There is understandably some cynicism about collaborations. In an industry that puts so much on its appearance, it could be seen as nothing more than marketing; a great way to get your name in a new market for zero cost or to drive the tickers into a buying frenzy.
For a start, we don't know anyone that savvy in the industry. Craft beer is still in that young, wild and naive phase where so much of what we do is because it is delicious, or beautiful, or fun. We hope to some extent we never grow up, though of course we will have to.
We have done plenty of collaborations in our time - some with our heroes and some with those who look up to us - and those three reasons of making something delicious, beautiful or fun has always been the impetus. But the most important thing, especially as we expand and start to test ourselves with new recipes and techniques, has always been what we learned during the brewday.
Sure a few of them have turned into sessions, but what the blurry, smiling pictures don't show are the endless email chains talking style, ingredient and technique. It doesn't show the early starts where you get to test out equipment you've never used, select the hops by actually getting your face in the bag, the problem solving when a pipe clogs or a generator fails. More than any other industry we know, you learn from your mistakes in brewing (even better, you learn from other people's!).
You also learn a hell of a lot from the triumphs too. A watershed moment in our brewhouse was when Other Half came to brew with us, and we found kindred spirits in how they messed around with their water profiles. They dared us to be radical and push our treatment to the max and the resulting body of our DIPAs has become something of a signature for us in a style where it is hard to stand out. On top of that, we learned a huge amount about best practice and process when Stigbergets came to play, picked out lots of QC tips and equipment during our jaunt to Brewdog and what Sophie from Burnt Mill doesn't know about grains isn't worth knowing – our collab stout wouldn't have been the same without her and her team.
So why are we telling you this now? Well it has always been on our mind when we've seen snide comments about collaborations, but we have some collabs coming out very soon and we really hope they are seen in this light - a chance for us to improve and offer you guys the chance to see how another brewery thinks and works. On top of that, this interwoven community not only makes craft beer unique, but has been responsible for so much of its remarkable growth over the last 10 years.
So stay tuned for batch two of KEEP LEFT (incidentally our highest rated beer in 2018), our first beer with the amazing Frontaal, and a collab with those beautiful people up at Wylam – we learned new things doing both of them.