Collaboration beers are an interesting lot. Sometimes the idea is to bring together a brewer with a non-beer partner. Think about someone brewing a barrel aged stout using wine or bourbon barrels from a vintner or distiller. Other times it is about a few brewers getting together and bringing forth something off the wall that might not be economically or technically feasible by each on their own. Think about your local breweries getting together to make a seasonal brew like marzen or kolsch.
There is another category that feels a little more gimmicky. Recently New Pioneer Coop teamed up with Madhouse Brewing in Des Moines to brew an IPA using Iowa grown hops and Iowa malted barley. The result is Hoppelganger IPA:
If there is one thing that will strike you about this beer it is a slick sweetness that is the undertone of every other flavor. I am not a sweet beer guy—no raspberry radlers or blueberry whatevers—and there is a lot of sugar crossing your palate with this beer. There is so much sweetness that it really overpowers the malt and hop profiles.
The hops poke through occasionally, but nothing is particularly memorable. This may be a fault of the beer or the hops. In other beer brewed exclusively with Iowa or Midwestern grown hops I have found that the flavor and aroma is not the same as the varieties grown by the larger operations in the Pacific Northwest. Like a franchise latte, Cascade hops should be like all other Cascade hops. Whether this is due to terroir or the infancy of newer hop operations in the Midwest I do not know, but there is some ground to make up relative to the commercial hop products in other parts of the country. I applaud the effort to bring local producers along. However, I hope in the next few years that the results are stronger.
I also cannot get a read on Madhouse Brewing. I have had several of their beers, but I have not tried anything in a couple of years nor have I visited their new taproom in Des Moines. What is missing for me is their brewing point of view. Why would I pick a beer from Madhouse Brewing over say Big Grove in Solon or Peace Tree in Knoxville or any of the other fine establishments in the state of Iowa? This may be the question that bedevils the thousands of craft breweries in operation and the many others in the planning stages as customers get confounded with the paradox of choice.
Overall, I am left wondering why the collaboration had to exist for someone to bring Hoppelganger IPA to market: