The beer is good, but the 12-ounce can is a real hoot.
Collaborators Shaun O’Sullivan and Nico Freccia of 21st Amendment Brewery in San Francisco and Jamie Floyd of Ninkasi Brewing Co. in Eugene, Ore., have photo-shopped their faces unto the famous picture of Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin seated at the Yalta Conference in 1945. The side of the can is designed to resemble a 1940s-era newspaper with a banner headline screaming, Allies Win the War! (which happens to be the name of the beer).
The name, O’Sullivan elaborates, is “a play on the idea of rivals coming together for the greater good of the world.” He explained that he and Floyd worked together at the Steelhead Brewing Co. chain during the 1990s. Both won medals at the annual Great American Beer Festival competition for their interpretations of an English strong ale, a style this beer (measuring 8.5 percent alcohol by volume) is patterned after.
Normally, because of the position of your taste buds, you detect the sweet malt first on the front of your tongue and the bitter hops in back. Allies Win the War! somehow reverses those sensations. The impression on first sip is of a black IPA, thanks to a proprietary blend of pungent Pacific Northwest hops called Falconer’s Flight.
Only after the beer has passed your palate do you notice the sticky, rounded sweetness. Explains O’Sullivan: “Nico discovered the only place where dates are grown and processed in the Western Hemisphere: Indio in California’s Palm Desert.” The partners wanted a unique California ingredient to complement the Oregonian hops, so they chopped up the dates, placed them in a secondary vessel and transferred the fermenting beer on top of the fruit, allowing the sugars and subtle fruit flavors to leach into the brew.
Allies Win the War! might very well be the first collaboration beer in a can.
Normally, cans have to be purchased preprinted in lots of about 100,000 or higher, which makes them unsuitable for small-batch, one-and-done releases. You don’t want to have tens of thousands of cans languishing in a warehouse bearing the name of a beer you have no plans to brew again.
According to O’Sullivan, the collaborators did a test batch at 21st Amendment’s San Francisco brewpub, then scaled up the recipe for national production at Cold Spring Brewing Co. in Cold Spring, Minn. This 154-year-old regional brewery sports a sizable 100-barrel brew house and has found a new lease on life through contract brewing. (O’Sullivan prefers to call it “partner brewing,” noting that 21st Amendment, instead of just phoning in a recipe, has supplied Cold Spring with both manpower and equipment. “We’re out there a lot, we’re very hands on.”)
Allies Win the War! debuted last month. The brewers promoted the new release with stops in Washington, Baltimore and New York City, including a 21st Amendment/Ninkasi beer dinner at Birch & Barley on Nov. 14.
“Every year we plan to do a collaboration,” notes Freccia, although the 2012 effort won’t be the same recipe and won’t even be a collaboration with a brewer. “We’re looking for artists, musicians, foodies, any sort of people that we feel are aligned with our efforts.”