Craft beer has become its own juggernaut. The growth over the last five years has been astronomical. We now live in a world where getting a deliciously made beer is just the matter of going down to the local grocery store for a browse. The explosion of all of these new brewers has led to something wonderful — the collaboration beer.
For the uninitiated, the collaboration beer is when two (or more) brewers get together to make something extra special. More often than not this is a massive craft brewer giving a national stage to a small local brew house that they love. They trade some proprietary yeasts, bacteria, hops, and malts and see what they can concoct. Then they compile all their new suds and ship them out to us so we can love them too… while getting a little tipsy.
This list is all about the best collaborations we’ve seen (so far) this year.
CRYSTALL BRETT — DEVILS BACKBONE BREWING COMPANY & THREE NOTCH’D BREWING COMPANY
Let’s start with the Devils Backbone Virginia Brewers Collaboration Pack. This Belgian Ale uses Brett (Brettanomyces) yeasts to create a funky straw tartness to the barnyard sour ale. Don’t expect a hop bitter bomb here. This version has an earthy taste with hints of tropical fruits underlying a very dry crispness. Overall, it’s a great introduction to Brett Ales for those of you looking to get into a new style.
SIXTH CIRCLE SOUR IPA — DEVILS BACKBONE BREWING COMPANY & PARKWAY BREWING COMPANY
Sixth Circle is a bit of a hybrid. They’ve taken a very tropical fruit, grapefruit, and hop forward IPA and used a kettle souring process to flip the beer on its head. Kettle souring is when lacto bacteria is added right before pasteurization to, well, sour the beer like a Gose or Berlin Weisse. It’s fascinating to see it tried here with an IPA instead of a wheat. It might not be your favorite beer ever, but it is something different. And that’s worth a taste.
LEFT OF THE DIVIDE IPA — CENTRAL CITY BREWERS + DISTILLERS & FOUR WINDS BREWING
From our neighbors up north comes the Red Racer Across The Nation Collaboration, with great beers from all over Canada. Our first pick is a classic IPA from British Columbia that smashes the style. The IPA has an earthy floral hop edge that’s grounded in a smoothly-roasted malt counterpoint. It’s a great combination of pine and grapefruit from the hops and sweet toast from the malts.
ACROSS THE NATION “NEW” SCOTTISH ALE — CENTRAL CITY BREWERS + DISTILLERS & GARRISON BREWING
This one has all the information you need right in the title. This “New” Scottish Ale has a distinct peaty smoke to the beer that levels up nicely with the roasted maltiness of an old world ale. The triad of bitter hop, peaty smoke, and roasted coffee malts makes this a very drinkable ale and absolutely worth a little beer sleuthing to find.
EAST MEETS WEST IPA — SIERRA NEVADA BREWING COMPANY & TREE HOUSE BREWING COMPANY
Sierra Nevada’s Beer Camp Collaboration pack is in stores right now. And this year, they’ve gone beyond the borders of the United States to bring some truly interesting collaboration beers to your fridge.
East Meets West is the balanced blend of the big bitter hoppiness of the west coast with the more subtle, fruity hoppiness of the east coast. Expect a lot of orange, lemon, and grapefruit juiciness with piney florals with a decent amount of hop bitter masking a hefty ABV of seven percent. This one really is the best of both (IPA) worlds.
DRY-HOPPED BERLINER-STYLE WEISSE — SIERRA NEVADA BREWING COMPANY & SAINT ARNOLD BREWING COMPANY
This refreshing sour wheat beer (based in lacto bacteria) is having a bit of a moment. Sierra Nevada and St Arnold’s Berliner Weisse has the added benefit of being dry-hopped to accent the citrus and fruit notes already in the beer. Expect to have a tart start and finish with a nice hint of clove, banana, and fruit in between. This one has a low ABV of 4.2 percent, meaning you can drink it all summer long.
ATLANTIC-STYLE VINTAGE ALE — SIERRA NEVADA BREWING COMPANY & FULLER’S BREWERY
Fuller’s Beer brews some of the most iconic English ales. Their collab with Sierra Nevada this time around is a special bottle of beer that may well be better with a little age. This one is a classic example of a cellared English Ale. There’s a nice hint of hops that accent the roasted malt sweetness, assisted by the addition of plums during brewing. It’s not overly bitter and it’s not overly malty. It just right. The best part is that it’ll change as the years pass. So keep an eye out for this one over the next few years.
TIME HOP PORTER — BOSTON BEER COMPANY & CHUCKALEK INDEPENDENT BREWERS
Boston Beer Company, also known as Sam Adams, is one of the biggest brewers in America. They’ve been reaching out to smaller brewers for years and lending a helping hand (read: small business loans) wherever they can. This year’s Brewing the American Dream Collaboration Pack is the first time they’ve ever actually released beers under the Sam Adams umbrella.
Their Time Hop Porter collab is an interesting blend of big hops bitterness with floral and piney notes along big roasted maltiness that cuts the bitter with an almost creamy coffee/cacao base. It’s a dark and stormy beer with a soft edge.
OATS MCGOATS STOUT — BOSTON BEER COMPANY & BREWERY RICKOLI
This oatmeal stout hits a lot of flavors in every glass of beer. There’s a nice roasted malt that blends a little smoke and plenty of chocolate with a slight hint of hop bitterness on the end. You’ll get hints of licorice and some earthiness underneath the creamy smooth stout.
THREENINETY BOCK — BOSTON BEER COMPANY & ROC BREWING COMPANY
We’re ending this one with a big beer. This Maibock clocks in at a hefty seven percent ABV. Hiding all that alcohol is a nice layering of toasted malts, specifically rye grains that bring both a hint of spice that works wonders with the tangerine citrus brought by the hops. There’s a very old world toasted bread and caramel feel along with a crisp and mildly dry finish that makes this one a win.