Sometimes, it’s even easier to send the brewer overseas to make beer to import. Collaboration brews between American brewers, working at breweries in the Netherlands, Europe and even New Zealand, have yielded striking innovations in beer styles. Collaboration brews also seem to straddle the definition of craft and imported brews.
For example, Garrett Oliver, brewmaster at Brooklyn Brewery, has been making collaborative brews since 1997, working with breweries like Brakspear (Brooklyn Bridge Bitter) and J.W. Lees (Manchester Star) in England, Achouffe in Belgium (Brooklyn Cuvée D’Achouffe) and, most recently, with Kiuchi in Japan, maker of Hitachino Nest, on a golden ale made with the rare Sorachi Ace hops.
Dogfish Heading Brewing Co. and New Zealand’s Epic Beer collaborated on a spicy dark ale made with Kiwi ingredients. Nicholas describes the Portamarillo as a smoky “Imperial sorta-Porter,” brewed with smoked tamarillos, sometimes known as a tree tomato, that is indigenous to New Zealand. Epic’s founder and brewer Luke Nicholas says that the Portamarillo ale, now on sale in New Zealand and Australia, will be exported to the U.S. later this year.
According to SBS Imports, Ballast Point Head Brewer Yuseff Cherney travels from San Diego, California, to the Czech Republic to do a collaboration brew with the Kocour Brewery in the northern Czech Republic later in 2011. The Kocour or “Tomcat” brewery is one of but a few breweries in the region that produce ales and has specialized in brewing American styles, such as IPA in the past.
The annual Belgian brewery De Proef collaboration brew will be co-brewed by Brian O’Reilly of Pennsylvania’s Sly Fox Brewing Co., in connection with Philly Beer Week. SBS also just did a re-release of The DeProef Signature Ale—in collaboration with Tomme Arthur, Lost Abbey, batch No. 3—and a re-release of batch No. 2 of Les Deux Brasseurs together with the Portland, Maine-based Allagash Brewing Co. The DeProef Signature Ale is in limited distribution at bars such as Risque Café in Chicago, where a 750-ml. bottle retails for $23.25.
Exciting as these are to the beer cognoscenti, sales of collaboration brews represent just a drop in the proverbial beer bucket. These are limited release beers, produced in very small batches, often sold only on draft or in large bottle formats to a handful of accounts, frequently tied into festivals and special events. As a result, pricing reflects the cachet, beginning at $10 to $12 for an eight-ounce draft.