When businesses compete for the same share of the market, it's pretty rare to find them working together. It's a fair bet that you'll never see McDonald's and Burger King collaborate to make a special edition super-burger.
Yet in the brewing industry, that's often exactly what happens.
"This is one of those rare industries where you find a lot of cooperation," says Robert Sizemore, owner and head brewer of Sleepy Dog Saloon and Brewery in Tempe. "There are a lot of businesses where it's very cutthroat. It's you or me. I don't see it playing out that way in the brewing industry very much."
And here in the Valley, it's led to the creation of an entirely new beer.
(Learn more after the jump.)
In early April, head brewer at Four Peaks Brewing Co. Andy Ingram traveled to Chicago for the annual Craft Brewers Conference, a symposium of speakers and expositions showcasing the microbrew industry. Surrounded by fellow brewers, Ingram was struck by the amity and collegial feel of the conference.
"As I was flying back home, I realized that we kind of miss that here," Ingram says. "We don't really have that camaraderie, we don't really get together to do stuff."
To remedy the situation, Ingram sent out emails to breweries around the valley asking them to come join forces to unleash an entirely new beer upon the world. Six local breweries bit: Old World Brewery, Papago Brewing Company, Sleepy Dog Saloon & Brewery, SanTan Brewing Company, Sonoran Brewing Company and SunUp Brewing Company.
During American Craft Beer Week, May 17-23, brewers from all six businesses traveled to the Four Peaks brewhouse to create their masterpiece -- though it did take some effort.
"Getting a bunch of brewers together is a lot like herding cats," Sizemore says. "I think the breweries in town have pretty unique styles and approaches to the way they go about recipe formulation and brewing. There were a lot of cooks in the kitchen."
After a flurry of suggestions (and just a little argument) the brewers finally decided on a style: an India pale ale made with rye malt. They christened their baby Mötley Brüe RyePA, referencing the rowdy nature of the mob that created it.
Along with the fairly uncommon rye, the beer also has a unique hop bill, utilizing Apollo and Citra -- American Northwestern hop strains -- as well as the relatively new Sorachi Ace, a Japanese variety that's never been used in Arizona.
"If you're into American hops, you'll like it," Ingram says. "It's got a really heavy citrus flavor and aroma, but the rye brings something different to the table. Rye in beer is typically really spicy and sharp in flavor, so that in combination with the citrus is going to be great."
Ingram says he hopes this collaboration opens doors to new alliances between small brewers --something of great importance in America, where giant breweries producing cheap adjunct beer dominate the market.
"You may know something I don't know or have some technology I don't, but if you're willing to share with me, it's not going to come back and hurt you," Ingram says. "It's only going to help you. It's not us against each other; it's us against bad beer."
Getting to spend a day messing around with other brewers isn't so bad either.
"It's just fun," Sizemore says. "At the end of the day you can go to a conference or a trade show, see the guys you compete with, and still have good relationships -- and afterwards, you go crack a pint."
The Mötley Brüe RyePA is on tap now at all the participating breweries. Taste the teamwork!
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