last night I got to try a couple of wildly different collaborative brews. The only thing they had in common was that without exception, they were both excellent.
Thornbridge, whom you may have heard of, have been at this collaboration malarkey for a while now. Downstairs I have bottles of the Alliance, a stupendously strong series of aged beers brewed in conjunction with Brooklyn brewery in 2007. I have had one of them before. Unfortunately, it was too overwhelmingly strong to be enjoyable, but could, when I open a bottle (hopefully on the 18th) at my beer tasting with friends, be a little more rounded and approachable.
Also downstairs I have a bottle of Coalition, a 7% Old Ale brewed with Dark Star Brewery in Sussex in 2009, with a price tag so heinously astronomical that I only own this bottle due to the kindness and generosity of Davefromtshop. I have yet to try this beer, but I get the feeling it will be very nice based on the ingredients. There are liberty hops involved, but surely Thornbridge wouldn't ruin the old ale style so well represented by Harveys and Highgate by ramming it full of bitterness?
More recently Thornbridge brewed a collaboration with Odell brewery from the U.S, and bottled it (literally, not backed out). Pond Hopper was a heavy drinking hoppy but overly chewy spectacle which was memorable less for its alleged brilliance than for its ludicrous price - I still laugh now thinking of someone at the Hallamshire House in Commonside telling me with a straight face that that they didn't seem to be selling many at the newly reduced price of £18.00 (albeit for 750ml) a bottle!
Colorado Red also appeared recently, thankfully I have seen it exclusively on cask, so it hasn't attracted the unpalatable Keykeg mark up or retailed at £12.00 a go in bottle, (or has it!?) and this was also brewed in conjunction with Odell. I can't say I loved it, but it was a nice enough red ale which made a pleasant change from dire versions of Kipling and Jaipur.
Now however, Thornbridge seem to have finally excelled themselves with a collaboration. It's called Horny Goat, a mocha porter brewed to 6.2% in collaboration, I think, with the brewery of the same name in Milwaukee. The details are a bit hazy based on one look at a pump clip but what is crystal clear is that this is a fantastic beer.
I actually spotted it on Saturday but was 2 pints and a half a Halcyon in and decided against trying it, but last night I had two ruefully short lived, wondrously smooth, effortlessly drinkable and hugely enjoyable pints of this beer. Complemented by a range of beers excellent even for DAda, this was the star of the show, bettering even the Halcyon. More please Thornbridge!
The other beer collaboration I encountered last night was that from Blue Bee Brewery of Sheffield. This time, not a mindmeld of two brewers but an offer by brewer Rich to Shakespeares staff to brew a beer at the brewery. I don't know exactly which of the Shakespeares staff brewed (its a lovely idea for it to have been every single one of them) but I know for certain that the end result is a beer called (Jesus, I hope I don't get this wrong!) Shake Rattle and Roll, which features a glorious blend of lovely hops.
Myself and Mr P got into Shakespeares just in time to get the last pint and a generous free nearly half pint of the last out to top up with. Alas for Mr P it was I who took up the honour of supping the Blue Bee, of course, but we shared the free top up.
Not only was this a fine pint but also, and I hope Rich won't mind my saying, a welcome return to form for Blue Bee after a very rocky September. I was puzzled by the Brown Street, horrified by some of the Nectar and Tangled Up, but nothing, not even the excellent Techmophobeer (remember its MOvember kids!) could match the hoppy glory of this one off brew. I just hope, having enjoyed it so much, that I wasn't witnessing the last ever barrel sell out at Shakespeares....
So there you have it, meritable, useful, understandable and ultimately incredibly enjoyable collaborative brews do exist, and they don't have to be plus 9% to be good.
They also don't need to cost a fortune. What terrifically good news!