Cincinnati Beer Week overflows with collaboration brews

In years past, one beer has been chosen to rule them all, or at least represent the city during Cincinnati Beer Week.

For this year's edition of Beer Week, which runs Sunday through June 25, there will be five distinct collaborations due to the sheer quantity of existing breweries. In February, five teams were drafted to collaborate on beers; a subsequent draft determined which teams got which styles and ingredients.

Mike Dewey has participated in all five Cincinnati Beer Weeks, and he is excited about how this year’s event is shaping up.

“There was so much more creativity the way they set it up this year,” said Dewey, owner of Mt. Carmel Brewing Co., one of the host breweries. “It was a cool concept to express each collaboration in a unique way.”

“It was absolutely a success,” said Jason Brewer, a member of the Cincinnati Beer Week board and director of marketing for Listermann Brewing Co. “We didn’t have a lot of expectations, because we’ve never done it this way before.”

Of the bars and restaurants that will be serving Beer Week brews, 25 percent of them will carry all five variations, allowing patrons to try them all in one location.

Over/Under, the only beer that was packaged, is an amber lager aged with Mulberry Wood, coming in at 6.2 percent ABV. Listermann, MadTree, Urban Artifact and Dogberry brewed Over/Under at Listermann in Evanston. Bottles are being sold in four packs at Listermann, as well as at participating area retailers for $9.99.

“When the brewers were drafting, Brady (Duncan) from MadTree and I were standing there together, just going, ‘How the hell am I going to be able to sell this?’” Brewer said. “But the execution of our team came together phenomenally. It turned out to be a really good beer.”

The other 2016 Cincinnati Beer Week collaboration beers are (brewing location listed first):

  • Mt. Carmel, Fifty West, Fibonacci, and Cellar Dweller brewed “Fruits of Our Labor,” a fruited IPA with peaches and apricots. Fruits of Our Labor has an ABV of 7.1 percent. “It’s intense. We could never produce a beer like this on a daily basis, but for Beer Week we threw an arsenal of resources at it,” said Dewey. “It’s very fruit forward.”
  • Ei8ht Ball, Christian Moerlein, Mash Cult, Old Firehouse and Tap & Screw collaborated on “Birds and the Bees,” a Belgian golden ale made with honey malt, honey and locally grown honeysuckle. This beer is 6.8 percent ABV. “I really like it – it’s exactly what we thought it would be,” said Mitch Dougherty, the head brewer at Ei8ht Ball. “It’s well-balanced and has the right amount of alcohol, not too light, not too heavy. We decided to add honey to the beer as well to add complexity, but it’s fermented out so it’s not too sweet.”
  • Braxton, Paradise, Rock Bottom and Rivertown brewed “Nectar,” a Mexican lager with agave, with a sessionable 5.4 percent ABV.
  • Blank Slate, Rhinegeist, Taft’s Ale House and Bad Tom Smith put out “Saison d’513,” a Saison with chili peppers, coming in at 6 percent ABV. “We’re pretty happy with it. After discussing it as a team, we decided to take a more chili pepper flavor than chili pepper heat,” said Scott LaFollette, owner of Blank Slate. “We used poblano, serrano, Anaheim and Italian sweet peppers. We removed most of the seeds so it wouldn’t be overwhelmingly hot. Personally, I’d like it a little hotter, which tells me it’s probably just right.”

The collaboration process was a bit more streamlined than in the past, when there were as many as 20 breweries involved in trying to agree on one beer.

“It was a lot easier getting together,” said LaFollette. “Working with 20 different breweries, even trying to get a date is almost an exercise in futility.”

“They did a good job of pairing breweries,” Dewey said. “It’s been a free-for-all up until this year. Everyone who collaborated, I think, feels like they have more individual input this year.”

“When it comes to beer, there’s no right or wrong, necessarily,” said Dougherty. “This is giving the brewers more options, but more importantly the public, too. With five styles, we have a chance to get your style.”

For information about where to find the Beer Week collaborations and events, check cincinnatibeerweek.com. 

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