Tuesday, August 18, 2009
After seeing the news from Dogfish last week about their 2 new collaboration brews with Sierra Nevada, it got me thinking about brewer collaborations. It seems that collaborations are all the craze recently in the world of craft brewing. Just peruse the new releases board on BeerAdvocate and you'll see more than a few announcements for new creative brews constructed by 2 or even 3 breweries. This is truly a business practice unique to the craft brewing industry.
Can you imagine Anheuser-Busch and Miller collaborating on a new light (or lite) beer that had both "drinkability" and was "triple hops brewed"? With their recipes combined it would be ... indistinguishable from their current light beer offerings. But rest assured there would be a $500 million marketing campaign behind it. Enough bashing from high atop my soapbox.
Why the sudden increase in brewer collaborations though? Similarly to how Eddie Van Halen explains his virtuosity, "It's all in the fingers," well for brewers its all in the tongue. I think craft brewers respect other breweries that make good tasting and creative beers. And furthermore these brewermasters learn a lot working with there peers from across the nation or even across the globe.
I suspect there are also economic motivations as well. Now people get jumpy when you start to mention profits as motivation when talking brewing. What the heck is wrong with making money? The people who own and work at these breweries have mouths to feed and bills to pay. I suspect there are some economies of scale when working within two distributor networks. Also, these collab beers are usually very unique and they don't necessarily compete with the brewers' year round offerings. Generally speaking brewers don't collaborate and brew a session brown ale. It's usually some style defying high gravity brew. Last, from a marketing standpoint the very idea of a collaboration is exciting for consumers and it organically generates its own demand for the product.
Below is a listing of collaborations that I familiar with. Please feel free to comment and add to the list.
Avery and Russian River - Collaboration Not Litigation Ale
Stone and Nogne O and Jolly Pumpkin - Special Holiday Ale
Stone and Ken Schmidt (a homebrewer) and Maui - Kona Coffee. Macadamia. Coconut Porter
Stone and BrewDog and Cambridge - Juxtaposition Black Pilsner
Stone and Mikkeller and AleSmith - Belgian Style Triple Ale
Nogne O and Mikkeller - Tyttebaer Ale
Ska and Avery - Wheel Sucker Wheat
Left Hand and Terrapin - Terra-rye'zd Black Rye Lager
Try a collaboration brew and experience the warm fuzzy feeling,