Collaboration Crazy

Collaboration Crazy

June 25th, 2012 by Crafty Pint

Beer knowledge hasn’t always expanded as fast as the craft beer industry. And, while the world would be a terribly dull place if everyone was an uber-keen beer geek eager to analyse every nuance in their beer and discuss it with anyone within earshot*, it’s never good to enquire about a beer in a bar with a good list only to be met with something along the lines of:

“Um… It’s an ale and it’s nice.”

Especially if the beer in question isn’t an ale.

Thankfully, such occurrences are increasingly rare as good craft beer bars – and breweries – take steps to ensure staff understand beer and are able to talk about what they’re serving with a reasonable degree of confidence. Now, with the launch of a new project from a man who’s never short of a new project or three, staff at some of the country’s top beer bars are going to be able to talk about at least one beer with immense confidence. Why? Because they’ll have designed it and brewed it.

Ben Kraus from Bridge Road (above right at Rostrevor Hop Farm) today announced the Bridge Road Brewers Bar Series, the latest twist on the collaboration brew project. It will see him team up with staff at beer bars from across the country to create new beers that they will travel to Beechworth to brew and then sell across their bar. First up to the oche will be Beer DeLuxe, who are currently tweaking a recipe for a red rye saison with Ben.

“I came up with the idea a few months ago and was really keen to go ahead with it as it has loads of benefits,” he says. “It means I’ll get a lot of new ideas from bars, where people are exposed to heaps of new beers and also know what their customers want. The staff also become familiar with the brewing process and become excited about selling the beer that they themselves made.”

Some of the beer will also be sold through other beer bars, which Ben believes will help foster a sense of togetherness between venues as they, indirectly at least, promote each other when selling the different beers. So far he has had commitments from a veritable who’s who of Australian beer bars:

Beer DeLuxe
New Sydney Hotel
The Wheaty
Junction Beer Hall
Josie Bones
The Albion Hotel
The Local Taphouse Darlo
The Local Taphouse St Kilda
Archive, Brisbane
Scratch Bar, Brisbane

“As different bars put their hands up, we’ll OK it and, once we’ve agreed a recipe, will order the ingredients,” says Ben. “They’ll travel up to Beechworth and look after themselves, bring as many staff as they like and get involved in brewing a batch of the beer.”

Breweries have long been keen to invite bar staff to their homes to help them understand the brewing process and the provenance of the beers they are selling. Meanwhile, in a short space of time, collaboration beers have quickly moved from being the preserve of two brewers getting together. We launched The People’s Pint earlier this year, in which any Aussie was invited to nominate their dream beer idea, with the winning one – the Double Hoptendre – turned into a rye red ale by Temple, while Young Henry’s recently completed a couple of rock n roll collaborations with their favourite bands and Stone & Wood launched the Mash Collective, in which all manner of people have been invited to contribute ideas for beers. It’s a sure sign of the boundless creativity within the industry and also a reassuring sign of how beer’s social role and ability to draw people together goes from strength to strength.

The first beer from the Bar Series is still a while away, although will be out before Ben’s last collaboration – the beer he brewed with Nøgne Ø’s Kjetil Jikiun during Good Beer Week. The Belgian strong ale is still fermenting before being transferred to barrels from Beechworth winery ready to be packed into a 20 foot container and shipped to Norway. There, they will be aged a little longer before being packaged and sold by Kjetil, who will be brewing a similar beer that will be put into whisky barrels and sent in the opposite direction. Once that’s all done and dusted, at some point both beers will be available in Norway and Australia…

If you can’t wait that long, Bridge Road is marking its seventh birthday with the return of an old favourite – the B2 Bomber. The beer was originally brewed for the fifth anniversary and has been brought back with a twist.

“It’s not as dry but is pretty much the same recipe,” says Ben. “but there’s totally different hops – and a whole lot of hops.”

To be precise, they are Simcoe, Centennial, Citra and the Zythos blend. And to whet your appetite, the B2 Mk II should be available in keg in a fortnight and in bottles a couple of weeks after that. And if that wasn’t enough Bridge Road news, he’s got a new brewhouse arriving in four weeks and will be hosting the annual Tour de Beechworth in the middle of next month, complete with a live Skype hook up with Mike Tomalaris before he goes live on SBS.

More details on the Tour here.

  • Some might find this hard to believe, but according to Mrs Pint this may actually be true…
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