I have to be honest, I’ve always been a little cynical when it comes to collaboration beers. From a beer drinker’s standpoint I don’t often taste a collaborative brew and say “Wow this beer never would have come about if only one of these two breweries were involved!” Of course I’m sure the brewers bounce ideas back and forth off each other and I’m sure each brewer learns a little something in the process. But to me, that’s just everyday networking. The brewing community is a tight-knit one and a lot of brewers form friendships outside of the professional realm. We wind up spending plenty of time hanging out and drinking beers together. We talk about all sorts of things that have nothing to do with work, but of course now and then the conversation is going to default to making beer. We’re always sharing information and helping each other out. In a way, every brew I’ve ever made is collaborative. I don’t know that I need another brewer to come into my brewery and help stir the mash to make it so. I’ve always thought a beer released as a “collaboration” was likely to be much more about marketing than anything else.
All that being said, from a brewer’s standpoint, they are a whole lot of fun to brew. Like I said, a lot of us are friends. So getting to get paid for a day spent hanging out with friends isn’t such a bad thing. Bob (our head brewer in Media) and Jeff (Ithaca) did a collaboration a while ago. I got a chance to hang out with both of them at Belgium Comes to Cooperstown this past weekend. I watched them trade jokes, share beers, babysit each other’s sons and shoot the breeze about brewing and all kinds of stuff that had nothing to do with brewing. I can only imagine how much fun they had when they got together to brew Dark Humour.
Casey (of Flying Fish) and I have been friends for years now. We both moved to the area and started working for our respective employers the same year and have shared many beers since then. We’ve done a few Flying Fish themed events since Iron Hill opened up in New Jersey and one collaborative blend together, but never a whole batch. We figured it was about time. This past Thursday we brewed Iron Fish, a collaborative Imperial Black Belgian IPA. The style was a little bit toungue in cheek. We both think collaborations are a bit trendy and figured if we were going to do something trendy we might as well go all the way. We thought we’d throw in as many of the current brewing trends as possible into the mix. (We also plan to barrel age some of it, just to make sure we have all the trends covered.) I will say there was a lot more shared influence in this beer than I had initially imagined. We did in fact put a lot of thought and discussion into where we wanted this beer to go and what we thought would work best. Most of all, how to fit all of those trends in without winding up with a complete train wreck on our hands.
Iron Fish is chugging along nicely now. We’re having a release party for it on Saturday August 27th that will piggyback on an IPA event I’ve been planning for a while. I’ve been saving one keg of every IPA I’ve had on tap for the past 6 or 7 months plus the last remaining keg of Flying Fish’s Exit 16 and I’ll be putting them all on tap at noon on the 27th. As usual we’ll be offering a sampler, four ounces of everything all on one tray. Later in the afternoon we’ll be tapping the Iron Fish. Put it on your calendar, its one you don’t want to miss. See you then!