The topic of this month’s Session is “Collaborations”, the hot, new gimmick in the craft beer industry. The announcements of this month’s session asked:
Whoâ€™s brewed some of your favorite collaborations? Who have been some of your favorite collaborators? Who would you like to see in a future collaboration?
I will admit to have had precious few collaborative beers. I’ve tried Olde Rabbit’s Foot, a collaboration between three North Carolina breweries, and I’ve tried both Life & Limb and Limb & Life, I’ve tried the Schneider-Brooklyner Hopfen-Weisse, and I’ve tried the infamous Collaboration Not Litigation.
If I had to pick one, I’d say that the Hopfen-Weisse was probably my favorite out of them, but mainly because it was the most delicate of them, which showed off how well crafted it was. A close second is Limb & Life – second runnings are difficult to predict. That Dogfish Head and Sierra Nevada were able to create such a compelling beer from second runnings speaks volumes.
Here’s the thing: I have a hard time believing that collaboration makes a huge difference in what I’m tasting in the beer. If we’re talking about two breweries who make exceptional beer, chances are the beer is going to be exceptional, whether it’s a blend of beers from different breweries or a collaborative recipe a la Hopfen-Weisse. Let’s face it, we can’t taste the individual components that have been blended together. All we can taste is a great beer. That’s a wonderful thing, but the only thing that sets a collaborative beer apart from any other great beer is the intent and concept behind its creation – that is where I take my largest share of enjoyment.
In collaborations I see the future of the craft beer industry. By that I don’t mean that years from now all breweries will collaborate with each other constantly, though that may well be the case. No, what I see from collaborations is a reflection of the camaraderie present in the craft beer industry that is one of the best public definitions of what makes craft beer stand apart. In collaborations, we see that rather than attempting to force your competitors off the shelves, it is possible to embrace them and work together for the common good of both of your companies. We see the antithesis of corporate monopoly and dog-eat-dog capitalism. We see the tightening of a figurative band of brothers, where love of craft perseveres over mere petty competitiveness.
You hear the phrase all around the craft industry: “A rising tide lifts all boats.” It’s the mantra that everybody repeats, signifying that what helps one craft brewery helps all of them, and it’s true. Collaborations are the natural extension of this attitude and they exemplify the philosophy that will spell out the success of the industry in the future: camaraderie, not competition; collaboration, not litigation.