‘Collaboration’ has been a buzz word for some time around the world of craft beer. The partnering of breweries and brewers has created a wave of innovative beers in recent years, as the combined efforts of the brewers drives them to produce something more adventurous than a solo brewery might be so inclined to do.
Beer nerds jump at the chance to try the latest beers appearing under joint labels from the likes of BrewDog, Mikkeller, De Molen, Three Floyds and many more, due to the promise of something unique.
In November last year, a “dream team” collaboration was announced between three breweries with a significant presence in the Australian craft beer market – BrewDog, Mikkeller and Nøgne Ø. The result – Black Tokyo* Horizon – is a fusion of the three breweries’ respective big stouts, Black, Dark Horizon and Tokyo* and will be released next month
Closer to home, New Zealand’s Epic Brewery made a splash with their Portamarillo Porter that was brewed in collaboration with Sam Calagione of the USA’s Dogfish Head Brewery. Further, next week in Melbourne, Beer DeLuxe is hosting the Australian launch of Infinium, the result of a two-year collaboration between Samuel Adams and Weihenstephan to develop a champagne-like beer. The marketed aim of the collaboration was to push the boundaries of style restrictions under the Reinheitsgebot (German Purity Law of 1516) and champion new beer styles. In the case of Infinium, the new style pursued is Bière de Champagne (a Champagne/Brut-like beer).
Within our own country, strong friendships between local microbreweries recently produced two collaborations that were brewed specially for the Local Taphouse Great Australian Beer SpecTAPular. South Australia’s Lobethal Bierhaus and BrewBoys combined to produce a Quince Ale, whilst down in Victoria, Hargreaves Hill Brewing and Red Hill Brewery brewed a Maibock under the collaborative name of “Two Hills”.
Now, we can boast a truly international craft beer collaboration, with a Black IPA that possesses a bit of Australia and a bit of England currently fermenting away.
This inaugural intercontinental collaborative brew is the result another strong friendship, bringing together the talents of the Mountain Goat Brewery in Melbourne, Victoria and Thornbridge Brewery of Derbyshire, England.
The friendship and collaboration initiation comes by way of Caolan (pronounced Keal-an) Vaughan, the Australian born Production Manager and Lead Brewer at Thornbridge Brewery. Caolan’s career in beer began by completing a Bachelor of Business (Brewing) degree at the University of Ballarat in Victoria. Then, after a short stint with Red Hill Brewery, he joined Little Creatures where he spent three years before making the move to the United Kingdom and Thornbridge last year.
The Little Creatures connection forms the foundation to the Mountain Goat collaboration, as several alumni from the Fremantle brewery now work at the Richmond microbrewery.
Returning to Australia for a wedding, Caolan saw an opportunity to reconnect with his brewing buddies but also do his bit for Australian craft beer promotion. Caolan currently has the privilege of working for one of the world’s most highly rated breweries and in a brewing industry that is well advanced beyond our own in terms of infrastructure, production and recognition. However, he is still very passionate about helping the rapidly emerging Australian craft beer industry receive recognition and promotion beyond our own borders, for which the Thornbridge endorsement will be invaluable.
Thornbridge Brewery began in a converted stonemason’s workshop on the grounds of the Thornbridge Hall manor in 2005, nine years after Cam and Dave founded Mountain Goat. Within five short years, Thornbridge had estimated sales figures close to £1.4million in the 2009-2010 financial year and has moved their primary brewing operations to a new £2million purpose-build, state-of-the-art brewhouse in close-by Bakewell.
After several emails to Mountain Goat’s Dave Bonighton, a collaboration was locked in, with the brew day scheduled for Friday, 18th February.
The beer chosen was a Black IPA, an antipodean cousin to the Thornbridge Raven Black IPA. Where the Raven uses Centennial and Sorachi hops, this local Black IPA has been brewed and with Australian Galaxy and New Zealand Motueka hops.
Vaughan and Bonighton brewed together, with the brewery sound system pumping only British and Australian music in honour of the union. They kept the outside world up-to-date with their mashing, boiling and late-hopping progress via Twitter and Facebook, whilst also being captured on film by The Crafty Pint.
When the time to taste the first wort arrived, the brewers were very happy result, which provided a delightfully black and meaty brew and the hop character right on the mark. With a heap of dry hopping using Nelson Sauvin planned for the batch, Dave and Caolan anticipate this Black IPA will be a hoppy monster with around 70 IBU.
Approximately 3000L has been brewed in the Mountain Goat tanks. When ready, in around 3 weeks time, the beer will be packaged in 650mL longnecks and kegged, to be enjoyed in both bottled and draught form. Eventually, the beer will be released as a special edition Rare Breed under the joint Mountain Goat and Thornbridge Brewer brands.
The end of the brew day was celebrated with a jovial session of drinking at the Mountain Goat Brewery bar, alongside the local public who flock in every Friday evening to wind down the week with good beer. A collection of current and former brewers and reps from both Mountain Goat and Little Creatures (included Head Brewer, Alex Troncoso) worked their way through the Mountain Goat range. Caolan particularly enjoyed the new Cucumber Sandwich Summer Ale (complete with fresh cucumber, sliced and added to the glass by Head Goat Brewer, Jayne Lewis) and the Mountain Goat Rare Breed India Pale Ale.
The guest of honour also treated his colleagues to a bottle of the Thornbridge Hall Bracia, a 10% abv rich dark ale infused with Chestnut Honey, which won a Silver medal at the 2010 World Beer Cup. It was possibly the first time a fresh Thornbridge Brewery beer had been consumed in this country, as the popular brewery’s products are not currently exported to Australia.
Caolan is hoping their collaborative beer will be ready to bottle just in time before he returns to the United Kingdom, so that he can show off the Aussie handiwork to his British counterparts.
For those of us back home, we can savour the knowledge that this is only the beginning of hopefully many Australian craft beer collaborations. Mountain Goat are already looking ahead and considering their next potential international collaboration, whilst rumours abound of other local microbreweries establishing connections with noteworthy brewers who may be soon visiting our country.
This Mountain Goat/Thornbridge Black IPA will be a beer to drink in honour of friendship and the Australian brewing fraternity, ready to take on and join the cause of sharing and promoting good beer with the world.
UPDATE – 11 March, 2011: The collaborative beer will be launched today, Friday 11th March, at the Mountain Goat Brewery bar (80 North Street, Richmond, VIC) from 5pm.
The beer has been named “Thorny Goat” and has been released under a new Mountain Goat label – “Cross Breed” – a new twist on Mountain Goat’s Rare Breed labels, which will be used for any future collaborative Mountain Goat brews.
This first Cross Breed is a Black IPA with 6.8% abv, 65 IBUs and is described by brewer Dave Bonington as “just this side of pitch black” in appearance.
The Thorny Goat will be on tap at the Mountain Goat brewery, with 650ml bottles and a very limited keg supply released later next week.