This was posted on our Facebook and Instagram pages yesterday as an April fool's prank. But the fact is we did it to gain your attention so we could express our concerns on the concept of brewing collaboration beer.
Remember the days when there was no such thing as a collaboration beer? When every brewery had their specific signature or their signature way of doing things?
Do you then remember the time when we started to see some breweries teaming up and creating something unique and special where the efforts and identity of them both served as a mutual inspiration and where the sharing of knowledge and brewing approaches ended up in something that none of the brewers could have done themselves?
On June 4 in 2008, Mikkeller travelled to California to brew a Belgian triple with AleSmith and Stone. This was to be the first collaboration beer that Stone Brewing ever made and one of our first. We were three breweries that gave input to a shared idea. We did it to inspire, to be better and to learn from each other and in the end to get a better product than we could have made individually. The special label in front were a triangle that symbolized the joined effort to be better together. I will not be the judge of weather or not we succeeded in that, but that was the common goal.
Since then Mikkeller has done many collaborations – quite possibly too many. It is still great to meet up with good friends in the industry, share ideas, and dig out the mash tun together and even get that mandatory picture in front of the boiler that you can put up on Facebook. Its fun and its gets you some attention and some PR – but is that enough? Where’s the joined forces in search of creating something bigger than what you can do yourself – where is the common admiration where you take advantage in each other’s strengths and create a recipe together – a recipe you really believe in?
Now it seems to be a goal in itself to do collaborations – the more collaborations, the better. If you go to another country, it has not been a success if you do not do a handful of collabs. It does not really matter with who – you just have to do many. It goes something like this: Sign off on the recipe, pour in the hops, take the picture – and get your name on the label. On a label of a beer, you probably will not see again and maybe never even will taste. Collabs has been reduced to only be about PR – unfortunately.
It’s great to meet up with friends and it’s great to brew beers together and to hang out – we love it… but collaborations as we know it is in our opinion dead.
The way we see it, it makes a lot more sense to do guest brews where a brewer is doing his own, already existing beer, by using the equipment of another brewery. This creates knowledge for both brewers, and is interesting for the costumers to see how a beer with the same raw materials can taste differently when done at a unfamiliar brewery.
This is not to say we will never do collaborations again, but it has to run deeper than a quick and easy PR fix.