It seems that one of the things that 2011 can be remembered for in the beer world is collaborations, every one seems to be at it, from Marble to Fullers, from Dark Star to Brew Dog, from Thornbridge to Raw, and plenty others in between. May be everyone is an overstatement though, I can't see Glentworth teaming up with Skinners, or Northumberland with Allgates in the near future, but who knows ?
The one thread that seems to run through the breweries that involve themselves in collaborations are that they are what are classed as 'craft' breweries. That again is a bone of contention for me, what makes one brewery a 'craft' brewery when another isn't ? I know that the Americans have a definition for such a thing, but we English don't, so why do we use it ? What is apparent is that the 'craft' brewery collaborations seem to appear in more exclusive sort of pub, those that are disposed to American beers or key keg.
Before I continue I ought to make it clear that I am not anti 'craft' beers, nor collaborations per se. Its just that I cannot really see a point in some well known brewer, joining up with some other well known brewer, and producing a beer, when often the sum of the parts does not produce the goods. It seems to me that often the brewer's skills cancel each other out rather than complement them, so that one is left with a vague feeling of disappointment. That's not to say all collaborations are a failure, they aren't. But a large number do not seem to work, in my eyes.
And how does a collaboration of brewers actually work ? Who has the say in which style of beer they brew ? Who chooses the hops, or malts ? Who has the final say on the recipe ? Unless they are happy to let one lead and the other follow, I can see problems arising. And often the one's I have tried do seem to taste more like one brewery's beer than the other.
Often beers are produced by a collaboration of brewers anyway. In the larger breweries it is not unusual for a group of brewers to work in unison to produce a beer, and because they are from the same stable, they maintain the standards they have expected from the brewery, when someone from outside gets involved I find their standards often slip.
Maybe the way forward would be to brew on the lines that Wetherspoons use for their beer festival specials, a foreign brewer using his recipes to brew on British brewer's plant. I assume that the foreign brewers get advice from the local brewer, so is that technically a collaboration ?
But at the end of the day, does it really matter ? The idea of brewing beer is to make something that people want to drink and that will sell. I cannot deny either part of that statement in respect of collaborations, may be its just me pedantic....no, surely not !!