Tree Beer, Beer from Mars and More in Store at This Year’s Collaboration Beer Fest

Photo taken at Resolute Brewing with the brewers from Resolute & Westfax. Photo: Melissa Markle | M. Markle Photography

Photo taken at Resolute Brewing with the brewers from Resolute & Westfax. Photo: Melissa Markle | M. Markle Photography

Everything but the Ordinary on Tap March 16

By Monica Parpal Stockbridge

Beer drinkers love a good festival. And lucky for us, there are plenty of beer festivals in Colorado. But if there’s one festival that brewers look forward to the most, it’s Collaboration Beer Fest.

Scheduled for March 16, Collaboration Beer Fest is in its sixth year of bringing brewers from Colorado and around the nation together to make beers that have never been brewed before and may never be tasted again. Industry folks agree that it’s a brewers’ beer fest, where they get together to experiment and share their love of the craft.

Organized by the Colorado Brewer’s Guild and Two Parts, this year’s Collaboration Fest will host more than 200 breweries to serve over 100 beers, all completely original and totally tasty. Here are three of the collabs we’re especially excited about.

Resolute Brewing Company and Westfax Brewery Company

The brewers from Resolute Brewing Company and Westfax Brewing Company assembled in Resolute’s 15 barrel brewery in early January to brew a style neither had done before, known as a Bière de Mars. Translating to “Beer of March,” the choice seemed appropriate for a springtime beer festival. Before long, the brewers landed on the idea to do two versions of the beer, one fermented in stainless steel using a saison yeast and the other fermented in red wine barrels with 100 percent Brettanomyces — which they may dub the “Beer from Mars” in anticipation of a mercurial red hue.

This kind of creative riffing and departure from day-to-day beer styles is what makes Collab Fest fun, says Westfax head brewer, Alex Stansbury. “This lets us break out of that box,” he says. 

“It’s a good way to meet new brewers,” adds Resolute head brewer, Justin Burnsed. Both breweries opened in 2016, and Resolute will open a second location in northwest Arvada later this year to house a second taproom and a barrel aging space.

Woods Boss and Jagged Mountain Brewery and The Hidden Mother Brewery

The brewers from Woods Boss Brewing CompanyJagged Mountain Brewery, and Washington State’s The Hidden Mother Brewery first connected at GABF in 2018, and decided to create a special collab just a few months later, in time for Collaboration Fest.

“This is everyone’s favorite time,” says Woods Boss owner and head brewer, Jordan Fink. “(We) get to collaborate with brewers across the country, and also with our neighbors.”

Chad Bratt of Jagged Mountain Brewery agrees. He loves Collaboration Fest because “every beer is brand-spanking new.” 

That’s certainly true of their chosen collaborative brew: a Norwegian-style Farmhouse beer, also called a kviek, brewed with a special extra ingredient: a tree. With the help of a brand-new Stihl chainsaw fueled with food-grade canola oil, the brewers cut down a tree (legally), hauled it to Woods Boss, and shaped it into a “luge” that allows the hot wort to soak up the sappy, woody, floral notes of the pine during the boil. They chose a Ponderosa pine because it’s an accessible tree in both Colorado and Spokane, Wash., close to where the 10-month-old Hidden Mother brewery is located.

The Hidden Mother is no stranger to tree beers. Owner and Head Brewer Mike Detar previously brewed a pine tree saison with pink peppercorns, as well as a molasses porter, both with the pine tree luge method.

“We’re beer first,” Detar says. “We always start with quality beer as our foundation.” Then they build on that, introducing natural and organic ingredients like pine trees and hand-foraged morel mushrooms.

Fink, who cites inspiration from his days working for the forest service and NW Youth Corps, christened the beer, “There’s a Splinter in My Long Johns,” inspired by a quote from his colleague during the tree-cutting operation. We can only imagine.

Epic Brewing Company and Comrade Brewing

Collab Fest is a time to brew something outside your normal portfolio, and that’s just what the brewers at Epic Brewing Company and Comrade Brewing Co. have done. They chose a Dry-Hopped California Common, also known as a “steam” beer (a name originally influenced by Anchor Brewing’s iconic West Coast brew).

“No one wants to drink a pale ale (at Collaboration Fest),” says Nathanael Richardson, a brewer with Epic Brewing. That’s why they chose to do something neither brewery currently makes, and something a little less mainstream. 

“(All the beers) are special for that event,” adds Chris Velazquez, also of Epic Brewing.

“(Collaboration Fest) appeals to the A.D.D. beer drinkers have these days,” Comrade head brewer Marks Lanham says, referring to how contemporary beer drinkers tend to seek the latest craze. “It makes brewers have to be more creative,” Velazquez adds. 

The spirit of Collaboration Fest is visible at every brew day — the banter between brewers, the pints poured at nine in the morning, and the inventiveness and originality that go into each new recipe. Looking up at the mash tun during the Epic/Comrade brew day, Epic’s lead brewer Bryan Springer puts it well: “We all want to see each other succeed.”

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