In craft beer’s never-ending quest to create something new and different, collaboration beers began as an expression of friendship and mutual respect between two or more brewers. For example, when I learned that the brewhouse from DIX BBQ & Brewery in Vancouver had been bought by the owners of Brassneck Brewery, I proposed to their brewer/co-owner, Conrad Gmoser, that he, Derrick Franche, and Tony Dewald do a brew together on the system they had each used.
So was born the Spirit of DIXmas Past IPA, a bold West Coast IPA that DIX was legendary for. Today, it is brewed at an annual gathering of the three brewers at Brassneck, timed to come out just before the Christmas holidays. Its release at Brassneck spawns an impromptu reunion of DIXheads, the hophead regulars who held their own New Orleans-style funeral wake when the Mark James Group brewpub closed.
These days, collaborations – like brewmasters dinners and tap takeovers – have become rather everyday. To make a statement, you need to come up with a unique angle, such as the Red Racer Across the Nation Collaboration for Canada’s 150th anniversary. This was a 12-pack of collaborations Central City’s brewer, Gary Lohin, made with one brewer from each province and territory in the country, which I shared at the China Craft Brewers Conference Industry Night in Shanghai in May.
Now, 京A Brewing in Beijing is taking it to another level with their annual 8×8 Brewing Project. Each year, the Project will pair eight breweries from Greater China with eight breweries from a chosen region around the world, to brew eight collaboration beers. They will then be showcased at the 8×8 Festival in Beijing. For this, its inaugural year, the featured region is the Pacific Northwest.
Recently, I was on hand to witness the first collaboration between a Canadian brewery and a brewery in China. TAPS Brewpub in Shenzhen and Vancouver’s Parallel 49 Brewing were paired up for the 8×8 Brewing Project after Ben Love of Gigantic Brewing recommended P49’s Graham With. Both breweries are big fans of hops and like to experiment with sour and nitro beers. Thinking about their Lemon Drop Session IPA, but wanting something stronger for November, TAPS suggested a “Sweet and Sour” IPA as a play on North American Chinese food. It would also be dispensed on nitrogen.
P49 was tasked to create the first test batch. TAPS would then make any necessary refinements for a second test batch, based on feedback from P49. On August 30, I stopped by P49 to watch Graham and his assistant brewer, Hiroshi Tsukada, start the first test batch. The recipe called for Superior Pale base malt, along with flaked oats and Carapils. Lactose was added to kettle sour the wort which was left to sour for a day. On September 1, when the target pH was reached, Hiroshi boiled the wort to kill off the lactobacillus, then added Denali, Equinox, and Zythos hops. Denali, Equinox, and Citra were used for the finishing hops.
On September 20, I returned to P49 to taste the first iteration of the TAPS-Parallel 49 Nitro Sweet and Sour IPA. Before arriving, I stopped at a nearby Canadian-Chinese food restaurant to pick up some sweet and sour pork, seafood fried rice, and deep fried wontons to see if the beer’s inspiration would suitably pair with it. As it turned out, not quite. Hiroshi felt the beer was a little too sour, lacked the necessary hop character one would expect from an IPA, and finished too dry. I concurred. It would have paired better with the pork had it been sweeter, although it nicely matched the deep fried wontons dipped in a sweet sauce.
(Video courtesy of James Dumbrill, TAPS.)
With Graham and Hiroshi’s feedback, TAPS brewer, Barrett Lione-Seaton, and his assistant, Elliot, made the second test batch at their Shenzhen brewpub. To dial down the sourness, he killed the souring at a higher pH. For added sweetness and a little more colour, Barrett added more Carapils malt and lactose; for a boost in mouthfeel, more oats. Finally, he dry-hopped using more finishing hops.
While Barrett was away in the United States, TAPS owner, Daniel Dumbrill, snuck a taste from the tank a few days ago. The verdict? “Incredibly juicy with the right amount of sweet and the right amount of sour… I keep thinking of Juicy Fruit / Jolly Ranchers and Starburst Candy when drinking this.”
(Photo courtesy of Daniel Dumbrill, TAPS.)
The TAPS-Parallel 49 Nitro Sweet and Sour IPA will debut on November 3 at the first annual 8×8 Festival in Beijing, along with seven other China-Pacific Northwest collaborations. This will be the first time that Graham and Barrett will meet face-to-face.
I asked Graham if he sees this collaboration leading to other activities for him with TAPS or in China, but he didn’t imagine it would. Nevertheless, he’ll be visiting Hong Kong and Chengdu with Ben Love before arriving in Beijing. The experience could change his mind. At the very least, he should pay TAPS a visit, since it’s easily reached from Hong Kong.
If you’ve been thinking about checking out the growing craft beer scene in Beijing, the 8×8 Festival is an ideal opportunity to do so. You’ll enjoy 136 special brews and meet many who are actively advancing China’s craft beer community. Beyond the festival, I recommend you book a Beijing craft brewery tour by tuktuk for an unforgettable brewpub crawl. And for the experience of a lifetime, be sure to take a Great Leap on the Great Wall.
For flights to Beijing, check TripAdvisor now. You’ll also need to secure a China visa ASAP, unless you plan to transit through Beijing to another country, in which case you can qualify for a 72-hour visa-free stay in the capital. EAST, Beijing Hotel is just down the road from the festival venue. They’re offering attractive rates on November 3 & 4 for anyone attending. Contact CharlesJin@swirehotels.com for reservations.