Sunday, 16 January 2011 11:02

Can't We All Just Get Along?

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Yes! The craft brewer embodies not only an entrepreneurial spirit, but a basic human kindness towards his or her fellow brewer, an infatuation with the art of brewing itself and a respect for its American consumers.  Expressing the vitality of today’s American brewing community, using ridiculous amounts of decadent ingredients and embracing radical beer styles and extensive travel, many of the top craft brewers are taking inspiration to the bottle, in the form of collaboration. Collaboration is all the craze these days.  Brewed usually in small batches, strictly for the love of brewing, it’s usually a treat to find these collaborative brews.

In a perfect example of working together, comes two breweries that are no stranger to collaboration.  In 2001, Adam Avery of Colorado’s Avery Brewing and Vinnie Cilurzo of California’s Russian River Brewing discovered they both had Belgian-style beers named Salvation.  This could have been a litigious nightmare if a larger (I won’t name names) brewer was involved. However, instead, both Avery and Russian River went forward making their respective “Salvation” (both strong ales) until April 2004. Avery later visited the Russian River brewery, and he and Cilurzo decided to move beyond basic tolerance by blending their two beers together. Cilurzo’s wife and partner, Natalie, named the new beer Collaboration Not Litigation Ale.

Deschutes Brewery and Hair of the Dog Brewing Company will be brewing two new brews from each brewer that will be barrel-aged separately and then blended early this year.  Keep on the look out for this one.

Russian River (Vinnie Cirulzo), Lost Abbey (Tomme Arthur), Allagash (Rob Todd), Avery (Adam Avery) and Delaware’s Dogfish Head (Sam Calagione) all got together in 2008 to make Isabelle Proximus, a sour ale inspired by beers they had tasted during their trip to Belgium. These five brewers produced this mouth-watering American Wild Ale at Lost Abbey.  Vinnie Cilurzo from Russian River sent some American Oak barrels and Sam sent some cultures from the Festina Lente project.  The beer spent the next 16 months fermenting and it produced 17 oak barrels.  The name of the beer presented itself during the Belgian stay, originally as "Bel Proximus".  These two words continued to appear on the screens of the American brewers cell phones and they began using the terms in jest during the trip, as in, ‘How's your Bel Proximus?’  The name morphed into a more feminine version.

Juxtaposition Black Pilsner is a mouthful – in more than one sense of the word. Brewed by the folks at Brewdog, Cambridge Brewing and Stone Brewing, this 10% ABV Imperial Pilsner was the first lager ever brewed at Stone.  Rare hops like, Japanese Sorachi Ace and Motueka hops from New Zealand were used, along with dark malts, which is perhaps what brings out the charred bitterness.  The 10% alcohol is well hidden on the palate and there’s an amazing balance between IPA, Pilsner, and Stout that can be found….a beautiful juxtaposition, and one you just might not find something like again anytime soon.

Nogne-o-special-holiday-ale Nøgne Ø/Jolly Pumpkin/Stone Special Holiday Ale – Batch 2 Brewed at Nøgne Ø – 8.5% abv.  This is the second release of Special Holiday Ale, which was first brewed in San Diego in 2008.  This was brewed and bottled in Norway at the ever imaginative brewery of Nøgne Ø with the help of the wild brewers of Jolly Pumpkin and always adventurous Stone Brewing Company.  Using local ingredients like Michigan chestnuts, California white sage and Norwegian juniper berries, this holiday ale is spicy and perfect to warm…whatever needs warming. Ron Jefferies of Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales, Kjetil Jikiun of Nøgne-Ø and Mitch Steele of Stone Brewing Co. are all inventive brewers that aren’t afraid to push the boundaries of ingredients or the process of brewing itself.

Saison du buff is an awesome mix of three breweries that aren’t afraid of pushing the limits.  Dogfish Head, Victory Brewing and Stone Brewing brewed this 6.8% Saison with parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme.  It has an interesting take on a regular saison.  B.U.F.F. stands for Brewers United for the Freedom of Flavor and it was also made to be paired with food (fish).  It’s a perfect summer beer, having been released in early May last year.  As Bill from Victory Brewing stated: “…But America has granted our breweries the amazing opportunity to create inspired ales and we seized that opportunity with gusto in making this collaborative ale.”

Life & Limb is a collaborative effort, the brainchild of Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. and Dogfish Head Craft Brewery.  Originally released November 2009, Life & Limb, a 10 percent ABV dark ale was brewed with pure maple syrup from the Calagione family farm in Massachusetts and estate barley grown on the Grossman "farm" at the brewery in Chico, CA. The beer was brewed with yeast-a blend of both breweries' house strains and bottle conditioned for added complexity and shelf life.  Check out the behind the scenes Life & Limb video.

Pouring a beautiful, rusty copper color; sweet caramel, toffee, molasses and sugar cane rum grabs the palate.  It's just a little viscous in the mouth, still very smooth. The beer was planned as a one-time release, but the response has been so enthusiastic that Sierra Nevada spokesperson Bill Manley says there’s been talk of a second release this year.  This is an excellent pairing beer, as its complexity work well with darker, spicier flavors such as Lamb Chops with Fresh Herbs and Roasted Figs.

Sam Calagione of Dogfish Head: “The craft beer lover-enthusiast is promiscuous. They don’t just drink Sierra or Dogfish…they love to celebrate the breath of the options available to them. So by collaborating on beers, you’re kind of infinitely bringing out more options to the consumer.  And I think it’s also a recognition that collectively the 1,500 American small independent breweries have like a 5% market share against these giant conglomerates and that we have to have each other’s backs and work together…."

I couldn’t have said it better.
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