Demystifying beer collaborations

Post by Frank Scott Krueger, Cofounder & Creative Director of Humble Sea

Making a beer with another brewer is a lot like dating in the 90s: you kinda smell each other’s aromas from across the bar, make eye contact, then awkwardly approach hoping they respect your beer too. If a natural friendship unfolds through curiosity and brewing techniques, there might be a second date. Maybe it might turn into a collaboration, and if you’re lucky, it gets canned.

In June, Nick, Taylor and I flew to New York City for Other Half Brewing's Green City Festival. It’s composed of 70 of the world's top hoppy brewers, and our first thought was “They must’ve sent the invitation to the wrong brewery.” Regardless, we showed up, and surprisingly, they were expecting us.

While we were in the big green apple (that’s an off flavor joke for the serious beer nerds out there) we brewed an imperial IPA with our buddies from Other Half. We ended up connecting with the OH crew over a series of festivals, beer bars in NYC, tiki bars, and the occasional scooter adventures in San Diego for the Modern Times festivals.

In other words, we locked eyes with each other’s foggy beers, fell in love, and made Huffing Dryer Sheets Imperial IPA.

Huffing Dryer Sheets imperial IPA collaboration w/ Other Half Brewing in NYC.

Huffing Dryer Sheets imperial IPA collaboration w/ Other Half Brewing in NYC.

Collaborations are like the internet in real time.

Hands down my favorite aspect of collaborations is the uncanny amount of knowledge exchanged between breweries. Information flows and nobody worries about ownership of ideas.

Brewers share new concepts about ingredients like undiscovered base malts (shoutout to Ian from Riip Brewing — we love Pure Idaho malt!), or rad new hops that just hit the market (big ups to Phil from Almanac for turning us into the coconut bomb known as Sabro hops).

People often ask why we share recipes when breweries are trying to differentiate their flavors in the market. My argument is always the same two points:

  1. Collaboration goes both ways. We’ve learned invaluable lessons from hanging out in other brewhouses.

  2. Beer in the US is a world leader because we collaborate. A single “genius” brewer guarding their secrets cannot create the best beer in the world. Market leading innovation comes from open source knowledge sharing. I strongly believe that brewers who choose not to share their secrets will be left behind.

It’s not all rosés

To be frank, starting a brewery can be a goddamn nightmare at certain junctions. Collaboration days are a way for us to take a break from the daily grind, travel to a new place, and learn a new perspective on running a brewery. 

In many ways, I’d describe collaborating on a beer like Huffing Dryer Sheets — aromatic, soft and obviously addictive.

Tiki dranks after the collab with Other Half. Obviously. Also! Modern Times and Omnipollo happened to be there to hang during the collaboration!

Tiki dranks after the collab with Other Half. Obviously. Also! Modern Times and Omnipollo happened to be there to hang during the collaboration!

Up next: The Common misconceptions about collaborations.

Spoiler alert: collaborations don’t make us more money.

Frank KruegerComment