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Let’s Be Friends: The Collaboration Mombo

Lately there have been some interesting collaborations, and some collaborations that frankly leave me scratching my head a little.  A couple days ago my brother Jim posted about a collaboration that Dogfish Head did with Google.  They came up with URKontinent, which by all accounts is a pretty tasty beer.  Then yesterday they came out with the news that they are wrapping up a collaboration with the band Pearl Jam and will be releasing Faithful Ale, a beer named after a Pearl Jam song and celebrates the band’s 20th anniversary.

This is nothing new for Dogfish Head, as they have done many different collaboration brews, but I have to wonder about some of the latest ones.  I understand collaborations with other breweries.  It fits with the craft beer mindset that these breweries shouldn’t necessarily compete, but they can collaborate to make great beer.  Share ideas to come up with new and interesting beers, and promote the idea that the cutthroat competition between the big breweries is not what they are about and that a rising tide raises all ships.  And there have been some truly great ones in the past like Life and Limb the collaboration between Sierra Nevada and Dogfish Head, Saison du BUFF the three way collaboration between Victory, Dogfish Head, and Stone , Collaboration not Litigation the great collaboration between Avery and Russian River, and the list goes on and on.

What I don’t understand are the collaborations where one side brings nothing to the beer.  I understand that these are more promotional stunts, but why not have a different category for them?  In the description of URKontinent for example, Google employees from around the globe suggested ingredients that then the brewers at Dogfish Head chose from a list and created a beer.  OK, my Mom could have sent them a list of ingredients to choose from.  Are they going to make the great collaboration between Dogfish Head and Charlotte Galligan?  I think not.  And now their most recent collaboration with Pearl Jam.  I’m sorry, unless they grind up a guitar and put it into the wort, this isn’t a collaboration in the truest sense.  Last year DFH came out with Bitches Brew in a “Collaboration” with Sony.  Seriously, Sony?

I guess what I’m getting at here is that these more questionable “collaborations” really aren’t collaborations at all.  They are partnerships for the mutual benefit of both companies.  They might as well put the dogfish head logo on Daryl Waltrip’s Stock Car and call it a collaboration.  This is marketing, pure and simple.  I have no qualms with innovative marketing, but lets get real here, when one party brings nothing but inspiration or a list of ingredients, that isn’t a collaboration.  It is a marketing partnership, and that is what it should be viewed as.  Just this humble blogger’s opinion.  What do you think?  Let us know in the comments.

-Don

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19 Comments on “Let’s Be Friends: The Collaboration Mombo”

  1. October 7, 2011 at 12:29 pm #

    I don’t that I can drink anything with “pearl jam” on the label. #youknowwhatimsayin

    I’m cool with it, but it’s silly to consider these collaborations. It’s really the brewer (almost exclusively DfH) being inspired by the other “collaborator,” making a beer they would have made anyway. The label art is fun and sometimes the beer is good.

    • Don
      October 7, 2011 at 3:42 pm #

      I agree that the label are it good. There are a couple other music “collaborations” that I can recall. Left Hand has their Fade to Black which is a Metallica inspired beer, and then there is 21st amendments Back in Black. I’m sure there are some others too, but those are the two that I can think of off the top that aren’t DFH beers. It seems like music and beer, and increasingly wine and music are starting to team up for their assaults on our pocketbooks. I just don’t know why these would be considered Collaborations.

  2. October 7, 2011 at 12:30 pm #

    I agree, it’s not a collaboration, it’s a sponsorship in essence. Also “Hellhound on My Ale” was a “collaboration” with Sony too as it coincided with a re-release of The Complete Robert Johnson tapes in some special box-set. They even had a joint website thing they did. That being said I love Robert Johnson and I loved the beer. So I’m okay with that one at least.

    • October 7, 2011 at 2:11 pm #

      Yeah, that beer was pretty awesome.

    • Don
      October 7, 2011 at 3:44 pm #

      I agree Ryan, you can get inspiration from a lot of places, but you aren’t going to collaborate with a sea turtle. Maybe their definition of collaboration has to do with $$ rather than the product? Its a bit muddled from my vantage point.

  3. October 7, 2011 at 1:15 pm #

    Yeah most of these music and other related collaborations I more consider tributes than collaborations. I feel like other than a topic, they aren’t bringing anything to the collaboration. I do however enjoy collaborations that have the different brewers contributing aspects of the ingredients.

    • Don
      October 7, 2011 at 3:47 pm #

      Tributes are another good way to think of it. And I too LOVE true collaborations where brewers are working together on beers. But when you have a head of lettuce and a rubber tire collaborating, the result isn’t a salad. So I just don’t get these things that are being called collaborations.

  4. Matt M
    October 7, 2011 at 2:08 pm #

    In DFHs defense they arent calling the Pearl Jam beer a collaboration. It’s a celebration of the anniversary of Ten. I like anything that advances the creative thinking in recipe design.

    • October 7, 2011 at 2:12 pm #

      Still, “pear jam?” Ew.

      • Matt M
        October 7, 2011 at 2:26 pm #

        Did I miss something? (it’s possible) The brew is called Faithful Ale.

    • Don
      October 7, 2011 at 3:52 pm #

      I beg to differ Matt, they do call this a collaboration. they say right on their site “Dogfish Head is also re-releasing its previous collaborations with Sony Legacy: the Miles Davis-inspired Bitches Brew and the Robert Johnson shoutout Hellhound on My Ale. All three collaborations will be available this month in 750-ml bottles and on draft.” Their words, not mine.

  5. Clayton
    October 7, 2011 at 2:35 pm #

    I never really thought of it that way but I agree… it’s kind of silly, but still fun nonetheless… I also really like Bitches Brew from DFH… with normal TV advertisements going the way of TIVO DODO, companies are scrambling for new ways to reach their target demographics… it’s a whole new world. 🙂

    • Don
      October 7, 2011 at 3:55 pm #

      I agree Clayton, but these aren’t collaborations in the same sense as they were in the beginning when two breweries would work together to make a beer that took each brewers best ideas and made a fantastic beer. This is more inspirational, and definitely driven by their need to find creative ways to market. Still I think they should come up with a different term than collaboration.

  6. October 7, 2011 at 6:39 pm #

    Totally agree. We kind of thought the same thing when we watched the Brew Masters episode with Bitches Brew, and figured it was some nifty marketing. But how many “collaborations” can you do before it’s no longer nifty and it’s just marketing?

    • Don
      October 10, 2011 at 9:15 am #

      Well Christine, don’t get me started about Brew Masters. That thing was doomed to failure from the very onset, because each episode was just a 60 minute infomercial for Dogfish Head. But I think we need to figure out how to differentiate between a true brewers collaboration and what is arguably a much more marketing driven approach.

  7. October 8, 2011 at 10:06 am #

    I agree with you Don that these are not brewing collaborations, but they are indeed business and marketing collaborations and should properly be labeled as such. I assume (though I don’t know it for a fact) that Google ponied up some cash to underwrite this effort.

    Another good example of this category of ‘collaboration’ is New Belgium’s ‘Clutch’. I think we can assume that the members of the band Clutch are not experts in zymurgy so they didn’t bring any brewing smarts to the ‘collaboration’. But in this case, the home locale of the band (Baltimore) did inspire the brewers (in Ft. Collins) to use local (Mid-Atlantic) ingredients in making a damn good brew. The band, in turn, got more publicity–it worked well for both of them.

    Having said all that, the excitement for us ‘true believers” is in those collaborations that blend the brewing smarts of breweries with very different brewing traditions, such as that highlighted by Sam in his New Zealand episode, when he collaborated with NZ’s Milton Brewery to produce ‘Punkin Ale’ and ‘Portamarillo’ for NZ’s Beervana.

  8. October 11, 2011 at 11:14 am #

    A collaboration between mom and Dogfish Head would be great. I wonder if Sam ever brewed a beer with tobacco… 😉

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