Q&A: Denver Craft Beer Wizards Talk Collaboration Beer Fest 2018

The beer aficionados that packed last year's Collaboration Beer Fest. Courtesy Lexa PR

Steve Kurowski and Tobias Krause (front, center) head up the beer aficionados who packed last year’s Collaboration Beer Fest. Courtesy Lexa PR

 Ales and lagers and stouts, oh my!
 
It’s no secret Colorado is the place for craft beer fans, and, with a staggering 348 breweries in our state, many have taken on the challenge of trying as many new microbrews as possible. An upcoming event that will certainly help the cause: Collaboration Beer Fest.
 
The fifth annual fest, taking place March 31 at the Hyatt Regency Downtown, is a one-of-a-kind experience that pairs dozens of breweries from around the state and across the country to brew special concoctions together. It’s a chance for each pair of brewers to have fun making a creative, new beer—and for attendees to try them all.
 
We spoke with Steve Kurowski of the Colorado Brewers Guild and Tobias Krause of Two Parts, the two organizations spearheading the fest, for the inside scoop on what makes the event great, what beers to look forward to and how to tackle the huge festival (even if you don’t know a hop from an IBU).
 
What’s your favorite thing about these collaborations? 
Krause: “Discovery! Trying something that I’ve never heard of from a brewery I’ve never had before. The end result from each and every collaboration is unique in its own sense. Each beer brewed is different and one-of-a-kind. Essentially, each collaboration is an ‘experiment,’ and you’ll just have to make it to Collaboration Fest to see—and taste—the results.”
 
Steve Kurowski of the Colorado Brewers Guild. Courtesy Facebook.

Steve Kurowski, Marketing Director of the Colorado Brewers Guild. Courtesy Lexa PR.

Kurowski: “Just about every one of these beers is a one-of-a-kind brew, never to be brewed again, and that in turn creates a one-of-a-kind event that can never be recaptured.” 
 
There’s a pretty hefty list of collaborations this year. What got so many breweries interested? 
Kurowski: It’s the most unique craft beer event in the country. We have seen a couple of copy-cat efforts in other areas, but we are the original Collaboration Fest, and brewers know that.”
 
This year’s “People’s Beer” addition looks pretty bold; you’re literally crowdsourcing a beer.
Kurowski: “We wanted to give beer lovers a peek behind the curtain of what goes into creating a collaborative beer. I don’t know of any other beer festivals that offer this sort of opportunity to the general public.”
 
How would you recommend new festival-goers tackle the event? 
Krause: “Step outside of your comfort zone for a few hours. Try a style of beer you’ve never had before, from a brewery you’ve never heard of.”
 
What’s the craziest collaboration this year? 
Krause: “The media collab! Members of the local media were invited to brew a beer with Wibby Brewing Company. This year, they produced the Throwing Stones Stienbier, a well balanced, caramelly, slightly smoky beer with Vienna and Munich malts.”
 
Kurowski: “For me, Upslope and Santa Fe; they’re using roasted huitlacoche (corn fungus!) as part of the Southwest Common Ale. They call huitlacoche the ‘New Mexico Truffle.’ ”  
Tobias Krause of Two Parts Event Management Courtesy Lexa PR

Tobias Krause of Two Parts Event Management. Courtesy Lexa PR

How has the festival changed since it began four years ago, and how would you like to see it grow?
Kurowski: “The organic growth of Collab Fest is so beautiful. We are not pushing to grow this event, it’s just happening. The first year we had about 50 beers—we are now up to 122. We can’t make the brewers collaborate and brew, all the growth is coming from brewer interest and desire to participate.”

You can only drink one beer for the rest of your life. What do you choose? Krause: Great Divide’s Denver Pale Ale.
 
Kurowski: “Impossible to answer. That is what makes craft beer so wonderful. Thirty-five years ago, Americans basically only had one style of beer to choose from. Craft beer gave us choice and freedom and I don’t even want to think of a world where that is not possible.”
 

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