Collaboration Fest 2018: Recap, My Favorites

The 5th Annual Collaboration Fest was held at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Denver last Saturday, March 31st. 123 beers, over 200 participating breweries (144 from Colorado) from 42 states and six countries. I seem to say this every year, but Collab Fest 2018 has topped them all!

First, I loved this venue. I thought it worked out perfectly for the festival; it was very spacious—though there were lots of people, it did not feel crowded. While most booths didn’t have a line for beer, those that did had plenty of room for passersby to get around with no problem. Everything just flowed, so I think it’s safe to say this location is my favorite venue ever for Collab Fest.

And then of course there’s the beer. The brewers came up with some truly imaginative recipes this time around! But it wasn’t just the brewers; something new and unique this year was The People’s Beer. In an effort to create the biggest collaborative beer in history, ticket-holders were given the opportunity to vote on all aspects of the beer (to brewed by Little Machine and “the people”), from the name to ingredients, in the weeks leading up to the festival. The end result was a tasty saison with Pevec pilsner-style malt and flaked rye, crystal hops and tangerine zest. Well done, people!

I had more favorites at this year’s festival than ever before! With 123 beers to choose from, it’s hard not to find a bunch of great ones. And then there are always a few that run out before you can get to them.

Beers I wanted to try but that were already gone by 4:15:

  • All 3 beers from Black Project Spontaneous & Wild Ales
  • On The Shoulders of Giants from New Belgium & Rare Barrel

So I didn’t get to try the four beers above. But that didn’t stop me from sampling the other 119! And I had a difficult time narrowing it down to the ten I liked most, but here goes.

My Top Ten:

  • Pimms Yo! from Liquid Mechanics Brewing & Wiley Roots Brewing
    • This sour blonde blend was based on Pimm’s Cup cocktail. This may have been the most interesting beer I had. Tart and citrusy with a bit of ginger, a lot of cucumber, and a hint of mint. I actually don’t care for cucumbers, and this beer was definitely cucumber heavy, but I absolutely loved it!
  • I Can’t Believe It’s Actually Butter from New Image Brewing & Molly’s Spirits
    • Ahhh, pastry stouts! And with butter for the win! It truly was like a Samoa Girl Scout Cookie.
  • Cherry Coast to Coast from Crooked Stave & Brewers Guilds
    • Burgundy Origins sour is one of my top Crooked Stave beers. So take that + Colorado sour cherries = bliss.
  • Bourbon Barrel Aged Wheat Wine from Carver Brewing Co. & Glenwood Canyon Brewing Co.
      • There were 3 varieties of this beer, each aged in different types of barrels: Merlot, Chardonnay, and Bourbon. All delicious, but there was something especially wonderful about the bourbon barrel version.
  • Stranger Than Fiction from Fiction Beer Co. & Strange Craft Beer Co.
    • I’m not the biggest saison fan, but I tend to like them if brewed with fruit or herbs. This one was barrel aged on plums and blackberries and was amazing! I was somewhat surprised to find that I could enjoy a saison quite this much.
  • Nitro Raspberry Porter from Strange Craft Beer Co. & Metro State University Brewing Program
    • When I first started getting into craft beer, I was all about porters. But I don’t see too many of them these days. This was a fine example of a well-brewed porter, and the raspberry was quite noticeable.
  • Collaborations Are For Lovers (Imperial Stout) from Sleeping Giant Brewing Co. & Stillwater Artisanal
    • As far as I know, this was the strongest beer at the fest, 16.5%. And what an awesome combination of flavors: mango, vanilla, and coffee from Logan House Coffee.
  • Barking Iron (Barrel Aged Imperial Stout Blend) from Liquid Mechanics Brewing Co. & The Lost Abbey
    • Barking Iron was modeled after the revolver cocktail: a blend of Liquid Mechanics’ Bourbon Barrel Aged Kahlua Marianas and Lost Abbey’s Bourbon Barrel Aged Serpent’s Stout with notes of coffee, chestnuts, slight orange.
  • Bianca Persica Wild Wild Brett from Crooked Stave Artisan Beer Project & Omnipollo
    • This beer was fermented in oak foeders with Palisade peaches, and as we all know nothing beats those Colorado peaches!
  • Strange Tail Seven from Strange Craft Beer Co. & Freetail Brewing Co.
    • An English style IPA finished in red wine barrels and with a different variety of Brettanomyces in each barrel. IPA and red wine? Yes please!

Not surprisingly, most of my favorites had something to do with food: chocolate, coconut, vanilla, chestnuts, and all kinds of fruit. What can I say? Beer and food pair well together, and beers brewed with things you can eat are yummy!

I would like to thank Two Parts, the Colorado Brewers Guild, and everyone else involved in the planning and execution of the 2018 Collaboration Festival. It was very well organized, the beers were fantastic, and it was a very fun time! I am more and more impressed every year, and I always look forward to seeing what’s next. Cheers!

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