For the third year, Collaboration Fest kicked off Colorado Craft Beer Week. As you can probably guess, every beer at this festival is a collaboration between two or more breweries. The festival requires that one brewery must be based in Colorado and also a member of the Colorado Brewers Guild. The collaborating partners, however, could be from anywhere. This year, 149 breweries from 21 states and five countries participated.
I love this festival because every beer is a unique, limited creation. Breweries aren’t afraid to get creative with their offerings, and that collaborative spirit reminds me of how great this industry is. Everyone comes together to share their knowledge and create something delicious in the process. What’s not to love?
For only being in its third year, this event was exceptionally well-run. Collaboration Fest was held on the club level at Mile High Stadium, which also happens to be the home of the Denver Broncos, so the venue is suited to holding hordes of thirsty people. Tables were situated throughout the concourse to disperse the crowd and keep lines manageable. Some areas were more congested than others, but it was never so crowded that it invaded my personal space. I need my personal space.
When I first entered, I picked up a booklet that listed every beer with a corresponding number, which was featured on signage at every table. Once you found your beer, you could add notes as well as give it a star rating. For us Untappd users, it’s a nice addition. I love adding festival beers to Untappd, but that’s difficult when you’re sampling so many beers.
Given the experimental nature of this festival, I didn’t necessarily love every beer. Some beers would have benefited from another trial run or two to dial in the recipe, and one barrel-aged sour, in particular, needed more time to mature. That said, I still tried plenty of great beers. Here are a few of my favorites.
New Belgium Brewing Company, Falling Rock Tap House and Star Bar
Rock Star, sour blend
New Belgium killed it at this festival, and its three collaborations were all among my favorites. Falling Rock and Star Bar are both awesome Denver-based craft beer bars and have brewed a variation of this beer with New Belgium each year of the festival. The 2016 version was a blonde sour with tons of oak barrel characteristics. Rock Star was so good that my husband and I both went back for seconds, which we rarely do at festivals. New Belgium’s other delicious collaborations were Let’s Get Incredible, a brûléed grapefruit saison brewed with Ratio Beerworks, and Morning in Havana, a stout with rum sugar-glazed plantains brewed with Upslope Brewing Co.
Former Future Brewing Company and Brewery 85
Sweet Tea Amber Ale
Along with Sweet Tea Amber Ale, Former Future and Brewery 85 offered a lemon weiss, so I combined the two to make an adult Arnold Palmer. The two beers balanced each other well. Sometimes lemon can be overpowering, but it was prominent while still allowing the sweet tea flavor to shine.
WeldWerks Brewing Co. and Snowbank Brewing Co.
Barrel-Aged Mocha Stout, imperial stout
Excuse me while I express a little Colorado pride. USA Today recently named WeldWerks the best new brewery with good reason. Every beer I’ve had from WeldWerks has been excellent, especially when it comes to stouts. WeldWerks and Snowbank brewed this delicious concoction from Madagascar cacao nibs and Zoe’s Cafe Peruvian coffee and then aged it in bourbon barrels. A rich chocolate flavor hit first, followed by subtle coffee notes. The bourbon barrels then melded everything together in the end for a boozy kick. Let it be known that a boozy kick makes me happy.
I always have an awesome time at Collaboration Fest, and everyone I ran into seemed to enjoy the event. Given the unique lineup and fantastic venue, I recommend Collaboration Fest for any craft beer lover.