This is what Beer Collaborations actually look like.

This post is long overdue and I’m pretty confident that Tu Meke is actually sold out everywhere (with the exception of the few kegs we saved for Vancouver Craft Beer Week) so I won’t write about how happy we were with how the beer turned out and how you should rush out there to try it.  However, I wanted to write a quick post in response to Stephen Smysnuik’s Westender article titled “This Is What Beer Collaborations Actually Look Like”.

Let me preface this by stating that I like Stephen and what he wrote was on point in regards to the actual brewing process (a lot more boring than you think) and how a collab brew day normally shakes down (also a lot more boring than you think). I’m really here to touch on one part of a sentence in Stephen’s article, “the real action – the collaboration part – happened weeks before,” and to let you know how this whole Tu Meke business started with our friends at Strange Fellows and VCBW. Here we go!

  • Jan 28th, 11:30am: I sit down with Chris & Leah from VCBW where they ask me if S&O would like to host the Annual VCBW Collab Brew and the brew day. I remind them how small we are, they say “that’s what we are going for this year”, I gladly accept!
  • Jan 28th, 11:35am: I sheepishly let our Operations Manager and man bun enthusiast Brian know that we need to cancel a Smoked Hefe brew in order to fit in this VCBW beer. His blood pressure rises and another year is probably shed from his life.
  • Jan 28th, 11:40am: I talk with my business partner Jamie and our Front End Manager Daniel on who we should pick as our co-collaborator. Dan loves his Strange Fellows sweater so we decide to give them a call. Kidding, we love their beer so we decided to give them a call.  Dan does love his SF sweater though…
  • Jan 29th, 9:00am: Iain & Aaron from Strange Fellows gladly accept our invitation to collaborate and an initial meeting is set up.
  • Jan 29th, 9:01am: I tell our brewer Eric to figure out what style he’d like to do.
  • Jan 29th, 9:02am: He says Saison, with Elderberries.
  • Feb 12th, 5:00pm: Eric, Iain and I sit down and talk Saisons at Strange Fellows. Iain is wearing sunglasses because of an eye issue. I have my son Jude and my wife Alissa with me because we’re headed up to Whistler after. Eric has his backpack and a bag of dried Elderberries. Typical sit-down.
  • Feb 12th, 5:30pm: It’s decided that Elderberries aren’t the way to go, we toy with the idea of pomegranate juice but worry about stability.
  • Feb 12th, 5:35pm: Iain mentions that way back in the day a home-brew buddy found these weird Tasmanian Pepperberries and it tasted really interesting. We decide that we want to try it. Eric says let’s use New Zealand hops. Everyone high-fives with the exception of my son Jude who’s only 6 months and can’t put it together yet.
  • Feb 15th, 12:01pm: Eric can’t find Tasmanian Pepperberries anywhere outside of Tasmania.
  • Feb 15th, 4:55pm: Eric finally locates a small bag of Pepperberries in Seattle. Big enough for a small batch pilot brew to test them out.
  • Feb 19th, 8:05am: The pilot brew begins. Everything goes well. We all try a Pepperberry and realize they are sweet up front but taste incredibly spicy on the finish. Our assistant brewer Chardonnay keeps scratching at his tongue. We all poke fun at him and he goes home early.
  • Feb 20th, 10:37am: Eric finally finds a supplier that can get us the amount of Pepperberries needed for the big Collab Day. They are from Tasmania. This beer is by no means “local”.
  • Feb 22nd-Mar 28th: A lot of logistical planning starts over the actual Collab Day. Who’s catering, who’s coming, who’s working, who’s bringing beer, how are we going to fit everyone… While this is happening we are also planning the name, label design, release dates, sales strategy, etc.
  • March 29th, 8:00am: VCBW COLLAB BREW DAY! This could be a post all on its own but basically read Stephen’s article, then add in awesome BBQ from Re Up, lots of beers from your favourite local breweries and about 80 brewers descending on New West to drink, eat and chat.
  • March 29th, 11:00am: Iain and the Strange Fellows gang roll in apologizing for being late.
  • March 29th, 11:30am: The pilot batch of Tu Meke we did a month earlier is put on tap and is enjoyed by all. Eric and Iain sigh with relief as with Collab Brews you often don’t have a lot of time to do smaller batches in order to dial in the recipe. Iain and Eric pose for a photo which is promptly put on our Instagram account.
  • March 29th, 4:30pm: The brew is almost complete and everyone is sitting outside enjoying the sun. Adam Crandall from Moody Ales hasn’t shown up which is weird because that guy loves free beer and BBQ.
  • March 29th, 7:00pm: About 20 people are left as it’s a Tuesday. The folks that are still here either don’t have kids, have Wednesday off, or have forgotten that it’s a Tuesday.
  • March 29th, 11:34pm: Ben Coli from Dageraad is trying to figure out if he can safely ride his bike home to Vancouver. He heads to the Skytrain instead.
  • March 29th, 11:58pm: I crawl into bed happy with how the day turned out. Jude wakes up, I remember that it’s Tuesday.

And a month and a half later here we are! The excitement of VCBW upon us, we have a great cause to support in Music Heals, and of course a beer that we are proud of.

So yes, although boring on the outside, collab brews are a fantastic way to work with people you like and admire, all while throwing a massive party for 80 of your brewery friends.

Cheers to a collaborative industry!
Jorden