Collaboration Fest: Not your average brew days

(Photo ©Barrels & Bottles)

(Photo ©Barrels & Bottles)

Collaboration Fest is more than a month away but many brews are fermenting in barrels and stainless steel tanks across the state. From Durango and Telluride to Golden and Boulder, the range of collaborations is growing by the day. To purchase tickets and for an updated list of collaborations, click here. Here’s a sneak peek into some of the brew days that have already gone down.

Ska Brewing & Nynäshamns Ångbryggeri

Durango got a taste of Sweden on January 20 when these two crews got together. While they mostly “hung out and drank beer,” says Ska head brewer Thomas Larsen, they did so while brewing a cross between a Belgian Wit Beer and an IPA.

With a grain bill of 50% American two-row, 50% raw wheat, torrified wheat, flaked wheat, and oats, and traditionally fermented with Celis/Hoegaarden Wit yeast, this brew is a fairly traditional Wit that is then IPA’d with El Dorado and Colorado-grown Chinook hops along with local juniper. The guys from Nynäshamns added their own local flare with sea-buckthorn, a soft, juicy, orange berry native to Sweden that will add a tart profile to the beer.

Ska head brewer, Thomas Larsen and Nynashamns head brewer, Lasse Ericsson milling grain (Photo ©Ska Brewing)

Ska head brewer, Thomas Larsen and Nynashamns head brewer, Lasse Ericsson milling grain (Photo ©Ska Brewing)

Despite being from different parts of the world, Ska and Nynäshamns aren’t all that different. Nynäshamns opened in 1997, only two years after Ska Brewing started in Durango.

“I think that is an indication of how close we are in terms of our development as brewers and as a brewery in general,” says Larsen. “I think they have remained smaller in production terms but only because the craft brewing explosion has had a slower start in Sweden. I think that is all geared to change now as Swedes are embracing more American craft beer and I think that will only open the doors for more craft beer to be made locally.”

Further similarities include an appreciation for a night of green chile burgers and beers at Gazpacho’s. “They hung in pretty well considering they were jet lagged and came from sea level to 6,500 feet here,” says Larsen.

Check out this awesome video from the Ska & collaboration brought to you by the guys behind “Crafting A Nation.” Video available on iTunes.


Golden City Brewery with Barrels & Bottles

The oldest brewery and the newest brewery in Golden joined together on January 20 to brew a classic German Schwarzbier, using Golden City Brewery’s equipment and treated water to emulate this traditional black lager. This brew with GCB, which has been around for two decades, was Barrels & Bottles first collaboration since opening in 2013 but will not be their last, as they have several already lined up for the coming year.

Mashing in (Photo ©Barrels & Bottles)

Mashing in (Photo ©Barrels & Bottles)

“Everyone benefits from a collaboration and the sky is the limit with creativity,” says Abby George of Barrels & Bottles. “[Collaboration Fest] will be our first festival and we are excited to be a part of it, to support the CO Brewers Guild, and to stand next to our friends and other brewery professionals serving up our labor of love.”

Former Future Brewing Company and Station 26 Brewing Co.

This newbie collaboration, hosted at Station 26 on January 24, is one of the most creative so far, with split fermentation between the two breweries. On a “more fun than usual brew day,” the two crews whipped up a 17-BBL batch of Spring Wheat Wine with a 1,600 pound grain bill composed of mostly floor-malted wheat and some Bohemian pilsner malt.

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“It’s always fun to talk shop with other brewers and compare notes on processes and on brewing philosophies,” says Justin Baccary of Station 26. “Pumping five barrels of wort into the back of their van was also something we don’t normally get to do on brew day.”

Five barrels of the batch went home with Former Future in the back of their van and the rest is fermenting away at Station 26. The brew, which is expected to weigh in at 9% ABV, will be a big boozy beer winter beer that’s noticeably brighter than a standard barley wine both from the wheat and lemony Sorachi Ace hops.

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Telluride Brewing Company and Marble Brewery

“Fish and Ted’s Excellent Collaboration,” may sound like a bad title of a teen romantic comedy (à la Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist), but it’s also likely the title of an awesome Belgian Rye IPA Telluride and Marble brewed up on January 23.

“Hosting Ted and Marble Brewing was a blast,” says Chris Fish of Telluride Brewing. “We have been friends for about 12, maybe 15 years; we met through a mutual friend in the business, but this was the first time we brewed together.”

The grain bill was simple, composed of German Pilsner and two different German Rye malts, but the hop bill was big – and American, says Fish – with Mosaic and Citra both in the boil and dry-hopped. The brew, pitched with Trappist yeast, is fermenting away in Telluride, where half of the batch will be inoculated with Brettanomyces to create a tart and funky version of the beer.

“The reason we chose to do a beer with rye is because Ted and I have battled over the years in that category at the GABF – there were many years where one of us always pulled a medal,” says Fish. “Collaboration brewing is a perfect example of what this business is all about; it is about the community. Yes, we are competing against each other on the liquor store shelves and for tap handles in bars, but we realize that if someone has a bad craft beer experience, they may not try craft beer again.”

TRVE Brewing Company and Black Fox Brewing

On January 27, the heavy metal-themed brewery and the not-quite-a-brewery raised a big middle finger to the snow and said, “let’s brew beer.” TRVE hosted John Schneider, former head brewer for Bristol Brewing Company, current brewer at Dry Dock Brewing Company, and founder of Black Fox Brewing, which currently only exists through contract brews, like this one for Collaboration Fest.

L to R: Sydney (TRVE), Zach (TRVE), John (Black Fox), Nick (TRVE). (Photo ©Sarah Haughey)

L to R: Sydney (TRVE), Zach (TRVE), John (Black Fox), Nick (TRVE). (Photo ©Sarah Haughey)

Black Fox debuted its first beer, a Saison, back in 2009 in the Bristol tap room and for nostalgia’s (and palate’s) sake, Schneider and the TRVE crew decided on a “rustic Saison” recipe. With pilsner malt as the base along with oats, wheat and rye, this beer will be snappy and light with a spicy bitterness from five pounds of Saaz hops. Fermented with classic Saison yeast, then aged in California white wine barrels with Brettanomyces, this beer will certainly be rustic with an earthy, funky, horse-blanket aroma.

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About Sarah Haughey

Editor, Denver off the Wagon. Sarah is a native of the "Napa Valley of beer," but her beer-drinking roots stretch all the way back to the Emerald Isle where Haughey (Haw-hee) is famous. Sure, our name may have got it's rap from the corrupt prime minister, but we like to think it stands strong due to our long-standing ability to pound a few too many pints. After stints on the East Coast and in San Francisco, Sarah came running back to Denver where her full-time job is exploring all the city's new craft breweries one sip at a time. Follow me @sarahhaughey4 to see where I'm grabbing a beer or for news about local breweries. Like to cook? Me too, check out: