One of the most appealing parts of the modern beer world is its lack of borders. Brewers the world over share ideas and ingredients, or plunder the history of any country or region that takes their fancy in their quest to create the best beers they can. It has created a colourful melting pot full of hybrids, twists and collaborations, all of which will play a role when Good Beer Week arrives at the weekend.
During the week, three new beers that have only been made possible because of the global nature of the contemporary scene will be launched. They are the result of separate collaborations between three small Victorian brewers and three breweries from California united by the same Aussie distributor. And all three have seen the pairings take one of the American breweries' classic beers and give it a fresh twist for the Aussie market.
Black Dog, based outside Glenrowan, has taken Eel River's Bourbon barrel-aged Triple Exultation as a starting point. Melbourne's Kooinda has reworked Lost Coast's 8 Ball Stout, while 7 cent paired with Mad River.
Brian Labadie, from Redwood Distribution, lined up the trio of projects with the intention of developing a local connection for his US brewers in advance of their Good Beer Week events.
"They were all keen to work with our recommended Victorian breweries," he says. "We provided an intro to the Victorian brewery and why they would be a good fit, which I believe helped with their decision-making process.
"These collaborations help build a connection to this growing market [in Australia] and also allow for experimentation with their recipes. It also provides the Victorian breweries with exposure in the US market as we are looking into sending some of the collaboration brews over there."
He says there is awareness in the States of what's happening here (a claim backed up by the fact The Crafty Pint has been contacted for interviews by Paste and All About Beer magazines in the past week).
"We even had some brewers ask what we were doing for Good Beer Week before we even mentioned it to them," says Brian, "as it is regarded as a world-class craft beer event. Although the brewers have yet to make it out here to see the Australian craft beer scene in person, we're hoping to arrange a few visits, potentially coinciding with next GBW. Most of our US breweries have very few export markets, so we feel very privileged to be able to bring their beer over here as well as organise the collaborations."
The Eel River / Black Dog collab came about after he was taken to the Glenrowan brewery by his brother-in-law, did a bottle swap and decided to make the introductions. 7 cent caught Brian's eye when he tried a pot of their Angry Freeballing Frenchman at the Alehouse Project, which has led to a Lamington Stout. And in terms of Lost Coat and Kooinda, there was a feeling there was a similarity in their focus on predominantly approachable beers.
"They had also mentioned an openness to collaborations as well as the pursuit of a darker-style beer, so it worked out to be a great fit," says Brian. "[Kooinda's] commitment to making a Victorian 8 Ball Stout has been meticulous, even down to incorporating the state colours into the label. It is also great that they were able to partner with a local orchard for the plums and Code Black for the coffee – very excited about this one!"
BLACK DOG / EEL RIVER
James Booth, from Black Dog, who has featured in the US press off the back of his collaboration, says the idea was to base the recipe on the aforementioned Triple Exultation (see photos at top) and that of an imperial red ale he had previously brewed.
"We got our heads together via email on ideas and time frames to brew [and] started recipe ideas back early in the new year," he says. "The only pressure for me was fitting it in during vintage [he makes Taminick Cellars' wines too].
"I really wanted to focus on using local hops so the guys at Eel River put the faith in me on hop choices; we used three: Ella, Topaz and a new experimental variety, HPA-035. We also thought giving it a bit of time in Muscat barrels would add some extra weight to the palate."
Just 1,000 litres has been brewed, much of which is committed to Good Beer Week events although a little will go interstate, some into bottles and a few kegs to California.
"[It was] just great to finally get an opportunity to brew with some renowned brewers from the USA," says James. "And hopefully there's more to come."
KOOINDA / LOST COAST
"It was great to work with a brewery who is so established in their community and produce some really good beers," says Kooinda's 'head beer monkey' Brian Hardie. "They are a big outfit, and one that I aspire to grow to in time, but still retain the community feel they have, which is what I want for Kooinda.
"8 Ball Stout to me is a really solid, almost light, stout that has all the great characteristics of the style. It's a beer that sells really well in Melbourne alone, so there was a great partnership to be had with it.
"We agreed on the style, after a few discussions, and the beer. Then Lost Coast were good enough to allow me free reign on the ideas, until they liked the idea we came up with of adding local ingredients to the beer. Once the initial beer idea was set, the girls at Lost Coast configured their recipe down to a small batch, 800L for us to have some fun with."
There will be just 800 litres of this beer. It will appear at a few Good Beer Week events then distributed, with a few bottles going to Code Black Coffee as thanks for their contribution.
As for whether there are plans for Kooinda to head Stateside, he says: "None at present, but [we're] working on teaming up with Scottish, Chinese, American and English brewers at present. If all works out I hope to deliver some beer to Lost Coast in the future."
7 CENT / MAD RIVER
We asked the guys from the tiny shed based brewery in Gisborne how they'd felt to be asked to collaborate with Mad River.
"It was a bit of a surprise," says Matthew "Bousa" Boustead. "We are such a small brewery and to be chosen to do a collaboration with Mad River was / is pretty exciting. Mad River are a very established brewery; when they started the three of us weren't even at primary school. So, yeah, we were pretty stoked about it all."
That said, he says there was no pressure, instead a sense of fun in trying to create a beer that united what the two breweries are about.
"The concept was to take one of the core beers that Mad River do and put an Australian twist on it," he says. "For us, the Mad River Steelhead Extra Stout was the standout, with big robust roast and chocolate flavours it was delicious. We brainstormed some ideas internally and then sent an email to the guys in the States explaining that we wanted to take their stout and turn it into a Lamington Beer. Given they hadn't tried a Lamington before we had to explain that concept too but they liked the sound of it and we went from there. They also sound keen to brew the beer in their brewpub."
There are just 10 kegs, which you'll find at the Otway Central Tavern for their GBW event Crowes Nest Paddock to Plate) and Dr Morse for the Humboldt County Showcase. He says there are no plans as yet to head to California for a brew at Mad river, but, says Bousa: "We have always dreamed about a brewery funded 'research' trip to the States. Actually we have also discussed trips to Belgium, New Zealand, Scandinavia and pretty much anywhere good beer is!"
Some events featuring these beers are sold out already, but you can still find them at:
- Humboldt County Showcase at Dr Morse on May . The same venues still has tickets left for its banquet with La Sirene too.
- Crowes Nest Paddock to Plate in Lavers Hill