Of all of the great one-liners muttered by the late, great Hunter S. Thompson, “Good people drink good beer” is far down the list. It is, though, at best the most logical and, at worst, the least crass and profanity-laden of his attributed maxims.
It’s actually an old Celtic saying, the Good Doctor told us, “Which is true, then as now. Just look around you in any public barroom and you will quickly see: Bad people drink bad beer. Think about it.”
Good and bad beer is, of course, subjective, but there are plenty of both good and bad beers (just as there are good and bad people, according to the Gonzo journalist). But his message, I think, is that beer is a commonality between people of like minds. We tend to gravitate toward those people who share principles and passions, who challenge and inspire us, and who, in the best scenarios, like the same beer as we do.
Collaboration in craft beer is a blatant manifestation of that. And an examination of the brewers who are choosing to work together is an interesting case study. In many cases, we find ourselves overjoyed that two breweries we like are getting together to make a brew, hopefully one we can get our hands on. It’s like finding out your literary idols used to get together and share creative ideas... over a beer, of course.
In the best cases, a collaboration will ensure you can get your hands on beer from a brewery you’d heard about and yearned to try, but haven’t had a chance due to distribution or proximity or one of the various reasons you’d been missing out. This leads me to the recent dark farmhouse ale collaboration between one of my favorite local breweries, Oxbow, and Monkish in California.
Torrance's Monkish Brewing Company has build a reputation in certain sectors of the beer world for crafting opaque, orange juice Double IPAs.
This isn’t a fair reduction, though. In fact, Monkish began their operation with the intent on making mostly sour-forward beer. There was even a sign that read, in part, “No IPA.”
The beauty in this style of beer is the forced consideration.”
With their collaboration with Oxbow, they’ve gotten back to their original gameplan.
The beer was brewed with 95% Maine grains, including a portion of organic triticale, a hybrid of rye and wheat. It was fermented with brettanomyces, lactobacillus, and saison yeast then aged in oak for more than a year. This is how Oxbow does it, generally, with a patience that borders on pathological. If I were at their Portland-based bottle/blending facility, I’d be pouring samples off the barrels daily until they fired me.
Ish pours soft brown, heavy with carbonation, and little to no head. The aroma is of light funk punctuated by souring dark fruit pits. Smells great. It’s a light bodied beer despite the color, but full of acidity. It finishes with a sour funk that’s welcomed rather than off-putting, more along the lines of a well-crafted champagne than a beer.
The beauty in this style of beer is the forced consideration. There’s a lot going on. From the initial sniff, through the beginning, middle, and finish, there’s a complexity both in the composite and the minutiae. There’s a different discovery in both the whole and the specific in each sip. It’s a sipper, even at just 7%, a good beer to be shared and considered with good people.