On a sweltering July day, Schell’s brewer Jace Marti joined the Sociable Cider Werks team at its northeast Minneapolis brewery. The two breweries were pooling their experience to brew a specialty graff, or malt-forward cider, for Red Stag Supperclub’s annual block party this weekend.
“Having Jace there was like a whole other set of ideas, expertise and perspective that made for a pretty inspiring, creative conversation about how we can develop something new and interesting,” said Jim Watkins, co-owner of Sociable.
Sunday’s “In Cahoots” event at Red Stag paired eight breweries into four teams to create one-off collaboration beers for the party. The best brew, as chosen by a fan vote, nets a donation to the team’s charity of choice.
“Collaboration, it really embraces the spirit of craft brewing,” said Summit founder Mark Stutrud.
For the event, Summit joined forces with St. Paul’s Bang Brewing to revive a sparkling ale that Summit discontinued in 1994. Mining Summit’s vault and naming the beer “Mark” after Stutrud was Bang’s idea.
The In Cahoots lineup also features a golden ale from Fulton and Dangerous Man, and a double smoked red ale from Duluth’s Bent Paddle and Fitger’s Brewhouse.
Collaboration beers are nothing new. In the mid-aughts, Colorado’s Avery Brewing and California brewpub Russian River discovered they each made a beer named Salvation. Rather than duking it out in the courts, they released a tag-team brew dubbed Collaboration Not Litigation Ale. The back story was a marketing dream and it’s become one of the nation’s most famed joint releases.
Surly brewer Todd Haug has been one of Minnesota’s more active collaborators. Last winter Surly lit up the sudserati with Blakkr — an imperial black ale in concert with Texas’ Real Ale and raved-about Indiana brewery Three Floyds. “For me it’s a personal thing, it’s a relationship thing,” Haug said. “Everyone I’ve brewed with collaboratively, except for one this year, goes back to at least a year-plus relationship.”
This year alone Haug’s hooked up with three overseas breweries, including De Proef in Belgium, where he brewed the Long of Tooth strong ale, which could hit the Twin Cities this month. A co-release with Norway’s Lervig Aktiebryggeri and Oslo black metal band 1349 is due this fall.
Last year Jamie Robinson of Northbound Smokehouse & Brewpub launched Hot Box, a beer with northeast Minneapolis’ Indeed Brewing Company. The imperial smoked pepper porter gives Northbound a small, seasonal presence outside its south Minneapolis brewpub. “Besides the fun of brewing it, that is the main reason as a business we do it, because there’s no other way to get our beer in a liquor store,” said Robinson.
But more than any marketing boost, brewers extol the collaborative process as a means of swapping ideas and techniques.
“Craft brewers end up learning more from each other than we do from a technical conference, a book or whatever, because it’s real experience,” Haug said. “It’s not theory or engineering. It’s actually practical and applied.”
All the better when these continuing education sessions have delicious results.
‘In Cahoots’ at Red Stag Block Party
When: 2-8 p.m. Sun.
Where: 509 1st Av. NE., Mpls.
More info: 612-767-7766 or www.redstagsupperclub.com.