American breweries have been cranking out world-class individual efforts for years now. But recently, many breweries have been engaging in remarkable joint ventures.
Drawing on the beer geek values of cooperation, creativity and innovation, brewers across the country are making field trips to other breweries and documenting their visits through the process of fermentation. The resulting collaboration beers have become a defining feature of the American craft brew industry.
While hardly the first to try their hands at it, Barrier Brewing of Long Island has grown into one of the most prolific collaborators in the country.
Recent partners include New York City brewers Other Half, Interboro and LIC Beer Project, as well as Sloop in the Hudson Valley, Sand City on Long Island, Burial of North Carolina and a three-way venture with Danish brewery Mikkeller (now in San Diego) and Thin Man of Buffalo, among many others.
Barrier recently partnered with upstate brewery Prison City with plans to release another collaboration brewed in their Auburn facilities very soon. While almost every brewery has partnered with somebody, Barrier has proven a uniquely adept collaborator.
Barrier came to collaboration brewing quite literally by accident.
The brewery was founded just inland from Long Beach in 2009 and quickly outgrew its initial space. A new facility in Oceanside opened only months before Hurricane Sandy made landfall in 2012, flooding the brewery and destroying virtually all its equipment.
Recovery was directly supported by the beer community, especially in Long Island, allowing Barrier to continue production and distribution while rebuilding over the course of four months. Ommegang of Cooperstown also helped by using a Barrier recipe to brew and bottle Barrier Relief Ale in 2013 – the hoppiest beer then produced at the Belgian brewery.
Collaboration was a driving force of recovery at Barrier Brewing and continues to be so today.
Owing to the nature of production, collaboration beers almost always are one-off brews with limited availability. Collaborations which are available today will likely be gone tomorrow. But in the years since 2013, Barrier has grown especially strong in the production of IPAs – no small feat in a market saturated with this style.
Their flagship IPA is called Money, which finally is reaching extensive distribution in upstate New York and features the wild label art of Daniel F. Birch. It’s a hop-forward but well-balanced version of the style worth sipping while we all await the next collaboration brew.
This week’s recommendation: Money IPA, Barrier Brewing Company, 7.3 percent ABV, Oceanside, New York.
—Jon Hill is a writer, historian and craft beer enthusiast from the village of Poland, New York.