DRAFT PICKS: Blending the best
The craft brewing industry is unique in many, many ways.
One special thing about brewers and the brewing biz is that there is a whole lot of cooperation going on between houses and on the brew floor.
The result, (no big surprise), is an exchange of knowledge and information that vastly improves the quality of beer being produced by those involved in the exchange of information.
One such exchange occurred well after the brewing process had been completed, but the cooperative advantage is enjoyed today nevertheless.
Back in 2004, two major figure in the craft brew ‘fraternity’ met during the Great American Beer Festival.
Vinnie Cilurzo, of Russian River Brewing of California, (famous for the Pliny the Younger and Pliny the Elder brews), and Adam Avery, of Avery Brewing in Boulder, Colorado, (famous for such stellar brews as Ellie’s Brown Ale and White Rascal), made friends, (as we used to say in Detroit), and sat down to chat about what was going on in their respective worlds.
They soon realized that each of their breweries was inadvertently producing and marketing a beer by the same name - Salvation.
Worse still, both of these brews were Belgian-style ales, (although one was a golden ale while the other was a strong ale.
The situation might have been uncomfortable. There could have been a legal dispute over the product name or labeling issues. It wouldn’t have been the first time. The problem isn’t unknown.
Back in the day, both Big Sky Brewing and Bayern Brewing in Montana brewed and marketed a beer called Trout Slayer. There was no little bit of testiness over the labeling of the two brands. (Big Sky’s Trout Slayer remains. Bayern’s has reportedly been retired.)
Avery and Cilurzo, however, took a different approach. They decided to blend the two Salvations together.
The result was delicious.
After a couple years of mixing and tasting, the two influential brewers bottled the blend as a seasonal brew and Cilurzo’s wife Valerie came up with the name “Collaboration Not Litigation Ale.”
At 8.97 percent, this is definitely a ‘winter warmer.’
It is so, so, so good.
Avery and Russian River aren’t the first brewers to work with others in creating collaborative efforts that are really noteworthy.
A couple years ago Stone Brewing Co, Victory Brewing, and Dogfish Head Brewing worked together to create a pretty heady brew named Saison du BUFF. This beer was brewed only three times and although it received a warm welcome, it is already ‘retired’ and unavailable today.
Deschutes Brewery and Hair of the Dog Brewing recently worked together to create a blended beer including the best elements of Deschutes’s The Stoic and The Dissident, and Hair of The Dog’s Fred and Adam. This interesting offering created a series and was named was Conflux No. 1.
A great example of collaboration bore fruit when five brewers including Sam Calagione, of Dogfish, Tomme Arthur, from The Lost Abbey, Adam Avery, of Avery Brewing, Rob Todd, of Allagash, and Vinnie Cirulzo, the Russian River owner, traveled together to Belgium.
After their convivial tour, the group decided to pool their efforts and brew a beer together. The result is a sour ale called Isabelle Proximus. While it still shows up in some lists and catalogs, I’m not sure if this brew is still available today.
Dogfish’s Calagione is really well-known in the brewing world for encouraging collaborations of one form or the other.
There are a lot more examples of great collaborative efforts between breweries, or individual brewers. Sometimes these cooperative efforts are as simple as helping each other out with a batch of hops, or introducing each other to a new malt blend.
At other times, there can be an actual blending of finished product to produce an entirely new brew.
However the collaboration or cooperation takes place, craft brewers are much more open to experimenting and sharing then are the mega-breweries, and that can only be a good thing at the end of the day.
Collaboration Not Litigation Ale
Avery Brewing Company
Colorado, United States
Collaboration pours a very pretty dark-ish orange, leaning toward amber on the color scale. An inviting head forms and stays just enough time to give you a few sniffs. The head is a strong off-white in color, and leaves a small ring of lacing when it dissipates.
This is certainly a malt forward blend, with a hearty mix of fruit smells bolstering the rich aroma, giving well-defined blasts of dark fruits, some light spicing, and a very sweetish brown sugary scent. This blend does come in at 8.72 percent alcohol by volume, and so there is, indeed, a good hint of that alcohol in the background.
Collaboration is categorized a Belgian Strong Dark Ale. It lives up to its name. It has many of the best qualities of Belgian brews, has a touch of heat, but maintains a great base of fruity sensibility throughout.
I wonder if this doesn’t age in rum barrels? There certainly are the traces of a sweet rum in the first wash. Collaboration has an light fruit cake feel, with the taste of plums and raisins prominent in the mix. There is a touch of hops to be picked up on if you hold out for a while.
With the boisterous base of malts and the definite fruitiness throughout, some might find this brew a tad syrupy. I believe the Belgian roots stay true.
Despite the sweetness, there is a welcome dry finish to Collaboration, which promises that there will be little or no cloying sweetness lingering behind.
This is surely a very, very welcome winter season brew, that I found well balanced and full of both body and character.
God Bless the brewery masters who work together cooperatively to create this exceptional blend.
Left Hand Brewing Company
Stranger is an American Pale Ale (APA) that pours a beautiful, crisp and clear golden yellow with surprisingly little head. (I don’t know why I find this surprising, other than I was just expecting more!)
There is a fine malty scent strengthened by a serious dose of hops that add a mildly citrusy smell. The hops are very evident at this scent stage, but as opposed to many IPAs, Stranger is a bit sweeter and not so acidic to the nose.
There is a certain standard quality to the APA. It fits the form, but stays well independent in the offing.
There is a prominent hoppiness, but the malts are no shrinking violets here. The first wash is certainly hoppy, but a sense of well-planned malts develops early on and continues throughout. At 5 percent ABV this is a very, very refreshing brew. Honest and straight-forward.
Stranger has a touch of citrus throughout that keeps this APA in the acceptability range for a larger audience than what an IPA might have.
It is relatively light, decently carbonated which brings out the mild fruit tones well. There is a touch of bitterness at the end, but that is only to be expected.
Still, at 36 IBUs this isn’t going to drive away anyone who is less than giggly about hoppy beers.
I think this beer would pair very nicely with grilled chicken - grilled not fried. For whatever reason, I don’t find IPAs or APAs good pairings for deep-fried food stuffs.
I’d suggest this would go well with a plate of the more earthy cheeses - the farm cheeses such as the smokier offerings or the more simple Greek cheeses, (such as block feta), or farmer’s cheese.