This past Saturday at Base Camp Brewing, 16 breweries and 2 cideries got together in the spirit of camaraderie to share some new experiments in malts, hops and yeast for the second annual Collabofest. With offerings from Ex Novo, Ecliptic, Burnside, The Commons, Gigantic, Stormbreaker, Breakside, BTU, Base Camp, Culmination, Widmer Bros., Fat Head’s, Occidental, HUB, Laurelwood and Baerlic (and Cider Riot & Reverend Nat’s), there was a serious amount of tasting to do from a bold selection of suds. Paired up and working together to create two unique beers, each company got to flex their creative spirit with uncommon recipes and inspired mixtures. And I got through it all without drinking a single IPA.
If you missed this year’s Collabofest, there’s still hope! Participating breweries will be pouring their special #PDXNOW beers in taprooms until February 29, 2016, or until the kegs run dry. To help navigate the myriad of recipes, follow N&C contributor Graham Bell’s facial expressions in his patented Graham-O-Meter to see how he felt about each of his five favorite collab-brews.
@CommonsBrewery #PDXNOW #NOFILTER (w/ Burnside Brewing)
I’m always a bit hesitant with beers that take their spice from peppers (probably because I had a near-death experience with a ghost pepper brew once), but Commons is a solid brewery that knows its way around the more fruity flavor profiles. Anyone that’s had the Burnside Brewing Sweet Heat knows the basic gist of it, but the Commons #nofilter took that heat and put it on the back burner so that it added just the right touch to the serious fruit flavors that continued throughout each sip. It wasn’t light and gimmicky, but was instead one of the more complex beers I had at Collabofest.
The #PDXNOW Love Van (w/ Gigantic Brewing)
I was anxious to see what Gigantic came up with (a totally serviceable nut brown with a little roast on the back), but was more impressed with what Stormbreaker did with their Love Van. It’s a rich, earthy brew with a chewy mouth and not a hint of syrupy sweetness. The flavors evolved a little, and there were definite notes of chocolate on the aftertaste, but that wasn’t the most prominent. Instead, at 9%, this brooding beverage was one of the heavier offerings, but very much worth its weight.
Nightfall #PDXNOW Black Pilsner (w/ Ex Novo Brewing)
A black pilsner? What? Ecliptic’s Nightfall starts off with the crisp, classic pilsner body, but immediately surrenders to fuzzy, dark notes that spread out on the tongue. It has the same kind of chocolate, malty profile as a CDA or Black IPA, but without any of the overwhelming hops to kill off the warmth and depth. This was probably one of the more surprising beers at Collabofest. It offered a decidedly Northwest take on a traditional recipe, and really shone through.
Rauch You Like a Hurricane #PDXNOW Smoked Doppelbock (w/ Widmer Bros.)
Sometimes drinking a rauchbier is like sticking your mouth on the exhaust vent of a BBQ restaurant. Sure, you get all that savory smell and smoke, but there’s no substance. Fat Head’s Rauch You Like a Hurricane is a smoked dopplebock that is surprisingly well-balanced and avoids the pitfalls of other smoked beers by introducing a little spice that primes your tastebuds and gets your ready for the complexity of this particular style. The blend of spice and smoke take the palette into a territory approaching a cigar club, but stop before any of the bitterness takes hold.
Metal As Bock! #PDXNOW (w/ Fat Head’s Brewery)
Widmer’s an old mainstay in the NW brewery circuit, so it should come as no surprise that they were at this festival. Plus, they’ve done some good experimenting in their more recent limited releases, so I was pleased to see more of that. Their offering was dark, but it didn’t kick you in the face with overwhelming flavors. Instead there was a little bit of chocolate, a little bit of heat, and then the slight taste of snow. Yes, like when you go outside and eat a handful of snow. Just a touch of that with a dry finish and mouthfeel.
Photos by Jess N. Pierson