This past Saturday we attended Denver’s Collaboration Fest. This second annual beer festival served to help kick off Colorado Craft Beer Week by offering over 70 collaborative beers created in whole or in part by our local Colorado craft breweries. We knew going in the event would be epic; after all, the folks at Imbibe and the Colorado Brewers Guild know how to throw a killer beer festival. This year’s fest did not disappoint. The Collaboration Fest has become one of the best beer festivals of the year, a truly cannot-miss event. We hope you were able to partake, because if you didn’t you really missed out on a great time.
It’s a bit cliché, but there really were too many great beers to name them all. Besides, we have a nasty habit during beer festivals of just enjoying ourselves, so we don’t often stop to take copious notes. Totally unprofessional we know, but the upside is that you know if we did stop to make notes on a particular beer, it had to be a really great one. That being said, here are 5 of the favorite beers that we tried at the 2015 Collaboration Fest:
Our Top 5 Favorite Collaboration Beers
Snowbird Imperial White IPA by Station 26 Brewing & Cigar City. There was so much citrus in this delicious IPA, it seems fitting that it was a collaboration with Florida brewery Cigar City. It was one killer IIPA. We would love to petition for this to become a year-round offering, but since it’s probably only available for a limited time, go try it at Station 26 Brewing Co while it lasts.
Sunnyside a la Peel Biere de Mars by Denver Beer Co & Diebolt Brewing. Diebolt has always impressed us with their French-style brews, and this collaboration with Denver Beer did not disappoint. Sunnyside is becoming quite the popular Denver craft beer neighborhood, and this beer is proof that the recognition is well deserved.
Rock Star Part Deux by Falling Rock, Star Bar & New Belgium Brewing. Chris Black from Falling Rock and Justin Lloyd of Star Bar joined Lauren Salazar at New Belgium Brewing to blend the perfect sour brown ale from the New Belgium foeders. This was an incredible sour, living up to the Rock Star name.
Flaming Apes by Dry Dock Brewing & Steamworks Brewing. What do you get when you cross a Dry Dock Apricot Blonde with a Steamworks Prescribed Burn Chile Ale? You this Flaming Apes hybrid. Yes, we were skeptical at first too, but this combination is amazing. The chili tempers the sweetness of the apricot, and apricot pairs so well with the chili. If you put a gun to our head, this may have been our favorite collaboration of the day.
Imperial Wit collaboration by Comrade Brewing & Crooked Stave. Really this counts as two beers, since Crooked Stave took half the Imperial Wit they created with Comrade back to their cellar to age, so we could taste both versions side-by-side. Both were good, but the Crooked Stave batch was our favorite thanks to the additional tartness and funk.
While the beers above were really fantastic, we cannot stress enough that there were countless more excellent beers at the festival. We definitely didn’t try the bulk of all 70+ brews, so we likely missed some really great ones. For example, we really wanted to try the Peach Fuss Ale, an 8-brewery collaboration beer made at Caution Brewing. This peach pumpkin ale was made in good fun after Budweiser aired their “Brewed the Hard Way” Super Bowl ad, basically labeling all craft beer lovers as fussy hipsters. We wanted nothing more than the opportunity to get all fussy over this beer, but lost track of time and missed out. Yep, totally unprofessional.
Many of the collaboration beers will be available after the festival, both at the local breweries and at some select tap houses. If you see a collaboration available, give it a try. You just may find a new favorite of your own.
More Collaboration Fest Awesomeness
In addition to all the great beer, we attended a couple of the breakout sessions covering topics related to craft beer. The sour beer session with Lauren Salazar from New Belgium Brewing was fantastic. Lauren is the Wood Cellar Manager, Blender and the Specialty Brand Manager at New Belgium Brewing Company. If that sounds like an impressive job title, it’s because it is impressive. Lauren has worked at New Belgium for over 17 years and has played a role in many of the great sours coming out of their wood cellar. Her session was informative, entertaining, and worth the break from the festival to attend. Not only did she share with us her experience working in the foeders at New Belgium, but she also shared awesome stories of some of the fails she’s encountered during her career. As homebrewers who specialize in brewing mishaps, it’s always fun to hear that the pros screw up sometimes, too.
Finally, we were pleasantly surprised to run into Dieter Foerstner at the Collaboration Fest and find out that he’s joined the Tivoli Brewing Co team. We met Dieter last year in LA during the Beer Bloggers Conference. At the time he was head brewer at Angel City Brewery, and we remember him for being totally awesome, showing us around the brewery and sharing some of his delicious and creative brews with us. We’re thrilled to have him in Colorado, and cannot wait to see what he has in store for us at Tivoli Brewing. If their Collaboration Fest beers are any indication, great things will continue to come from Tivoli Brewing. They had two great collaboration beers at the fest: Pass the Buck, a Buck beer made with 99.5 The Mountain and Zwei Bruder Brewing; and Double OG, aka D.O.O.G., an Imperial Malt Liquor made in collaboration with Wynkoop that packed a 9.2% ABV punch. Craft malt liquor is pretty gangsta, ya’ll; you should try it out.
The Venue: Sports Authority Field at Mile High
Can we all agree right now to have all future Collaboration Festivals at Sports Authority Field at Mile High? In fact, if we could have all Denver beer festivals here, that would be great. The location was perfect – open and spacious, and spread out enough that it never felt too crowded. From the inside of the club level you could take in the views of Denver, and if you stepped outside for a breakout session, you were in the seats of Mile High. The field was scraped clean after last season, as it’s in the midst of being replaced. Still, the inside of the stadium is an impressive sight. We heard from many locals and visitors who had never been inside Mile High Stadium who loved the up-close opportunity to see the home of our Denver Broncos.
The location was definitely more open and less crowded than last year’s festival. Another nice perk? Sports Authority Field at Mile High offered two things not typically found at beer festivals: free parking, and lots of bathrooms. Thumbs up for that!
The Collaboration Festival is a real one-of-a-kind event that we cannot wait to attend each year. If you’re a craft beer lover, you should try to go at least once. The camaraderie between breweries at this festival is tangible, both in the beers and the energy in the room. It’s really a fabulous event.
We want to give special thanks to Imbibe Denver and the Colorado Brewers Guild for the invite to this incredible fest. We had a blast and can’t wait until next year.