Diary of a Christmas collaboration

Christmas CRCKR is a new collaboration between Beer Hawk, Fourpure and North Brewing Co. But why are collabs so important for the beer industry? Daniel Neilson finds out on brew day

It’s 10am in Bermondsey, South London, and North Bar and North Brewing Co’s co-director John Gyngell and North Brewing Co’s Head Brewer, Seb Brink, are on their second cup of coffee in the Fourpure taproom. Meanwhile, James Johnson, our snapper, is getting in the way of the brewers mashing in. Bags and bags of malts – Belgian, German and British – are being thrown into the huge stainless steel tun. The grist, as the blend of malts is called, is about to be mashed. Brew day is here.

Beer is an industry that loves a good collaboration. You see it all the time on cans and bottles. This one, Fourpure x North Brewing Co x Beer Hawk, is a first for us. It’s been months in the planning. Recipe ideas have been batted back and forth on a WhatsApp group, designers at Fourpure and North Brewing Co have discussed the can’s label. Meanwhile, the guys out selling it for all three companies have discussed how it will be sold, how it will be marketed (a feature in Hoptical for example) and how much to make. It’s been a fascinating insight, a window into discussions breweries have when making a beer.

An hour or so after mashing in, John Driebergen, Fourpure’s Head Brewer, shines his iPhone light through a glass tube to illuminate a reddy liquid. “This will be Christmas Crckr,” he says. “It’s looking perfect.”
Christmas Crckr is, well, a Christmassy beer. “A nice red colour seemed festive,” John says. “But we wanted to do something a little different, so we decided to add hazelnut.”

“It plays off the nuttiness in the beer,” Seb adds. “We’re playing off flavours that are already there.”
The talk turns to collaborations in general. Neither Jon or Seb are strangers to collaborations. “I think we’re a funny industry in brewing in that we openly tell our competitors what we do and how we do it,” Seb says. “It’s always interesting to have a different take on things when we make beer with other brewers.”

And part of that experience is having a drink, a gossip. Team Beer Hawk, team North Brewing and team Fourpure retire to a pub. General banter ensues. We’ve spent months organising Christmas Crckr, but taking a step back from the pub table and looking at the guys laughing, this is perhaps the real value of a collaboration: the bringing together of companies, of creative minds, of new friends. I come away convinced that collaborations push forward the beer world in many ways. But mostly, because it means better beer for everyone.


Or as part of our very special Christmas Selection Box