Summit County brewers unite for third collaboration beer
On Tuesday, Nov. 3, about a dozen men stood in the brew room at The Bakers’ Brewery in Silverthorne, watching as co-founder Cory Forster stirred a new batch in the mash tun. As sweat began to bead up on the brewmaster’s forehead, the other men sipped on coffee and debated when to pour their first beer of the day.
The gathering was a mix of brewers from each of the Summit County establishments. After weeks of planning, the first stage of the process for the brewers’ third collaboration beer has begun. While Forster was the muscle of the day, each brewer is involved in the creation of the beer from start to finish.
“It truly is a collaboration,” said AJ Brinckerhoff. “Everyone from the start just throws their ideas in and it gets whittled down to beer style, all the different ingredients and who’s going to supply what and bring what. Plus we get to taste some pretty tasty beers at planning meetings.”
Brinckerhoff is currently assisting head brewer JP Vander Veen at Backcountry Brewery in Frisco but will be opening a brand-new brewery in Silverthorne next year. The groundbreaking for Angry James will begin in the spring, right in the area the town is working to revitalize as its core.
Jason Ford, owner and brewmaster of Broken Compass Brewing in Breckenridge, explained that the process of creating a collaboration beer begins with a lot of planning, but it’s more enjoyment than work.
“Up here, we are just so busy, it’s crazy,” he said. “And to sit back and relax and enjoy something like this is a huge deal — it’s a lot of fun.”
CAMARADERIE AND COLLABORATION
Even though breweries continue to pop up around the county, the brewers said there is no competition amongst them.
“People find that hard to believe, but there really isn’t,” Ford said. “You pick a bank, you don’t pick a brewery. You’ll go to all the breweries, that’s why you’re here. It’s a lot different than most businesses.”
They are a close-knit group, supporting each other if one brewer decides to branch off and do his own thing, as Forster did when he moved from Dillon Dam Brewery to open Bakers’.
“One of the cool things about this group is everyone is so helpful on every level,” Ford said. “We are all in the same boat, and we all know it — the more great breweries there are in Summit County, the more people will come to Summit to drink. ‘Let’s go to Summit to drink’ instead of ‘let’s drink in Summit.’ It becomes a destination.”
“In this industry, a rising tide raises all ships, it really does, and we want everybody to do well,” he said.
Colorado in general has made a name for itself in the craft beer industry, Ford said.
“The state of Colorado is just incredible — we have somewhere between, I think, 305 to 315 breweries in operation,” he said. “It truly makes Colorado an actual destination for beer. I can’t even tell you how many people come up here and tell me they are on a beercation. … It draws more people here to Summit.”
The crew often find themselves drinking at each other’s locations and said they are inspired by each other’s work.
“Jimmy (Walker, Breckenridge Brewery) and I all the time are sitting down and getting technical and talking shop,” Ford said. “To me, he’s like the saison whisperer, they have saisons on all the time. It’s a specialty there, and he makes them awesome. It’s awesome to talk to these guys on the technical side because there is always more there to learn.”
THE NEW BREW
This year, the collaboration beer is a Belgium dubbel, said Forster.
“We decided we wanted to go a little tart with it, so we put an acidulated malt in the mash, that will add a little hint of sour from the grain itself,” he said. “We are also using sour Morello cherries, 22 pounds of that is going into the boil, with also about 30 pounds of brown sugar. The brown sugar is to add a little flavor, but it’s pretty much purely fermentable, so the main idea of adding that is to boost the alcohol level up. We typically shoot a little stronger on these collaborations because, if we are going to split it up, it’s a rare beer, and we are going to want to put it in snifters, and people are a little more willing to spend the extra money on a smaller pour. They like to get their bang for their buck, as the saying goes.”
The crew came up with the name Scuba Dooba Dubbel. The Scuba stands for Summit County United Brewers’ Alliance, and they added “the Dooba in for fun,” Forster said.
“Scuba, because we are not full of ourselves but we are full of sh** — and we think it’s funny.”
Each brewery contributed to the ingredients, and John Giarratano from Inland Island Brewing and Consulting, a company in Denver, donated the yeast.
Scuba Dooba Dubbel will be debuted at the beginning of the year at the Brewers Rock for Rescue fundraiser for Search and Rescue at the Silverthorne Pavilion Jan. 23. Forster first created the event in 2006 when he was brewing at Wolf Rock in Keystone, and it was resurrected by the brewer last year when the town of Silverthorne was looking to host a beer festival. The event hosts around 25 Colorado breweries, live music and a silent auction with a variety of items. Last year, it featured three snowboards, a pair of skis, avalanche equipment, backpacks, beacons, lift tickets and more and raised more than $5,000 for the nonprofit.
After it’s brewed, the beer will be split between the breweries, and Forster said at least half, if not most, of the beer will be aged in Breckenridge Distillery bourbon barrels. The brewers will then take one keg of pre-barrel and one keg of after bourbon-barrel aged to the Collaboration Fest in Denver in March. This year’s festival featured upwards of 70 collaborative beer projects from Colorado and across the U.S.
“It’s a really cool festival because the beers are all so unique,” Forster said. “Everyone is different, and, in order to get these beers, you’d have to go to every brewery in Colorado. Instead, you’ve got all these specialty beers on tap one day only. So it’s a really cool mix of beers — a really different beer festival.”
KEEP COLORADO LOCAL
As the brewers talked of their collaborative efforts, they also spoke about their united stance on a 2016 ballot measure that would allow Colorado grocery stores to sell wine and higher alcohol-content beer. Most in the craft beer industry are against the measure, believing it will push out the smaller liquor stores and decrease local brewery sales.
“It’s already hard to get shelf space,” Ford said. “If you have the big guys that have all the money dominating shelf space like they do at chain stores, so much distribution is going to be taken by these guys it will inch out all these small breweries and same with all the mom and pop liquor stores. People won’t go to them anymore because they can just go to the grocery stores instead.”
Brinckerhoff said the measure would just end up hurting local businesses.
“It’s such a relationship-based business,” he said. “These small craft breweries … they’re a mom and pop business themselves, and they are able to go straight to the mom and pop liquor store, and say, ‘Hey I make a great product, I want to sell it directly to you.’ That will be affected as well, by having the big stores carry (alcohol).”
Ford said people don’t understand what they are going to lose for the benefit of convenience.
“They have no clue,” he said. “They think, ‘Yeah, it would be awesome to get it at the grocery store,’ but they have no idea what is going by the wayside.”
Vander Veen added that it would likely put some breweries out of business, and Ford agreed.
“All of a sudden, you have grocery stores that you absolutely can’t get into when you’re small enough,” he said, “and now, you’ve got no outlet except your tap room, and that’s only so sustainable for some breweries.”
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