Brewing Up Collaborations: SF Beer Week 2020

SF Beer Week kicks off on February 7 and we prepared by getting together with some of our favorite breweries to collaborate on special beer releases. It’s always fun to work with our industry friends. Collaborating is a great way to expand how we think about recipes and approaches to different beer styles. Plus, we often end up working with new ingredients that our brewing partners like and recommend. We were particularly ambitious this year and brewed 4 collaboration beers in 3 weeks.

How does a collaboration work?

They start a couple different ways. Each year we have a standing date with Julian Shrago at Beachwood Brewery. We collaborate for LA and SF Beer Week, and brew at each other’s brewery. We’ve been brewing with HenHouse every year for SF Beer Week too. Others are a bit more casual and just kinda happen over a couple of beers. We also hosted the Bay Area Brewers Guild “East Bay” collaboration this year, which was an official project.

Once you’ve established that yes, we are going to brew together, you start negotiations. What do we want to make? How do we want to make it? Where and when do we release it? How do we package it? There are a lot of little logistical things to tackle, but ultimately there’s a real payoff in writing a recipe with another brewer, because I think we always learn from each other.

The process can go pretty smoothly, but when the collabs involve multiple breweries, it can get a little rough. For example, the East Bay brewers guild collaboration included 3 breweries writing a recipe for Drake’s to execute. That… took a lot of emails, but we got through it and concepted up a fantastic beer.

Brew Day

I’ve talked a bit about putting together a collaboration, but what about actually brewing it? Some brewers want to be onsite from start to finish, and get very active and involved, while others are a little more casual. I think it’s fun to get a feel for how other brewers go about making beer, but there is ultimately a lot in common between how most of us make beer. But it’s still always fun to work with someone different, and of course, they usually bring beer, and we go taste the tanks, and hit the taproom. Brewing with friends!

The Beer

So enough talking about the mechanics of a collaboration. What about the beers? We made 4 really fantastic special beers for SF Beer Week, which will be served throughout the festivities at our taprooms.

Rice Stratasphere

An IPA brewed with Pilsner Malt and Puffed Jasmine Rice, hopped with Denali, Citra, and Strata. This is the beer we brewed for the East Bay Brewers Guild and it’s fabulous, very pale and light, with a huge dank fruity hop aroma. Rice Stratasphere will only be available on draft at Drake’s Barrel House and Dealership.

There Can Be Only Hops

A classic West Coast IPA brewed in collaboration with Beachwood Brewing. We got a nice malt expression on this one thanks to a Honey Malt addition (somewhat typical in other Beachwood IPAs, but we never use it), then it hopped with Citra and the best Chinook I’ve ever smelled. There Can Be Only Hops will be released on draft and in 16oz. cans at Drake’s Barrel House on February 8.

D.G.T. Crispy Boi Lager

A collaboration with Ghost Town and Temescal Brewing, is a dry-hopped lager brewed with all Extra-Pale Pilsner Malt and hopped with that awesome Chinook, plus Mosaic from Ghost Town (the best they’ve ever smelled), and German Amarillo from Temescal. I’m very excited for this one! D.G.T. Crispy Boi Lager will be released on draft and in 16oz. cans at Drake’s Barrel House on February 14.

Kinda Special Bitter

A collaboration with HenHouse, is an English-style session ale brewed with gorgeous Pale Ale Malt. Then hopped expressively with an old varietal called Brewers Gold. That hop has been rediscovered due to its mild tropical aroma, which is becoming increasingly popular. Kinda Special Bitter is a draft only release, and will be available at Drake’s Barrel House and Dealership after February 10.

Honestly, every one of these beers is flatly excellent, and wouldn’t exist, were it not for collaboration. Teaming up with other breweries is a terrific way to expand your approach to brewing, and the results are ridiculously delicious. Seek them out during SF Beer Week! 

– John Gillooly, Drake’s Brewmaster