Madison Craft Beer Week brings out more than the best of just a single brewery. Multiple brewers around the city started pairing up months ago in collaborative brewing ventures that are likely to be among the most sought-after releases of this year's festival.
Among the collaborations are Karben4 Brewing joining forces with One Barrel Brewing and Next Door Brewing to make a pair of brews, One Barrel and Next Door teaming up with each other and the Harmony Bar on a neighborhood treat, and folks from the Tipsy Cow working with House of Brews on their latest in an ongoing partnership. Additionally, Karben4 is pairing with Summit Brewing of St. Paul, Minnesota, while Next Door is creating a special release with Atlas Brewing of Chicago.
"Every time I sit down in a meeting with a fellow brewer I enter the conversations with no pre-conceived notions. It's been just pure creation that we eventually get to share with our patrons," says Karben4 brewmaster Ryan Koga.
Here's a look at several collaborations in the works for the week.
Mosaic Pale Ale Version 4.0 -- Tipsy Cow with House of Brews
Release party on Friday, May 2, at 4 p.m., at the Tipsy Cow
Michael Banas, co-owner of the Tipsy Cow, figures he's been homebrewing for 10-12 years off and on, often with his best friend from college, Chris Perry, as co-conspirator. For the last couple of years, the two, along with sous chef Bob Kulow, have been making batches with the help of Page Buchanan at House of Brews.
"We've been working on small batches together," says Banas. They've previously created an IPA, and more recently they've been refining a pale ale, made with Mosaic hops. "They're very aromatic," says Banas. "Using Mosaic places a lot of emphasis on the nose -- this has a big nose, citrussy. It really brings out those exotic fruit notes."
Banas says the beer is on the hoppy side for a pale ale, yet it's still right on for the style. He figures the version that will be on tap at the Tipsy for the week is the fourth version of the pale ale that they've been tweaking all along.
Making the beer with Buchanan at House of Brews allows the Tipsy-ites to actually put the beer on tap at the King Street taproom and get it in the hands of the customers. Banas enjoys doing this for feedback, among other reasons -- friends will just say, "Yeah, it's good," he notes, but customers will give an unvarnished opinion, which he finds gratifying. Finding out what people really think of the beer is their main goal, Banas says.
These beers can be found from time to time at the Tipsy; this particular collaboration will be unveiled during a Surly Brewing tap takeover event on the opening day of Madison Craft Beer Week.
"That's a huge thing because Surly is not otherwise in this market," says Banas. Scheduling conflicts meant that they needed to double up the Surly takeover with the special release, "which is fine," he concludes. The half-barrel of the special release may last until Saturday, he allows, because of the interest in the Surly.
MACCC Daddy -- Karben4 with Summit Brewing
Release party on Sunday, May 4 at 9:00 p.m., at Merchant
Summit brewer Mike Lundell teamed up with Ryan Koga in the Karben4 brew house on April 7 to make a hoppy red ale. "I wanted to build a bridge between a dry-hopped red ale and an IPA," says Koga.
The name MACCC Daddy comes from the hops that go into making the beer. They are: Mosaic, Amarillo, Citra, Centennial and Chinook. MACCC Daddy is the hoppiest beer Koga has made at Karben4 since opening a little over a year ago. The beer took 56 pounds of hops for single 15-barrel batch. That's about 30% more hops than it takes to make a batch of Karben4 Fantasy Factory, which has become the brewery's best-selling hoppy beer. MACCC Daddy finishes around 5.4% ABV and 85 IBUs. Following the release party, a limited number of kegs will distributed to select taps around Madison.
MACCC Daddy is the first collaborative brew for the much larger Summit Brewing Company of Saint Paul, which released a special video to mark the partnership. "This is kind of cool to have a big guy team up with a little guy to do this," notes Koga.
Session Pale Ale -- Karben4 Brewing with Next Door Brewing
Release party on Wednesday, May 7 at 7 p.m., at Natt Spil
Ryan Koga and Keith Symonds, brewmaster at Next Door, teamed up to make this easy drinking pale ale. It was only recently brewed at Next Door on April 21, and has yet to be named. The beer is expected to finish around 5% ABV, which is integral to its session-like qualities, while its moderate bitterness will show off English Northdown and German Mandarina hops. The Mandarina offer citrus flavors of tangerine and orange and make this beer's bitter characteristics unique.
Only of few kegs of this beer were brewed, so it's expected to be in limited supply. If you miss it at the Natt Spil, there might be a few kegs that turn up later in the week at Next Door and Karben4, if local beer fans are lucky.
Belgian Dubbel -- Next Door Brewing with Atlas Brewing
Release party on Thursday, May 8 at 6 p.m., at Next Door Brewing
John Saller is one of two "brewing brothers" at Atlas Brewing, located in the Lincoln Park neighborhood of Chicago. He's a regular visitor to Madison, and had the chance to make the acquaintance of Keith Symonds, brewmaster at Next Door Brewing. On April 14, they teamed up to create a Belgian dubbel, which includes an addition of rye malt.
"It's unusual to include rye malt in that style. Belgian dubbels are often quite spicy, and we wanted to use rye to up that spiciness quotient," says Symonds. For yeast, they used Wyeast 3522 Belgian Ardennes, which was originally sourced from Brasserie d'Achouffe in eastern Belgium. This dubbel will be released as part of a joint tap takeover at Next Door with Atlas and Port Huron Brewing of Wisconsin Dells.
"The best part of all these collaborations is that we all have a common set of problems and slightly different solutions," notes Symonds. "It's fun to see how different people solve them, and to get somebody from another brewery to see how we do things and ask why we do them."
Demi-Bock -- Karben4 Brewing with One Barrel Brewing
Release party on Saturday, May 10 at 5 p.m., at One Barrel Brewing
A lighter version of bock beer, this "demi-bock" (or "half-bock") was brewed in early March in a joint session with Ryan Koga and One Barrel owner and brewmaster Peter Gentry and assistant brewer Dan Sherman. "We see everybody doing doppelbocks, triples and even quads, so we thought we would try what a 'half-bock' might be like," says Koga.
At the heart of this beer are German Munich malts and a light amount of Sterling and Chinook hops. While it offers the caramel and bready flavors common to the style, it finishes milder than many bocks at around 4% ABV.
The beer will be released as part of a special Karben4 tap takeover at One Barrel.
American Pale Ale -- Next Door Brewing and One Barrel Brewing with the Harmony Bar
Release party on Saturday, May 10, 11 a.m.-9 p.m., at all three locations
A collaboration between Next Door Brewing and One Barrel Brewing only seems natural. Founded by a longtime homebrewers and launched barely more than a year apart, both of these small east-side breweries on Atwood Avenue swiftly developed avid neighborhood followings. Each collaborates regularly with homebrewers and local organizations on limited special release beers. Now they're working together.
Next Door and One Barrel teamed up to create an American Pale Ale. It's made with two kinds of hops -- Mosaic and Sorachi Ace -- varieties the breweries had in surplus. On Friday, April 18, One Barrel owner and brewmaster Peter Gentry and head brewer Dan Sherman headed down the street for a brew day with Next Door brewmaster Keith Symonds and assistant brewer Brian Kreiter. They made six total kegs of the pale ale; two kegs apiece will go to each brewery, while the final two will be served at the Harmony Bar, an east side institution that sits roughly halfway between them on Atwood.
"It seems a lot of collaborations are big beers that are over the top, and we wanted to do something that people could make multiple stops," says Gentry.
On the second Saturday of Madison Craft Beer Week, all three are hosting a joint pub crawl. The APA will be served at each, though not quite in the same forms. One Barrel is infusing theirs via a hop rocket with additional Mosaic hops, while Next Door will be doing the same with an additional boost of Sorachi Ace. The one on tap at the Harmony will the standard version. Patrons who try all three, including in half-pints (or even another brew), will receive a commemorative pint glass.
"Peter and I talked even before we got our breweries up and going. We could share a wall in this town and we could be just fine with it," says Symonds. I love the craft beer industry, and it's great that, especially here in Madison, the brewers all believe that a rising tide lifts all boats."
"We look forward to doing more collaborations in the future," says Gentry.