Apr 092012
Authors: Colleen Canty

The stools are still stacked on the bar, the parking lot remains desolate, and the tasting room attendant has only just walked in. Through the back doors, however, the beer is flowing and chatter is rambling –– and it’s only 9 a.m.

The craft brewers of Fort Collins weren’t just hanging out Monday morning, though. They were doing business.

Brew masters, supervisors and owners from nine local craft breweries assembled within the walls of Fort Collins Brewery (FCB) Monday to brew the city’s second annual collaborative beer, dubbed Collusion 2012, a tribute to American Craft Beer Week commencing May 14.

The beer, comprised of efforts from C.B. & Potts, CooperSmith’s, Crooked Stave, Equinox Brewing, Fort Collins Brewery, Funkwerks, New Belgium Brewing Co., Odell Brewing Co. and Pateros Creek Brewing Co., was described by Colin Westcott, co-owner of Equinox Brewing, as a light pale ale aimed at appealing to a general and broad group of drinkers.

And if it’s anything like last year’s, it should be an overwhelming success.

Every brewery in town dried its kegs of Collusion 2011, the first annual collaborative brew crafted by the group, after merely two weeks of flowing taps –– some even more quickly than that.

“We’re brewing twice as much this year –– New Belgium ordered 16 kegs,” Westcott said. “It (the brew) was really good last year. I liked it.”

Coloradan consumers of Collusion 2012 can feel both pleasure and state pride in this year’s brew; the malt comes from Alamosa, the honey from Wellington and the hops from Windsor.

Westcott even proudly kicked open an ice chest to reveal a heap of Colorado snow they plan on using, a coveted amount in the city that has had a dry winter.

While largely a local brew, the decision to add Asian pear, a consensus reached after taste-testing a variety of juices before brewing started Monday, introduces a foreign ingredient and taste.

“Trust me, Asian pear is not a Colorado native,” Westcott joked. “But we try.”

After the brewing process concludes, the beer will take three weeks to ferment before being kegged and toted off to the nine breweries –– the only taps in town to carry the limited brew. As this year’s brewing took place at FCB, the remaining establishments will technically be buying their kegs from FCB, a “sticky legal part” in an otherwise fun and celebratory process, according to Doug Smith, production supervisor at FCB.

“The main idea is collaboration,” Smith said. “It’s not my beer, and it’s not his beer –– we’re trying to make a truly group brew.”

While the convergence of nine breweries each characterized by different methods, recipes and ways of life could have caused a destructive collision of creative genius, according to Westcott, everyone went in with an open mind.

Big ideas were thrown out, massive email chains were passed around and large egos were put aside.

“The spirit of collaboration is how well competitors can work together to improve the whole industry,” Smith said.

Joint effort isn’t exactly common in the world of competitive business –– you don’t see Apple and Dell chatting about compatible software over coffee.

“Craft brewing is one of the most unique industries,” said Steve Kurowski, marketing manager at Colorado Brewers Guild. “These breweries are collaborating, not competing –– no other industry does this.”

This rather unheard-of venture is even catching the attention of students at Colorado State University, such as junior horticulture student and home brewer Josh O’Malley.

“It’s cool to see mature and experienced brewers get together and make a batch,” he said. “It makes me proud to be a part of the brew culture in Colorado.”

Whether you home brew, ride a Fat Tire bicycle or like sticking to Coors Light, the public is invited to join the breweries at C.B. & Potts the afternoon of May 14 to celebrate the first pouring of and toast to Collusion 2012.

And if you can’t make it this year, there will be an opportunity to celebrate American Craft Beer Week with Fort Collins breweries well into the future.

They’re calling the collaboration “annual,” after all. The group hopes to hold on to this new tradition, moving the brewing process from facility to facility and providing Fort Collins with a fresh taste each year.

No matter how good it gets, though, don’t expect these brews to stick around or be sold in stores.

“It’s a one-week celebration that we’re really trying to bring attention to,” said Dwight Hall, head brewer at CooperSmith’s. “The beer doesn’t have the badge of any single brewery; it’s unique. There’s a sense of pride amongst craft brewers that isn’t exclusive; we’re a part of a movement, and we just want to share that.”

Collegian writer Colleen Canty can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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