Friday Froth: Brewers' Collaboration Beers

James Gribbon

Life is better when you're among friends, and people have been gathering together over a beer or a beer-like substance for thousands of years now. Everywhere there are humans, we gather in the sun, the shade of palm fronds, or under a warm tavern roof to enjoy a few drinks and catch up on what's new. We host bottle shares and beer festivals and, increasingly, brewers have been working together across brands to combine their experience, just to see what happens. 

This week, Friday Froth is going to drink a few of the beers resulting from these evanescent partnerships between breweries. The beers themselves are friendship in a glass.

In America's modern drinking age, friends can toast each other from hundreds of miles away. I occasionally trade beers with friends, and a guy I know in Missouri sent me a tall boy of the Sun King/ Solemn Oath Brewery collaboration, 30 Minute Coma. This beer welled up from the fertile spring of Sun King's second annual CANvitational, the midwest's largest canned beer festival, and it was intended to be an "international showcase of flavor." 

Golden with a thick, foamy head, 30min. Coma is a Belgian session IPA which uses German and American hops, and is fermented with Belgian yeasts. The citrusy hop aroma is balanced by the fragrant Belgian yeasts, and smells like a florist's shop. It's very clear on the first pour, but a fair amounts of yeast sediment shows up towards the bottom of the pint can. 

Sweet, yeast accented malts hit the right notes on the first sip, with a more citrusy hop middle and a finish of more traditional, pils-like bitterness. This is a well layered beer, and it responds to a gentle pour. Later pours tend to bring out the slight chalkiness of the yeast which, if anything, tend to highlight the bittering in the aftertaste. Inhaling the aroma deeply with each sip seemed to mollify the effect. 

30min. Coma isn't as chewy as a beer with this many ingredients can be, and deep, chugging swallows of this one seem to happen all on their own. I wish I had more of these, because one pint was gone too soon. Oh well - maybe next session. 

Brooklyn Brewery, Bluejacket out of Washington, DC, and New Belgium Brewing in Fort Collins, Colo. put their collective heads together and invented Wild Horse Porter. The beer makes heavy use of Brettanomyces yeast (literally "British yeast") in an effort to revive the earthy tones of 19th century British porters. It pours the benighted ruby red "black" of Guinness, with a thin, lasting head. The nose is all sweet malt and strange funk, reminiscent of fresh hay in horse stables

Light in mouthfeel, the roasted malts provide the backbone to this beer, while the live wire of wild yeasts spark it to life. The porter's breathy aftertaste exhales burnt grain. All that complexity somehow washes over easily, and drinking a pint of Wild Horse left me comparing it to prog-rock. The pungent, wild Brett sings the Geddy Lee parts in this beer, and you'll either like it or not - there is probably no middle ground. I ended up blasting "Fly By Night" after drinking this one.  

Siren Craft Brew of England has collaborated with Maryland-based Stillwater Artisanal to create several offbeat beers, and I had When The Light Gose Out. Unless my memory is failing me, and it frequently does, I've never seen a jet-black gose like this before. It looks like carbonated stout. There is a slightly sweet and sour aroma generated by the Brett yeast and hibiscus flowers used in its creation. 

This unusual beer is immediately tart and nearly chocolatey as soon as it hits the tongue. Mostly sour and clean once you get drinking, there's a smooth, consistent backbeat from the toasted malts. It's easy to drink for a sour, and that, plus the big carbonation, make this one a bit of a burper. I like darker sours, and if Loverbeer Bier Brugna is an A+, When The Light Gose Out is a solid B.

Aristotle is reported to have said friendship is one soul living in two bodies. I've found a lot of soul in these collaboration brews. See you out there.