Collaboration Beers: The Probot of Craft Brewing

We don’t even begin to understand modern pop music. It confuses and alienates us with its nonstop techno beats, auto-tuned vocals and constant onslaught of similar-looking and sounding “artists.” And why does every song “feature” another performer? Does it really take the addition of Pitbull to a track to somehow push it into guaranteed hit territory? We have no idea who Pitbull is, but we saw him walking around in a light beer commercial once. Maybe that’s what he does when someone asks him to be “featured” on their cut: he just walks around the studio looking cool and bald.
Don’t worry, there is a point to this retarded preamble. It’s about collaboration. Yes, we’re puzzled about this phenomenon as it relates to pop music, but when it comes to craft beer, we get it. In the beer world, collaboration isn’t about having a “hit” or selling more product. It’s about two or three brewers putting their mad-scientist heads together and coming up with something people have never tasted before. It’s about creativity. In metal terms, it’s like seeing what happens when you add some Lemmy to your Dave Grohl. Doesn’t sound like it’d be a good fit, but you throw a little Wino in there and—voila!—you’ve got a kick-ass tune.

Craft brewers have been dabbling with this sort of thing five or six years, but as the industry has grown and more truly creative types have appeared on the scene—both in the States and Europe—these kinds of beers have become more common. American brewers with Danish brewers, Italians with Belgians, Germans with Americans while a Scottish brewer watches. It’s crazy. Name a high-profile, cutting edge craft brewery, and chances are they have done some sort of collaboration beer.

One collaboration that caught our attention recently is a seemingly unlikely partnering between Maui Brewing Company and Ann Arbor, Michigan’s Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales. This collab, called Sobrehumano Palena ‘ole, will be released June 8 in two different versions. It will be a red ale brewed with liliko’i (aka passion fruit) and cherries, and both breweries will make their version of the beer. Maui will use standard fermentation while Jolly Pumpkin’s will be a barrel aged sour. Maui’s will be packaged in cans and Jolly Pumpkin’s will be in bottles. Hell, if Slayer and Ice-T can find common ground in metal, surely brewers in a tropical paradise and the frigid Midwest can figure out a way to make it work.

And before you burgeoning (or even full-blown) beer geeks fill up the comments section below with “what about this brewery’s collab with this other brewery?” and “why didn’t you mention this brewery?” let us just state that there are a shit-ton of breweries doing collabs and there’s no way we could sort them all out for you. We’re simply too lazy. Do a search for “collaboration beers” and see what happens.