This is pretty much how most brew days go,” Chris Hastings of Bristol Brewing says with a smile and a shrug, “one guy working and everyone else standing around.”
The guy working, Boulder Beer Head Brewer Nick Karsten, siphons the wort — unfermented sugar water — from the mash tun to the lauter tun, separating the solids from the liquids. There are no hiccups in the process, and Boulder Beer Operation Manager Rob Black and the brewers from Bristol Brewing in Colorado Springs, Hastings and Jeff Addams, get to stand back and make sure everything goes according to plan.
It’s brew day at Boulder Beer on Walnut, and Hastings and Addams are in town preparing for one of Colorado craft’s newest and best traditions: Collaboration Fest.
Put on by the Colorado Brewers Guild, Collaboration Fest features over 200 brewers coming together to collaborate on 123 different beers. The beers will be poured March 31 at the Hyatt Regency Downtown Denver (tickets to the Fest start at $65) in an event designed to strengthen the craft-brewing community.
Brew days like this one are where you see that happening on an intimate level.
For Collaboration Fest, Boulder/Bristol is making a kettle-soured New England-style IPA with cranberries and oranges. The brew was concocted last Thanksgiving, hence the addition of cranberries and oranges, and dubbed: Fruit of the Brew. As far as names go, it’s pretty solid.
Though they are currently brewing on Boulder Beer’s system, Addams and Hastings already brewed a pilot batch down in Bristol to make sure the recipe would work. It did, and as Karsten checks readings and keeps an eye on the boil, Addams and Hastings provide archival support anytime Karsten or Black draw a blank. Temperatures and times are confirmed, measurements are taken, boiling time and intensity are settled upon, with all four brewers reaching a quiet consensus every step of the way. Their process is precise and without conflict; they could pull a bank job simply by synchronizing their watches.
It takes two days to make Fruit of the Brew and, like all brewing procedures, there is a lot of downtime for those not cleaning — Karsten and Black handle the bulk of the work. During breaks in the action, Addams and Hastings are treated to a tour of the facility and a chance to try some of Boulder Beer’s experimental batches. Lunch rolls around, and Boulder Beer brewmaster David Zuckerman stops by to check on the progress and chat with Addams and Hastings over heaping bowls of macaroni and cheese, green chili, fried cauliflower and roasted shishito peppers. Work meetings don’t get much better than this.
If most beer festivals are for the drinkers, then Collaboration Fest is for the brewers, with us partaking in the fruits of their labor. And for those who won’t be at the festival, a keg of Fruit of the Brew will stay at Boulder’s Walnut location, and another will be sent down to Bristol.