tap House and a sponsor of the Collaboration Fest, lists the event among his favorite Colorado festivals. “Everything here is new,” stated Black. “None of these beers have ever been made before.” While IPAs – both hazy and bright – were in plentiful supply, many of the beers being dispensed were more adventurous undertakings. Unique combinations of fruits, herbs and spices added interesting twists to traditional styles and to sour and barrel-aged creations. A variety of spontaneous fermentations drew a lot of interest. Several beer-wine and beer-sake hybrids fit in well with the fest’s boundary-bending theme.
The number of out-of-state participating breweries is growing each year. Among the breweries that teamed up with Colorado beer-makers were Alesong Brewing & Blending (OR), Invictus Brewing (MN), Ladyface Ale Companie (CA), Überbrew (MT), The Lost Abby (CA), Blackberry Farm (TN), The Rare Barrel (CA), Cigar City (FL) and many more. Several European breweries also had a presence at this year’s festival.
The success of the Collaboration Beer Fest is due to its unique formula, which is as enticing to brewers as it is to beer fans in search of one-of-a-kind creations. “This is a chance for us to break away from what we do and try something brand new,” explained Erin Evans of Wild Woods Brewery. “Our audience embraces that.”