Craft brewers from across the country will join forces in Colorado to create some of the most one-of-a-kind craft beers for this year’s Collaboration Fest. The festival returns for its third year on Saturday, March 19 at Denver’s Sports Authority Field at Mile High Stadium.
Colorado Brewers Guild members chose who in the world they wanted to collaborate with and the process began. Brewers like 12Degree Brewing owner Jon Howland of Louisville, CO said brewers including himself look forward to this festival more than others because it gives brewers the opportunity to work with other breweries and to get creative.
Overall, it’s a no-pressure opportunity to collaborate on experimental brews, such as the Cuban coffee-inspired Cuban Plantain Stout by Fort Collins’ New Belgium Brewing Co. (NBB) and Boulder’s Upslope Brewing. This is the first time the breweries have collaborated; NBB also paired with Ratio Beerworks in Denver to create a beer for the fest.
“Have you ever worked with plantains before?” I asked head brewer Sam Scruby of Upslope about the novel idea. His answer was “No.” My response?…”Good luck.”
The team of New Belgium brewers faced off against team Upslope in a battle of who could peel the unripened, “woody cucumber”-like plantains faster, while tales of former and future collabs sprinkled in with conversations about what ABV the finished beer should have, and whether or not they should offer drop-shots of their complementary (and complimentary) Nitro cold-pressed coffee with the finished beer at the festival.
“Everyone’s gonna want the coffee,” NBB Research and Development Brewer Ross Koenigs said, decidedly.
Out-of-staters like Marshall Brewing founder Eric Marshall said he looks forward to coming to Colorado simply to observe other breweries both business-wise and creatively. Marshall explained Marshall Brewing is located in Tulsa, Ok. Oklahoma is one of five remaining 3.2 states, meaning all beer sold to the public not at a restaurant must be 3.2 abv or lower. Marshall said three years ago he was one of the first to push for legislation that would allow breweries to serve brewery tour participants one 12-ounce pour (of any abv) per person per tour, and adds he is hopeful lawmakers will continue to progress past remaining Prohibition Era laws that limit both the amount and abv of beers sold at breweries.
Louisiville, CO’s Gravity Brewing, a small-scale production microbrewery known for their wide range of bold flavored, high ABV beers, went with a more personal approach to both of their upcoming collaborations. The first is a “Louisville Triple Quad” – a chocolate malt, porter-like quad that signifies the first ever collaboration of all three breweries: Gravity Brewing, 12Degree Brewing and Crystal Springs Brewing, which are all located in Louisville.
Second, Gravity Brewing’s new head brewer Taylor Kuck contacted his former employer, Marshall Brewing, whose team agreed to drive to Colorado to create a “Dillsner” – a cucumber and dill Pilsner, which Kuck said was inspired by “drinking Pilsner and (eating) dill sunflower seeds”… “That’s how the idea came about,” he said, bursting the mythological man-beer-God bubble fantasy of how beers are created with a swift kick.
Mind-altering creation stories withstanding, this is a beer festival for the adventurous, the elite and the spectacular. Collaborations range from artfully inspired (See: Odell and Stone Brewing’s Whiskey- and Rum-barrel-aged Chocolate Coffee Raspberry Russian Imperial Stout), to tongue-in-cheek political statements (See: Factotum Brewhouse (Denver) and Tow Yard Brewing (Indianapolis) – who worked on a “OATMAHA” pale ale to commemorate both of NFL Quarterback Peyton Manning’s former AFC Championships.
“We’re wanting it be something the athlete himself (Manning) would enjoy,” says Laura Bruns, co-founder of Factotum via the festival’s blog. “We know from a press conference that he enjoys very sessionable, thirst-quenching styles of beer..”
With more than 75 breweries signed up, there is sure to be something to fit your fancy, so get your tickets before they sell out.