One of the wonderful trends in the craft brewing industry as of late is collaborative projects. Here in Maine Peak Organic Brewing worked with GrandyOats and Butternut Mountain Farms for their wonderful Maple Oat Ale, and again with Coffee By Design for an Espresso Amber. Victory Brewing and the brewmaster of Heavyweight Brewing put their heads together for their Baltic Thunder. A dream team (for me at least) of Alesmith, Stone and Mikkeller have a Tripel – get it? – releasing soon, and Avery and Russian River co-created the awesomely named “Collaboration not Litigation.” Flying Dog even has a brew called “Collaborator”, which is brewed with the input of of homebrewers around the world.
These kinds of projects make me love and appreciate the craft brewing community even more. I can’t think of any other industry in which cooperation is considered alongside competition. Obviously, there is a marketing angle – get fans of both breweries’ beer to buy the new product. Having said that, it really seems that these projects come more from the left brain of these brewmasters. I work in an environment surrounded by creative people, and the teamwork among these like minds can be both rewarding and innovative.
One of my favorite stories of collaboration among brewers is the “brewery-swap” between Garrett Oliver of Brooklyn Brewery and Hans-Peter Drexler of Schneider Brauerei. Both admirers of the other’s brews, Oliver and Drexler worked together on a recipe for a strong pale weissbier, fermented with Schneider’s house yeast. Now here’s the cool part – Garrett went to the Schneider brewery, made the recipe with Drexler, and dry-hopped with local Hellertauer Hops, while Drexler brewed the recipe in Brooklyn with Garrett and dry-hopped with Amarillo and Palisade hops. While essentially the same recipe, the difference in hop profile made two different brews – the Schneider-Brooklyner and Brooklyner-Schneider Hopfen-Weisses.
After searching for both versions of the brew, I finally tracked them down with the help of the folks on BeerAdvocate. A little disclosure before my review – Schneider brews my favorite beer, and Brooklyn is my favorite brewery. While I think I looked at the ale objectively, there is no question I hold a place in my heart for Brooklyn, Oliver, Schneider and Drexler. Recently I drank the Schneider version, and I’ll put up my thoughts on the Brooklyn version soon.
Schneider-Brooklyner Hopfen Weisse
Weizenbock / 8.20% ABV
Look: Popped the cap on this one and poured it into a wheat beer glass. Gotta say, this beer poured as a perfect weißbier – straw-colored and cloudy, with a thick, white head. Super-aggressive carbonation that eventually died down a bit. As the carbonation died down and head receded, there was some attractive lacing on the sides of the glass.
Smell: Nice citrusy nose, mostly lemon. A touch of some spice too – pepper, maybe? Wheat and hops are noticeable as well. Not overpowering, but really pleasant and complex.
Taste: Wow, I’ve never had a wheat beer that has a hop bill as strong and tasty as this one! Something close to a hoppy Aventinus, which is by no means a complaint. The alcohol is hidden well, and without the bottle I’d have had no idea that this clocked in somewhere north of 8% ABV. Sip starts with a banana/clove flavor you’d expect from a German weisse, follows with the wheat and malt, and finishes with bitter, citrusy hops. Might not be the best example of the style, but who cares when it tastes so damn good?
Mouthfeel: Smooth. Velvety. Perfectly carbonated and refreshing. The alcohol is high enough for this to function as a cold-weather warmer, but the mouthfeel really screams summer beer.
Drinkability: High. Like, super-high. I’d love to get this brew again. The flavor really makes you want to reach for another. The only thing that would knock the drinkability is the high ABV – one should exercise some restraint, after all.
Part two – the Brooklyner-Schneider – should be up soon. In the interim, do you have any favorite craft collaborations? Drop a comment and evangelize for your favorite breweries.