To collab or not to collab that is the question.
To be fair those in the to not camp seem to be becoming more and more isolated. You’ve got brewers teaming up with brewers, beer writers linking up with brewers and even beer bloggers “brewing” with well… other beer bloggers! As was the case of the Pilsner Urquell Brewoff, which was very well captured by Tandleman here in his blog.
When some of the heavy weights do come together… it can whip up the kind of frenzied anticipation that I imagine might greet a Jay-Z and Beyonce/Kanye/Justin/etc or in my case Temple of the Dog* type collaboration. Queues of fervent followers desperate to get their hands on and mouths round the liquid delights of these hash tag multiplying ones offs.
However, I have not always been blown away by the end product of these much lauded unions. All fanfare and no show if you will.
So it was with some scepticism that I fought (literally) my way to the bar at Brewdog Shepherds Bush. It was rammed!!! Not enough staff to cope and I actually had a fierce argument with a woman who had shouldered past me and then tried to get served first. I informed here of her poor queuing practices and she claimed ignorance, which I debated. Things got a bit tense as we traded passive aggressive verbal blows; ” You go ahead and order! “ … “ No, no! You go ahead! “.
The whole thing ended with me ordering first and in true Canadian fashion feeling horribly guilty and apologising to her. To add insult to injury her chilled man friend quoted one of my favorite quotes; “Worse things happen at sea”. I tried to bond with him over it, but it ended up feeling hollow and reasonably inappropriate. Sniff.
Where was I ? Oh yes walking back to my seat in a west London craft beer bar with a couple 1/2 pints feeling like a total tosser.
Now what was different about these collaborations was that it wasn’t two or three breweries coming together. Brewdog had the genius idea to twin up each of their UK bars with shit hot brewers that were nearest to said bars (their marketing continues lead the pack here in the UK). Thus giving each beer a regional, local focal kind of feel.
Seeing as I hadn’t eaten dinner yet I got to work on my five a day with Lovibonds and BD Shepherd’s Bush Purple Rain; a foraged fruit sour. Was good and tangy, not too acidic. Liked the texture of it, not thin and weedy but muscular and chewy.
Next was a double header, swapping between sips/gulps of Alechemy‘s liaison with BD Dundee and Buxton Brewery tangoing with BD Nottingham.
Obviously they have heritage to spare up in Dundee as Alechemy burned actual timbers from the RRS Discovery to charge this Smoked in History smoked porter. Lean texture, fresh feel with balanced cocoa and coffee. Oh and smoke of course; just the right amount. Though I doubt Captain Scott would have approved.
I am a real fan of Buxton and their Rough C’s brewed with the help of the merry men and women of Nottingham was a real coup. I’d never tried an oatmeal amber lager (a what?!) before, so wasn’t sure what to expect. Lovely texture and feel (oatmeal take a bow) and very easy drinking. Liked the subtle malt sugars mingling with the creaminess of the oatmeal (again), but yet left it left my palate crisp and clean. Nice work.
Ordering food seemed a good idea at this point and am glad I did because they do some mean wings at BD Shep Bush. I opted for the North Carolina variation and demolished them along with some sinfully yummy tater tots, just beer numero quatre landed.
The Wild Beer Co are easily one of the top 5 breweries in the country and continue to evolve. Their creation in partnership with BD Bristol: Rosa Canina Saison, which was nothing short of spectacular. The beer was delicious and balanced as it walked a tight rope of aromatic rose petal, tart rosehip and savoury rosemary. Not content with just making a fabulous beer, this colab showed some wit by in naming it. On first glance it’s simply the latin name for the shrub rose (native to Europe) that was used in flavouring the beer. But dig a little deeper and you’ll find that Rosa Canina’s common name is the Dog Rose. Very clever, very clever indeed.
After my four stop tour round the UK I came back to London with The Five Points Brewing Company and BD Shoreditch. Smoke and Mirrors, a well trod metaphor for deception was slightly misnamed in my opinion as it was anything but fraudulent. This smoked porter showed class in spades: lovely rich silky feel, but wasn’t cloying or boozy (7.8% ABV). It had a wonderful depth as well with hints of cinder, cocoa nibs and espresso foam.
It was time to cross the street and go to a gig (Jungle; who didn’t exactly have me crowd surfing). After the show I felt I needed one last one off, but upon arriving I was a little at a loss as what to have.
Had really wanted to taste Ilkley Brewery and BD Leeds Westwood Stout, brewed with white chocolate. But sadly they had run out.
I sampled a few but being a Toon supporter I settled on a Tyne Bank Brewery BD Newcastle brew called Amba Necta. It sounded like the perfect dessert beer; a honey and apricot amber ale, sadly it didn’t particularly wow me. I freely admit though that by this point my palate wasn’t at its best (I blame the bottle of plastic cider… whoops I meant plastic bottle of cider in the Shepherd’s Bush Empire).
Based on this showing? To colab is most certainly the answer.
* Temple of the Dog was a one off musical collaboration to commemorate the untimely of passing of Andrew Wood, lead singer of Seattle rock band Mother Love Bone. TotD was the coming together of Soundgarden’s front man (and close friend) Chris Cornell and MLB band members Stone Gossard and Jeff Ament. A certain Eddie Vedder was enlisted and with Matt Cameron (also Soundgarden) on drums they released this self titled album in 1991. Of course Gossard, Ament and Vedder went on to form Pearl Jam with their first album Ten coming out that same year. While also in ’91 Soundgarden’s Badmotorfinger hit the airwaves.
Other notable 1991 releases: Nirvana – Nevermind, Pixies – Trompe le Monde, Metallica – Metallica, Guns n Roses - Use Your Illusion 1 & 2, U2 - Achtung Baby, REM – Out of Time, The Tragically Hip - Road Apples, The Red Hot Chilli Peppers – Blood Sugar Sex Magik , The Smashing Pumpkins – Gish, Lenny Kravitz - Mama Said, Massive Attack - Blue Lines and Enya - Shepherd Moons.
Shit, that was a good year of music.
Loved me some Enya back in the day.