TOO MANY COOKS may spoil the broth, but too many brewers never ruined the beer.
The proof is all those fabulous one-offs featuring two, three or more brewery logos on the bottles.
These so-called collaborative beers are made by beer-makers from competing breweries who share the brewhouse for a day in the spirit of artisanal camaraderie. That professional friendship is one of the important traits that makes craft brewing appealing to so many.
Once again, Philly Beer Week will show off a bunch of collabs, including Speciale Belge, made in Belgium by Iron Hill brewer Chris LaPierre and by Olivier DeDeycker of the famed Belgian Brasserie Dupont. Back home, a trio of suburban brewers (from Prism, Round Guys and Evil Genius) combined on Brewvolution, a unique Belgian black IPA.
And William Reed, co-owner of Standard Tap and a former brewer himself, will pour Standard Pils, made with Brian O’Reilly of Sly Fox. Meanwhile, the “official” collaborative beer of Philly Beer Week is Brotherly Suds, produced by a revolving group from area breweries and brewpubs.
This year, it was the work of Mark Edelson (Iron Hill), Gordon Grubb (Nodding Head), Bill Covaleski (Victory), Tom Kehoe (Yards) and John Trogner (Troegs). The beer was brewed at Troegs’ new facility in Hershey.
So, just how does a collaborative beer come together? I was fortunate to be cc’d on a series of emails among the group. I’ll share the thread, with some of my own notes in italics.
Brew day was set for May 9, 23 days before the ceremonial first keg is to be hammered at Opening Tap by Mayor Nutter.
John Trogner (May 3, 5:19 p.m.): Hello brothers, I hate to be “this guy,” but I’m gunna have to change the date. An opportunity to be on a national TV show tapping a Troegs firkin and drinking Troegenator just came up over the 9th and 10th. Who is available to brew 7th, 8th or 11th? I’m gone the week after that and with Beer Week quickly approaching I’d like to get this one in the can.
Bill Covaleski: Oy! Pursue the good opportunity, John.
Gordon Grubb (May 4, 7:39 a.m.): I can do Monday [May 7] but what are we doing? Are we really going with a straight Vienna using Kolsch yeast? Sounds kind of boring to me. Now throw some rye in there and finish with Nelson Sauvin and then we will get something special. Whatever, I guess it’s a bit late for any of that now.
Time is of the essence. While the group wants to produce a Vienna lager, a reddish European-style lager, that style normally takes a month or more to properly condition. The use of Kolsch yeast, from Cologne, Germany, will ferment the beer more quickly, like an ale, while producing a clean, lager-like flavor. Rye will give the beer a bit of spiciness. Nelson Sauvin is a new hop variety from New Zealand. While brewers favor it for its wine-like flavor, the flavor can be overpowering.
Trogner: Sounds like we are on like Donkey Kong! In Philly Beer Week style we are extending the brew to two days. It’s not really a beer week, it’s much longer. Monday will be two brews and Tuesday will be one to yield 40 barrels on our small system. If someone can’t some Monday maybe they can come Tuesday? Mark Edelson: Really??? The day after we all get back from San Diego?
As this email exchange continues, Trogner, Covaleski and Edelson are in San Diego for the annual Craft Brewers Conference. As it turns out, Edelson’s Iron Hill Brewery was named the small brewpub of the year — an award whose celebration left everyone bleary-eyed for the return flight on Sunday.
Trogner (May 5, 5:05 p.m.): Gordon do you want to take charge of malt? Grubb (May 6, 12:03 p.m.): OK a quick off the top of my head malt bill:
15% Pils (Bohemian if we can).
15% Munich (I am thinking 30L but can easily be talked into 10L or some of each).
15% Rye (if there is enough, if not make up the difference with more Vienna).
2.5% Cara Red.
Looking for about 12 Plato. Yes, we are moving further away from a traditional Vienna with the rye, but it should play well with the hops and be damn tasty.
Plato, named after German scientist Fritz Plato, is a scale that indicates the density of wort before fermentation. A 12 Plato wort contains 12 percent sucrose by weight. Because that sugar is critical to the flavor and alcohol content of the final beer, measuring and controlling density (also known as specific gravity) is an essential step in the brewing process.
Covaleski: Getting on the hops question, I’d suggest a Tett/Centennial blend at first hopping, Tett in the center and then a finish of Citra or Simcoe, allowing for Centennial to lessen the reliance on Citra and Simcoe, if need be.
Trogner (May 6, 3:45 p.m.): Just hit Chicago and running for our connecting flight. Hop thoughts? I don’t have Centennial. Or Citra but if someone else does, I’d be happy to use them. Recipe is shaping up!
Tett is short for Tettnanger, a classic German hop that will give the beer a “European” flavor . You taste it whenever you drink Victory Prima Pils. Citra hops have a citrus aroma; they’re in Victory Headwaters Pale Ale. Simcoe is exceptionally bitter, with a garden-like aroma; it’s in Yards Philadelphia Pale Ale. Centennial is one of the 3 C’s (along with Cascades and Chinook hops), known for its floral aroma and citrus flavor.
Brett Kintzer, Stoudt’s brewer: I’ve got Centennials coming out my ears if you need it. Since you moved the brews to Monday I am going to try to stop in to say hello at some point, and can bring hops with me if you need them.
Kintzer brewed Brotherly Suds 2 at Stoudt’s in Adamstown. By tradition, the previous year’s brewer steps back to allow another local brewer to participate. But since Adamstown is just a short drive from Hershey, he chipped in.
Trogner (May 6, 3:48 p.m.): Rock n roll — I might make my flight. If I do, how about 9:09 a.m. Monday for the brew? If we get the malt recipe together today I can have our overnight brewer mill it. Anyone have an opinion on whose malt? Weyermann? Cargill? Any other German?
Weyermann Specialty Malts in Bamberg, Germany, has built strong relationships with America’s small brewers, thanks to its portfolio of small-batch specialty grains. Cargill is a multinational agribusiness with a solid reputation. Having the grains milled when everyone shows up will save a few minutes. As for that strangely precise brew time, I’m guessing it was a thumb-typo on Trogner’s cellphone.
Covaleski: I am heading right out your way to make the 9ish time frame. We can look over your hops availability then. Brett, if you can afford the Centennials then please bring some. Nice to mix with Tetts.
Brian O’Reilly, Sly Fox brewer (May 7, 8:02 a.m.): I like Centennials! I will be there around 10 a.m. Don’t wait for me.
O’Reilly brewed Brotherly Suds 1 at Sly Fox’s former facility in Royersford. Like Kintzer, he made the quick drive out to Hershey.
Kintzer: I plan on getting there by 9:30 at the latest. How much Centennial should I bring? I have them in 11 lb. pouches. Also will you guys need doughnuts?
What’s this beer going to taste like? We won’t know till Philly Beer Week, but I’m guessing you might detect the flavor of glazed doughnuts.