When I say the word collaboration you may think of Run-DMC & Aerosmith telling you to “Walk This Way” or Queen & Bowie’s “Under Pressure” (before Vanilla Ice stole the bass line, of course).
But there is another type of collaboration that is blowing up: craft beer. These collaborations happen when two or more breweries combine forces to create a unique beer, typically as a one-off project to promote an event, raise awareness for a cause, or just because it’s fun.
Here’s how collaboration works in the craft beer universe: One brewery opens its facility to the visiting brewery or breweries and usually provides the equipment, staff, ingredients and packaging. The style of beer brewed may be a specialty of one brewery or may be new territory for all involved.
Then, cold beers and war stories are shared as everyone pitches in on a brew that will hopefully be one for the books.
“Collaborations are an awesome time to share process and bounce ideas. . . everyone has a different philosophy and approach which is great when your pushing your boundaries and trying to grow,” says Benjamin Green, head brewer at Southern Prohibition Brewing in Hattiesburg, Mississippi.
Southern Prohibition teamed up with NOLA Brewing Company from New Orleans to release their first collaboration, a Berliner weisse called “Karaoke Faceplant,” in celebration of the inaugural Southern Brewer’s Conference in Nashville in 2016.
The biggest collaboration in Mississippi craft beer history took place this year between members of the Mississippi Brewers Guild, a non-profit association organized to promote Mississippi beer.
Lucky Town Brewing Co. in Jackson hosted other members of the Guild to create “Lucille: Drink’em on Down“, a dry-hopped Czech-style pilsner that was released at the inaugural Soggy Sweat Craft Beer & BBQ Festival in Jackson on September 15.
This collaboration included Mississippi breweries Lucky Town, Natchez Brewing Co., Lazy Magnolia Brewing Co., Chandeleur Brewing Co., Key City Brewing Co., Slowboat Brewing Co., Mayhew Junction Brewing Co., Southern Prohibition Brewing Co., and Threefoot Brewing Co..
This crushable beer was a big hit at the sweltering festival and is still available in limited quantities around the state.
“Lucille is the product of the Guild’s Brewing Members coming together to create a product designed and brewed for Mississippians. It’s our way of showing the unity between our brewers to elevate and promote locally made beer by creating a crisp, easy-drinking pilsner that all Mississippians can enjoy,” said Lucas Simmons of Lucky Town Brewing Co., who is also president of the Guild.
Music has made its way into these collaborations as well. Lucky Town recently hosted an album release party for Jackson rapper SILAS (Silas Stapleton, III) for his new album “The Last Cherry Blossom.” Attendees got a first listen to the album and could taste “Cherry Blossom,” a new beer created specifically for the event.
“Basically, I wanted the album rollout to be as big as possible,” Stapleton said in a recent article published by the Jackson Free Press. “I wanted it to be something exciting. I thought it would be a cool idea to say, ‘Hey, come listen to some music while you’re drinking some beer that’s related to the music.'”
Each can of Cherry Blossom came with a code to download a bonus track from the album, tying the beer to the album in a literal way.
This typically isn’t something you see in other industries. However, the brewing industry has always been a little different. Craft brewers are mostly in friendly competition with each other and are really fighting against the brewing giants for retail shelf space and taps at bars. They are in the trenches together and know what it takes to make it in such a tough market. This camaraderie unites craft brewers and spurs some to break down barriers and show that business can be fun too.
Collaboration also allows one brewery to spotlight other regionally and nationally recognized craft breweries, bringing further attention to the growing industry of craft beer. The aphorism “a rising tide lifts all boats” applies with collaboration beer also, as improvements in the craft industry benefit all craft brewers.
Be on the lookout for future collaboration beer announcements from your favorite breweries—and snag a sixer or two before they’re gone.