Why Collaborating Is Brilliant.
Now. A lot of people question the importance of the humble collaboration, I’ve listened to various podcasts where various brewers (that I have the utmost respect for) have dismissed them as simple marketing ploys. I’ve seen various forum posts that question the motives behind 2 breweries working together and I just thought that it would be nice to shed some light on why, especially small, brewers like ourselves like working with other breweries.
Every day’s a school day:
Like snowflakes, no 2 breweries are the same. Importantly, because of the immense amount of money needed to set up a brewery and the plethora of important tasks that need doing, no 2 breweries have exactly the same problems that often need to be powered through/bodged together. Learning the unique fixes and little tricks from other breweries like “oh yeah, if you give that fan a bit of a kick when the pump stalls, that will normally sort it,” or “have you heard of [supplier X]? They do a really good deal on [consumable Y].” Granted, these nuggets of advice are often dispensed over copious amounts of tea and or/whilst elbow deep in digging out a mash, but it’s these nuggets that I’ve found most valuable. It is also an invaluable insight, because of the infinite nature of beer, seeing how brewers you respect put a recipe together. In this respect I would only ever say it’s not wise to work together if you already know everything there is to know about all of brewing. If this is the case then I bow down to your god-like mega-brain.
Making new friends/Working with old ones:
“I haven’t seen X in ages! I wanna go get pissed with him/her!” Is a perfectly valid reason to do a colab. Normally there are bigger reasons like going to do an event or having a lot of customers in the area that would appreciate a van delivery but if you just want to have a drink with your mate then you shouldn’t be ashamed of creating a work reason to go see them. Similarly, if you’ve been talking to someone and you get along then why not go do some work with them? There are various philosophies on the WHY of it all, like a mutual respect, but I suspect that if you get along with someone to the point that you want to travel to drink with them then a certain mutual respect is somewhat implied. You can see the beginnings of blossoming brewery relationships happening at big festivals, we were next to Blackjack at Craft Theory in Reading and when we announced we were travelling up to Manchester for an event they got in touch to say we should do some work together. Obviously I jumped at the opportunity.
An excuse for fun:
The particular dynamics of any given brewery are a unique and, often, complicated beast. There are local customers, tied taps, unconventional deals, ratios for packaging and high vs low selling styles. The crux of it is that everyone, in one way or another, makes a beer that they consider to be a safe and consistent seller. Sometimes it’s tough to stray too far from the fluffy box of comfort but colabs seem to be a thoroughly acceptable way of cutting loose. We’re guilty of sometimes making a safe style (if a variation on it) but when we work with friends we’re like a toddler being let loose in a Peppa Pig themed play park. At home we’ll make some sort of pale, away we’ll make a style once lost to the ages, revived by a ghost archaeologist, using yeast derived from bee tears and dry hopped with clouds.
The craft beer community is pretty unique in so much as other businesses with the same ultimate goals and roughly (though not really) the same product are not seen as competition, or at least not to anyone I have an ounce of respect for (respect is famously weighed in nano grams.) That kind of behaviour is generally associated with the big boys, the ones who talk about market share more than they talk about malt. At our level the sense of community and joint growth is strong. On more than one occasion a fellow brewer has uttered this exact same phrase: “A rising tide raises all boats.”
Marketing but shhhh:
Yeah, ok, you got us, well done, pat on the back, aren’t you a clever duck? Part of a colab is about a fresh bit of marketing and a fresh beer on the sell sheet. Sometimes a cheeky bit of cross promotion is the cherry on top of the super-rad, going-to-drink-and-brew-with-your-mates, cake. Exposing their fans to our beer? Exposing our fans to their beer? Yeah, it’s a winner for everyone BUT ultimately if the sum of the experience is that a delicious, creative, quality, brew has been created then I’m of the opinion that everyone wins. At both the start and end of the day, and this will be a theme of everything I have to say in this blog, a brewery needs to be able to make money. The employees of said brewery need to make a living. The children of said employees need to eat. If a colab brings a hearty chunk of fun into your brew life experience (which it has for me) then why not do it whenever you get the opportunity?