Two-hundred brewers walk into a bar …
This isn’t a joke, but the general basis of Collaboration Beer Fest, where 200 breweries from 42 states and six countries come together to unveil 123 Frankenstein craft hybrids for thirsty beer lovers. This was the fifth year the Denver events group Two Parts and the Colorado Brewers Guild hosted Collaboration Fest.
“A few years ago Food & Wine [magazine[ called Collaboration Fest ‘America’s Most Creative Beer Festival,’ and that is something we want to build on each year,” said Tobias Krause, events manager at Two Parts. “We want people to leave this year’s festival thinking it was the best drinking experience of their life.”
And take it from The Manual — it was awesome. Here are six of the most bizarre, creative, delicious, and trending collaboration beers we tasted in 2018:
Twin Ninja Saké Saison
Gemini Beer Company and 300 Suns Brewing married their love of experimenting with craft ales to combine two yeasts into one spot-on and perfectly balanced Saké Saison. Together, the yeasts produced a dry and crisp ale with the fruity complexity of a saison (the perfect beer for springtime). Jasmine rice and hand-selected malts finished the subtly hoppy ale with a glowing golden hue.
The Big Cactus Mexican Lager
While most collaboration beers were the passion project of two breweries, this fresh and snappy Mexican Lager came about from three mad minds: Cerberus Brewing Co., Fossil Craft Beer Company, and Goat Patch Brewing Co. Hailing from Colorado Springs, these brewers admitted their Mexican Lager was the brainchild of hanging outside of the brewery and exchanging dream recipes. The beer is brewed with agave nectar, which adds a hint of sweetness. The Big Cactus is on tap now at Fossil Craft Beer Co., along with the Purploid Sour Punch (another brew from the wild trio).
Megafauna Triple IPA
One of the few booths to have a line stretching back into the center of the room, Cerebral Brewing and Outer Range Brewing Co. wowed IPA-lovers while pushing IPA-so-so-likers over the fence into full-blown fans. How? They went hazy. No doubt the most trending beer across the craft scene right now, hazy IPAs were the stars of Collaboration Fest. Unlike traditional IPAs, the hazy breed results in a paler color and a lighter, often fruitier taste on the pallet. Megafuna was hopped with Galaxy, Enigma, Mosaic, and N1/69, then fermented with a blend of expressive yeasts. Sitting about 10.5 percent ABV, it does the job, quick.
Smooth Criminal New England Style Milkshake IPA
If the goal of creating a new beer was to get as funky as possible with it, Crystal Springs Brewing Co. and Something Brewery created the George Clinton of craft beers. Smooth Criminal is a milkshake IPA made with black currants to yield a creamy and coveted beer that feels like an indulgent dessert. Not to mention, this IPA is handsome and super Instagram-able. (Here’s how to take great beer photos.)
Cherry Coast to Coast Sour Ale
With over a dozen sour creations, it was clear this puckered trend is sustaining popularity after a trending spike the past few years. And it meant even more that the Colorado Guild’s big creation this year was a Cherry Coast to Coast sour ale, made with the help of 11 other brewers associations and state guilds around the country (including Kentucky, New York, Texas, and North Carolina). That’s a lot of cooks in the kitchen, but the result was like drinking a cherry pie with fresh, tart cherries and hints of almond, vanilla, and cinnamon. Very Americana. (Here’s how to make your own sour beer, if you dare.)
On the Shoulder of Giants 2017 Golden Sour
Two sours gods got together and created the holy grail of sours. New Belgium Brewing and The Rare Barrel aged their golden sour beer in oak barrels with fruity peaches and herbaceous jasmine pearl tea. Need we say more? The peach and jasmine worked to balance out the bitter sour, while helping it shine.
Are you more of a liquor lover than a beer drinker? Be sure to check out the fresh new Colorado Spirits Trail crafted by the Colorado Distillers Guild just this year.