Beer collaborations highlight spirit of unity among brewers

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Colorado Strong, left, and Many Mountains are two recent collaborations that Broken Compass Brewing participated in. While both are India pale ales, they vary in flavor.
Jefferson Geiger/Summit Daily News

Creative collaborations are a simple concept, yet powerful when executed well. Whether it be two musicians coming together to belt out a unique song, authors writing a story as they alternate chapters or directors putting their spin on cinema, the joining of multiple minds can lead to wonderful creations.

I like to think of them sort of like superhero team-ups, and the brewing industry is no different. There’s even the annual Collaboration Fest held at the Fillmore Auditorium. I’ll often seek out collaborations and prioritize them from a menu when indecision strikes because I know I won’t be able to get the limited offering anywhere else.

However, large collaborations — such as Colorado Strong — can be an exception to the rule. Now in its second iteration, the initiative from The Colorado Brewers Guild and the Left Hand Brewing Foundation was released in November to benefit the Colorado chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Breweries keep 80% of sales while 20% of proceeds go to the alliance as well as the guild to support various programs.

Similar to Curtains Up, All Together, Black is Beautiful and other nationwide collaborations, a base recipe was provided to brewers. All participating breweries received the ingredients for free.

Broken Compass Brewing owner Jason Ford, a member of the board of directors for the guild, and fellow board member Dave Bergen of Joyride Brewing Co. developed the new recipe and settled on an India pale ale instead of going with last year’s pale ale.

Yet, breweries were free to adjust to their liking.

Colorado Strong can be brewed either as a West Coast or hazy IPA depending on the yeast chosen from Inland Island Yeast Co. Additionally, Root Shoot Malting provided Genie Pale and Vienna malts while the Colorado Hop Co. gave the options of Cascade, Chinook and Cashmere hops.

“We kind of gave a very broad palette of what we wanted the recipe to be, and everybody could put their touches on it,” Ford said.

Broken Compass ended up making two different versions for each of their taprooms. I sampled the clear IPA that was brewed in Steamboat Springs in collaboration with Storm Peak Brewing Co. and Mountain Tap Brewery.

It smelled fruity and tropical, and though I tasted some citrus upfront, it was drier and more vegetal on the tongue. At 5.8% alcohol by volume and 50 international bitterness units, it was well balanced and not too bitter.

Locally, Broken Compass teamed up with Angry James Brewing Co. and Outer Range Brewing Co. to release Many Mountains IPA earlier this month. It was the first time any of them had collaborated after months of the good friends talked about doing so.

Outer Range Head Brewer Lee Cleghorn reached out to the others. The trio became tighter during the coronavirus pandemic after Cleghorn canned to-go beers for Angry James and Broken Compass.

They bounced around some emails, and via a true collaborative effort, they landed on a West Coast-style IPA that was then brewed and canned at Outer Range. It was made with Golden Promise malt and an assortment of all Colorado-grown hops.

“It was nice to see everybody and hang out, and we used the time to share each other’s beers and catch up,” Cleghorn said. “… I know Ford loves his old-school hops, and AJ (Brinckerhoff, owner of Angry James) does too … and I went out and picked out the hops in Western Colorado from Billy Goat Hop Farms.”

The West Coast designation initially worried me, as I’m not a fan of IPAs that are so bitter they lack other flavor. However, a sweet, malty aroma and even maltier body greeted me from the 7.3% ABV, 55 IBU beer.

The piney notes eventually did catch up, yet I found the balanced hops have more flavor and punch than the Colorado Strong beer. It reminded me of North Peak Brewing’s Diabolical IPA in style and profile even though the recipes differ.

Both Many Mountains and Colorado Strong showcase the variety and complexity of hops. Both are also nearing the end of their availability, if they aren’t gone already, so get a pour while you can.

Jefferson Geiger is the arts and entertainment editor for the Summit Daily News and managing editor for Explore Summit. Have a question about beer? Send him an email at