Collaboration Fest in Denver brings together brewers from Summit and beyond |

Collaboration Fest in Denver brings together brewers from Summit and beyond

Courtesy of Alan Simons
Courtesy of Alan Simons |

If you go

What: Collaboration Fest

When: 3-7 p.m. Saturday, March 21

Where: Club Level, Sports Authority Field at Mile High

Cost: General admission is $50, which includes unlimited beer sampling

More information: Visit for tickets and info about the festival. To learn more about the Summit County brewers’ collaboration project, Summit Safety Meeting Barleywine, check out the Summit Daily News article at

On Saturday, March 21, Summit County brewers, along with dozens of their colleagues, will converge upon Sports Authority Field at Mile High for the second-annual Collaboration Fest, a beer festival that celebrates the camaraderie and ingenuity of the craft beer world.

The festival boasts more than 70 different collaborative projects from across the United States, from imperial coffee stouts to blended sours to insanely twisted German and Belgian ales. The Summit brewers will be taking along their countywide project, the Summit Safety Meeting Barleywine, as well as a few other collaborations that we’ve detailed below.

Can’t make it down to Denver? Each of the breweries will have their collaboration projects on tap at various times during the coming months. Check their individual Facebook pages or websites for updates.


The breweries: Backcountry Brewery, Left Hand Brewing Co.

The collaboration: Chocolate Rye Weizenbock

Backcountry head brewer Alan Simons and assistant brewer J.P. Vander Veen were reunited with a pair of familiar faces when they put together their offering for Collaboration Fest. Both Steve Tamas and Wes Burbank, of Left Hand in Longmont, are former employees of Backcountry.

“I called them up and guilted them into making their people do a collaboration with us,” Simons said with a laugh. “I asked them if that was something they wanted to do, and it seemed like they got the thumbs up.”

Tamas and Burbank made the trek up to Simons’ house in Breckenridge, where, of course, they sat around, drank a beer or three and ironed out a plan to collaborate, nixing the idea of a milk stout early on and finally settling on a Weisenbock.

“We wanted something that represented what both breweries were able to do, as far as styles and what we expect from certain beers,” Simons said. “Left Hand and us have a similar philosophy.”

Rather than brewing a straight-up Weisenbock, the team decided to put some “other stuff” in the beer, adding a good chunk of rye to the grain bill for a nutty, spicy element and throwing in some cocoa nibs when it was done fermenting. The beer also picks up banana and clove bits from the yeast, Simons said.

“It’s like a spiced banana chocolate nut bread,” Vander Veen said. “That kind of flavor profile with a hint of spice.”


The breweries: The Bakers’ Brewery, Kannah Creek Brewing Co.

The collaboration: Prickly Peach Belgian Strong Ale

When Cory Forster, president and brewmaster at the new Bakers’ Brewery in Silverthorne, teamed up with Matt Simpson, head brewer at Kannah Creek in Grand Junction, the first ingredient Simpson threw in the hat was a bit unusual.

“He said, my grandma used to make this awesome prickly pear jelly, and I’ve always wanted to throw it at a beer, so we said, let’s do it,” Forster said. “So it has prickly pear cactus. And it’s peach season, maybe we should throw some peaches at it.”

The final recipe included 40 pounds of Palisade peaches and 20 pounds of prickly pear cactus, which were pureed and put in the fermenter just prior to transferring in the wort, plus additions of eucalyptus and whole allspice. The resulting beer weighs in at the upper 8 percent to 9 percent alcohol by volume.

“It’s a Belgian strong ale with toasty, nutty malt to it,” Forster said. “It’s this beautiful reddish orange color; it has a really cool color to it. The idea is that the toasty, nutty gives it almost a kind of crust flavor, like on a pie, a little bit of graham cracker flavor in the malt bill. And then this earthy, herbal flavor from the cactus and eucalyptus, and a dry finish with a touch of peach sweetness, almost peach cobbler between the allspice and peaches.”


The breweries: The Bakers’ Brewery, Dillon Dam Brewery, Sanitas Brewing Co.

The collaboration: Sesh-o-rado Single Hop Session Ale

The Bakers’ Brewery’s second contribution to the festival was brewed with Mike Bennett, head brewer at Dillon Dam, Forster’s buddy from his former stomping grounds, along with Mike Memsic, of Sanitas in Boulder. This 15-barrel batch of single-hopped ale, brewed at Sanitas, comes in at a session-worthy 5 percent ABV.

“The single hop that we used was El Dorado hops, so we’re calling it Sesh-o-rado,” Forster said. “It features one hop, so you only get one hop’s flavor. We went very mild on the malt bill, threw in some Golden Naked Oats, so it’s creamy, with mild sweetness. El Dorado is known for tropical fruit flavors, so it has a strawberry-pineapple aroma.”

The finished product is a fun, easy-drinking beer that’s not super bitter, Forster said, which means you can have several of them without catching a huge buzz or overwhelming your palate.

“A lot of those collaboration beers end up being really strong beers,” he said. “You have two or three, sometimes six brewmasters. You can throw more ideas at something if it’s stronger. It has more room to contain and control those different flavors all coming together.”

Bennett said collaboration brews are education projects because you get to see another brewery’s brewing system and the different processes they use.

“Everybody does things a little bit different,” he said. “Whether it’s cleaning or brewing or how we filter the beer — every system is different. It’s the same general concept, but every system has its own little quirks, so it’s always interesting to see how they handle different things.”


Beyond the crazy, tasty brews that will be poured at Collaboration Fest, the event is a chance for local brewmasters to mix and mingle with other brewers and get the word out about the burgeoning brewing community here in Summit County. Jason Ford, head brewer at Broken Compass Brewing in Breckenridge, which opened last summer, said he welcomes the chance to spread the word about his brewery.

“We’re still fairly new,” he said. “I still love going down there and meeting people. I’ve been up here solid for two years and there’s a lot of stuff that’s happened down in Denver that I haven’t been able to get to. All these new breweries I haven’t been to, haven’t heard of, trying their beers. … It’s a chance to meet all these people I haven’t had time to meet because we’ve been staring this place up.”

Broken Compass has a collaboration of its own, which Ford brewed with the team from Luminous Brewhouse in his hometown of Sheridan, Wyoming, which may or may not make an appearance at the festival, depending on whether he can squeak it under the wire in time. Made with a Trappist yeast provided by Luminous, the beer is a big, bad tripel that clocks in at 10 percent to 11 percent ABV.

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