This week’s Canada’s Craft Beer post comes from our BC craft beer guy, Bryan Clegg. Today Bryan talks about collaboration among craft brewers, likening a craft beer collab to a rock supergroup. Collaborations featuring breweries like Powell Street, Steamworks, Dageraad, Steel & Oak, Ravens, and Odd Society Distillery are like the rock festivals of brewing!

Canada's Craft Beer: Happier Together — The Collaborative Side of Craft Beer

We’ve talked about beer collaborations in this space before; I reviewed the enjoyable Brews Brothers Vol 1 and Vol 2 releases from Parallel 49. But I wanted to touch on it once again this month, because there’s so much out there right now, and some great things on the horizon.

You may have noticed that I’m a fan of collab brews. And brewers are too. As Jorden Foss noted in our Steel & Oak interview, the craft beer industry is filled with great people working together to lift each other up — that’s a perfect recipe for an endless stream of collaborations!

It’s like listening to a rock supergroup. Who wasn’t excited when they heard about Them Crooked Vultures? I sure was. What about mixed albums like Sound City and Roadrunner United with different, all-star lineups in every song? I love that stuff. I think a lot of people do.

As much as I love them, though, the songs on those albums aren’t always great. Sometimes you listen and think, "Yeah, this is cool, but not great." But every once in awhile a collaboration yields something amazing, even more than the sum of its parts. It’s for those moments we do it and love it.

Beer is much the same. Collaborations by nature are difficult to perfect — there’s just not enough time to really dial in the recipe. The creation of a collab beer tends to be thus:

  1. Meet up, talk about beer. Toss around ideas.
  2. Figure out logistics of turning said ideas into a brew.
  3. Pilot batch, maybe, if there’s time.
  4. BREW DAY. Hang out and drink beer.

You know it’s an accelerated schedule when brewing a pilot batch is considered optional. These are busy people and there’s rarely, if ever, enough time and space to dial in a recipe over several batches. There are some great suggestions, ideas with the potential to be great, but so many times I’ve picked up a collab beer thinking, "Wow, this sounds so cool!" only to find the reality to be a bit of a letdown.

But that doesn’t mean it isn’t usually interesting. There’s always the chance something amazing can happen, like when Joe Bonamassa or Eric Clapton walk onto the stage to jam with another band during a live performance. My first experience like that was drinking From East Van With Love by Parallel 49 and Gigantic. That was a wonderful beer by any definition.

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This month I’ve picked up a handful of local collabs, a small sample of what’s out there right now, from breweries such as Powell Street, Steamworks, Dageraad, Steel & Oak, Ravens, and even Odd Society Distillery.

Steamworks/Dageraad — East of East Van Saison with Black Lime & White Pepper

This bottle-conditioned saison from Steamworks and Dageraad pours cloudy gold with a generous, fast dissipating white head. Nose of yeast and pepper. Flavour is peppery saison, with light citrusy lime coming through. Solid.

Powell Street/Odd Society Distillery — Ode To Wallflower Gin Barrel Aged Pale Ale

Canada's Craft Beer: Happier Together — The Collaborative Side of Craft Beer

Take Powell Street’s Ode to Citra Pale Ale and age it in Wallflower Gin barrels courtesy of Odd Society Distillery and you get this hugely floral pale ale. The pour is clear copper with a medium white head. Aroma of pine and flowers. Huge botanical notes in the flavour: tastes like drinking flowers and pine trees. Really interesting stuff.

Steel & Oak/Ravens Brewing — Graff

Canada's Craft Beer: Happier Together — The Collaborative Side of Craft Beer

S&O teamed up with Ravens Brewing to produce this Graff, a beer/cider hybrid. As per the blurb on the bottle, this one was originally brewed as a beer, then underwent a secondary fermentation with the addition of unfiltered apple juice. The result is a clear, golden brew with a solid nose of stone fruits, but a flavour profile much closer to a standard ale than I would like. I feel like the cider half of this beer needs to be much more prominent to make this one a real win.  

Coming Soon

Lastly, I’d like to bring attention to a huge release happening this May.

Central City has been hard at work with brewers across the country putting together a special Across The Nation pack to celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday.  This special box features a collaboration beer made with a brewery in each of our 10 provinces, and two territories. It sounds pretty great and will definitely be worth checking out!

Still Thirsty?

Check out all our Canada’s Craft Beer articles.

Todd covers Atlantic Craft Beer
David covers Ontario and Quebec Craft Beer
Bryan covers BC Craft Beer

Bryan Clegg is the beer columnist for Bryan has a wide and accommodating palate; whether it’s a tasty low-IBU ale or a ride on the IBU train to Hop Country, he’s happy to drink and share a story about the ride. Follow @vanfoodies on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook.

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