Well, that's it. Indy-Man-Beer-Con 2015 is in the books. And while this acclaimed beer festival is always a good time, I think that this year's iteration is the best yet. In fact, after attending a couple of expertly-organized sessions drinking some of the UK's (and New Zealand's) best beer in the beautiful surroundings of Manchester's Victoria Baths, I'm calling it now: IMBC is the best beer festival in the UK.

Where else can you say "I drank an awesome orange vanilla milk stout in the bottom of a swimming pool?"

Indeed, there was a lot of standout beer this year. I was especially impressed by Yeastie Boys Stairdancer Pacific IPA, Magic Rock's Grapefruit High Wire and Chorlton's Waimea Sour. Oh yeah, and Tuatara's NZ Pilsner. Oh that's right--and the Cromarty vs. IMBC Bilberry Saison collaboration. Delicious. My hangover is coming back just reading this.

Speaking of collaborations, I had the privilege of speaking on a panel of experts (well, five experts and me) discussing the state of beer today, in Manchester and beyond. The talk eventually wound its way around to the topic of brewery collabs. While John Keeling, Mark Welsby, Paul Jones, Stu McKinlay, Connor Murphy and I were generally quite polite and in agreement about how exciting the current state of the industry is, I decided to give the people what they paid for.

Trying to be deliberately provocative, my opinion that collaborations are getting tired was met with a chorus of boos and heckles. It appeared as though I was successful. Ok, maybe I didn't need to be the blunt American I am quite as much.

Clarifying my position seemed to soften the audience a bit. (I'm convincing myself that the remaining hecklers were just drunk.) You see, I think collaborations are awesome. Vital even. This industry is built upon sharing ideas and knowledge. It'll be hard to burst this so-called craft beer bubble when breweries continue to support and push each other to produce the best quality beer possible. Being generous benefits us all and a beer festival like IMBC is the perfect place to partner up with some pals, get drunk on a brew day and show us what you got.

Nevertheless, I've observed an annoying trend in the world of collaborations. It seems that everybody is doing one with everybody. You ever notice when you're in a crowded room that you can hear people talking but can't hear what they say? Yeah, that's what collaborations are becoming for me.

Since collaborations can be exciting and are here to stay, I'd like to declare some ground rules to quiet down the noise. Follow these rules, and maybe we can actually hear what you're trying to say:

1.) Collaborations shall be carefully chosen. Breweries should ask themselves why a customer would care about both logos being on the label.

2.) Collaborations shall be done in the spirit of generosity. Each party shall bring something to the table. (An open ear for learning is more than sufficient.)

3.) Collaborations shall be brewed in the presence of each other. E-mail collaborations are not allowed.

4.) Collaborations shall be brewed between two breweries who have a relationship preferably outside of the confines of Twitter/Instagram (certain geographical exceptions can be made.)

5.) Collaborations shall not be done with the sole purpose of gaining market presence.

6.) Collaborations shall not be done with the sole purpose of using an established-brewery's kit because you don't have your own yet and you want to get your brand out there.

7.) Collaborations shall never be used as a way to ride on the coattails of another brewery's reputation. Bring your own ball to the game--whatever it may be.

And the most important rule of them all:

8.) Collaboration brews shall have an interesting story and be exciting for the customer.

Collaborations are a fantastic way to gain experience and knowledge, share ideas, be creative and overall have fun because, after all, this is beer! Yet, ultimately, it is important to be respectful of how it fits into the industry and pushes it forward to be the best it can be for everybody. Otherwise a collaboration is just more noise to get muffled along the way.

What say you?


Beer Sommelier