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Collabfest 2024 Breaks Through Expectations

Collabfest 2024 Breaks Through Expectations


For decades, the craft beer movement enjoyed creativity and business growth that took it to places few would have imagined. Recent years have been more challenging, but last month The Colorado Brewer’s Guild’s 2024 Collaboration Fest brought back the feeling of the party. The Westminster Westin’s ballroom was packed with long pour lines, flannel-clad brewers, a silent disco, pretzel necklaces, and enthusiastic volunteers. Big beards and even bigger beers were out in force. Few, if any, seltzers were to be found.

Chris Coyne of Boulder-based Sanitas Brewing and Mike Baraco of FlyteCo Brewing in Stapleton

Conversations with brewers showed how personal some of these beers were to them. Mike Baraco, brewer at FlyteCo Brewing in Stapleton, and Chris Coyne of Boulder-based Sanitas Brewing talked to attendees while they poured their pistachio brown ale, inspired by Baraco’s love of Newcastle Brown. “It was one of my favorites in my formative years and I wanted to do something similar but with pistachio,” Baraco said.

“We had about 15 ideas for recipes that we could have done, but this one really stuck out to me,” Coyne added. The recipe choice paid off. It was malty, slightly sweet, but saltier than Telluride’s “Face Down Brown,” long an industry standard. It was more nuanced than the sweeter Hazlenut beers that can sometimes be found in taprooms.

Across the aisle, Sam Hookway was pouring an on-point, crisp, and fragrant Hazy IPA called “Upside Down, Downside Up” for Lafayette-based Odd 13 Brewing, as well as by Boulder-based Wild Provisions, and Broomfield-based 4Noses Brewing, and out-of-state Streetside Brewing. “This is what the industry is about. The camaraderie and doing fun things with your friends. Garret at Streetside is one of my best friends and it was amazing to make this beer with him,” he said.

Zach Nichols, owner, and head brewer at Lafayette-based Cellar West, created a wild beer with Juice Draper, Head Brewer at Oskar Blues’ original facility in Lyons. It was a blend of Oskar Blues blonde wild ale from Lyons and Cellar West’s oak-aged wild beers. The combined beers were re-fermented with Oregon wild grains and then lightly dry-hopped.

Nichols explained how the beers came to be. “Juice is an old friend of mine from when we both worked at Boulder Beer. We knew the collab fest was coming up and he mentioned that he could bring over some growlers of his wild beer. We tasted some of our beers to come up with a blend to play with.” This beer epitomized how creative, nuanced, and approachable wild beers can be even when their creation is complicated.

Very Nice Brewing in Nederland collaborated with BJ’s Brewing to create a recipe featuring Kveik, a Viking Yeast, and cannabis terpenes, Owner and head brewer Jeffrey Green explained the thought behind the beer. “Hops and Cannabis are very similar. They can actually be grafted onto each other. It’s just another playground we can play with.” The THC-free result was more refreshing than dank and it showed how cannabis can taste in a glass.

Fritz Family Brewers of Niwot and Idaho Springs-based Tommyknocker Brewing, created two pilsners using different hops, asking attendees to taste them side-by-side. The effort was especially notable because Fritz’s brewer Cory Buenning spent some of his earliest brewing days at Tommyknockers before leaving to brew in other parts of the U.S.The two brewers remain close even after years away and this was a chance for them to work together again.

It was a statewide event with plenty of other area brewers pouring from behind tables. Lafayette’s Liquid Mechanics created a barrel-aged Munichwine with Loveland’s Verboten Brewing. Wibby Brewing paired with Danico Brewing and Cerveceria Colorado to create a Schwartzbier. The Pumphouse from Longmont and Denver Beer Co in Arvada created a Witbier while Gravity Brewing in Louisville paired with Guanella Pass Brewers and Strange Craft to create a Belgian Brut beer.

These beers, representing connections to Boulder-area brewers, are just a portion of what was available. I left filled with beer, surprised, and again amazed at the creativity and passion that was there. It’s always been part of the industry and it’s why I’ll always return for another pour.


Deborah Cameron
Deb brings a passion for community journalism and for the local food scene. She started out as an intern and over the years grew into our current Cuisine Editor. She has appeared in multiple publications including the Longmont Leader, The Left Hand Valley Courier, Ms. Mayhem, Finance101, and Ask.com. When not writing she's eating, road tripping, dog-parking, or watching high school softball. She moved to Colorado from Seattle in the early 2000s after spending a year traveling the U.S. in a teal Ford Escort hatchback. She lives with her husband, two teenagers, and a rescue dog named Charlie.

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