When I write about a beer, I am drinking that beer. How else would I know what to write? Often if I am merely reading about beer… whether it is news or history, I will have a beer. It just seems right. Recently, while sampling some of the New Belgium Fat Tire and Friends collaboration brews, I came across a story about the history of Pilsner Urquell that got me thinking about what a collaborative process brewing has always been. These days many people seek out collaboration brews because it is a sure fire way to get something that people have never had previously and perhaps may never have again. It speaks to the artistic side of brewing… borrowing paints from another brewers palate, if you will. This is much the case with the origins of Pilsner Urquell.
It might be argued that the beers of the past are not the same as the beers today. While this is probably true for many reasons, not the least of which would be refrigeration, it does not alter the fact that that the lore that surrounds some of the most classic and iconic styles brands (macro brands) can be as cool a story as any collaboration story one would find today.
I would encourage everyone to take a second the next time you sit down with your favorite (or even one that might not be your favorite) beer to google the history of that brewery or beer or style. You just might learn something that will surprise you and allow you to appreciate it that much more. This was the case with me and Pilsner Urquell. Pilsners may be a little boring to some people, myself included, with the wide varieties of styles that are available. However, to me it is important on some level to know that without German and Bohemian brewers venturing to Britain and British brewers willing to share their secrets of malting and brewing, an entire range of lighter colored beer styles might not ever have happened. That in turn might mean that my favorite barrel-aged pale sour lager from a little brewery in Massachusetts called Jack’s Abby (which isn’t available in Florida) might never have been made.
If you need some other collaborative beers to fuel your research, you might want to check out the New Belgium Fat Tire and Friends or the Sierra Nevada Beer Camp variety packs. Or if you want something a little less mainstream one of my current favorite collaboration projects is Jolly Pumpkin / Stillwater Artisanal Pinchadiscos.
Rick Swartz, Beer Consultant