All current Oregon Brew Crew members are eligible with one exception as noted in the restrictions below. Each member may submit up to two (2) total entries as brewer or co-brewer. Why is this? The Oregon Brew Crew is the Best, and Collaborator only wants the Best of the Best. We want your most creative, best realized, and best executed brews. Save your failed experiments for your free beer mooching brother-in-law.
As before, this is an open styles competition. You may use any technique or ingredient as long as it is safe and FDA-legal.
- You are NOT eligible if you are currently employed as a brewer. Let’s not get legalistic here, you know what that means. This competition is only for homebrewers. Yoostabees and wannabees are eligible.
- Your beer must be produced at home. This competition only wants homebrew. Beer produced in a professional brewery, including pilot systems, is not eligible. Beer produced at a “U Brew” is also not eligible.
- No bugs in fermentation: no lacto, pedio, brett or other non-saccharomyces bugs. Sour mash beer, is acceptable.
One way Collaborator Competitions are different from other homebrew competitions is that they require a detailed recipe. Widmer wants to know what you’ve put in your heavenly elixir before they commit to making it in their brewhouse. Please print off one recipe for each bottle, including fermentables, hops and spices, water and water treatments, and yeast variety and yeast propagation techniques. Do not forget to include your name and contact information (minimum e-mail address or phone number). Please use a standard 8 1/2 by 11 paper and fold it in thirds before attaching to the bottle with a rubber band.
We need a minimum of two 33cl or 12 oz. (or larger) bottles for the competition, one for the preliminary round and one for the taste-off round. You may subsitute one 22 oz. or larger bottle, however that is not recommended because your beer will be at a significant disadvantage during the taste-off round when compared to other entries poured from fresh bottles.
We also need two more bottles for a lab analysis at Widmer that is mandatory should your beer be selected. If your beer is selected and you do not have the analysis samples from the same batch of beer, your entry will be disqualified. If you submit four bottles with your entry, you will receive a complementary lab analysis from Widmer even if you do not win. This is an optional, free benefit to Collaborator participants.
All entries must be packaged in competition-ready bottles. That means: glass containers affixed with a crown cap, with all labels and markings removed. Raised lettering on a bottle is acceptable. Any cap markings must be obliterated with a Sharpie.
Please use rubber bands to affix your entry information. Do not use any form of adhesive (tape, glue, baby poo, whatever), unless you plan on coming to Steinbart’s to help out by licking off all offending sticky phenolic crud from your entry. If we cannot remove identifiable markings safely and completely, then your entry will be disqualified.
Summary: two bald competition bottles for the tasting by the entry date, two bottles for lab analysis (optional unless you win). Recipe printed on 8-1/2 x 11 paper. Use rubber bands, not tape.
Another significant difference in Collaborator competitions is that judging is not done on the traditional 50-point BJCP scale. In fact, we do not use numerical scores, nor do we compare your beer against the BJCP style guidelines. We judge your beer as would a professional brewer, a publican, or a knowledgeable beer consumer.
The judges may award from 0 to many Collaborator winner slots. In the past, we have had competitions where no winners were selected, as unlikely as that sounds. One time we did select four(!) winners. It is not a zero sum game: the better the entries are, the more beers will be selected.
Winners will be announced after the judging. Lab analysis results for those who submitted two extra bottles will be provided whenever Widmer publishes them, please allow several weeks.
Essay Contest (extra credit):
We would like you to include on your entry a description in 50 words or less why you chose to enter this beer in the Collaborator competition. What about this beer inspired you? What about it will inspire others? The essay will definitely be taken into account during the taste-off round to determine the eventual winner(s).
Widmer will pay for the ingredients for up to 5 gallons for each entry. The best way to do this is to direct charge at Steinbart’s (please call ahead to get instructions from Steinbart's staff). If you did not do so or purchased ingredients elsewhere, you are responsible for submitting your receipts to Widmer to be reimbursed.
Complimentary lab analysis, including gravity measurements and IBU, are discussed above.
Winning entries receive a potential slot in the Collaborator program. The brewers will be contacted when their beer is ready to be brewed – this may take up to a year or more. All official brewers and co-brewers will be invited to participate in the recipe formulation, brewing and marketing of the beer. At the time the beer is released, one (and only one) Collaborator jacket will be awarded to the winning brewer or team.
Hints and Tips:
Be expressive, authentic, and true to yourself in selecting which beer to brew or enter. Have your beer evaluated honestly before choosing an entry. In fact, try forming a small group of homebrewers to critique each others’ beers.
Above that, we are looking for great pub beers. That means something you will enjoy more than one pint of. We recommend that the O.G. be kept to 1.075 or below, but that is your call if you think you can seduce the judges with your high gravity brew.
We are looking for at least one (but not necessarily all) of the following:
• Drinkability: multi-pint potential.
• Wow factor: does the beer captivate without gimmicks?
• Unusual style: impress us with your arcane beer knowledge
• Execution: the better the beer in the bottle, the better your chances
History of the Collaborator Project
The Collaborator Project is a collaboration between home brewers in the Oregon Brew Crew and Rob and Kurt Widmer of Widmer Brothers Brewing. It all started when the Widmers' and fellow Oregon Brew Crew members were talking about how few craft beer styles were available. At the time, craft brewing was holding to the popular styles. If you lived in America and wanted a Belgian Wit or Schwarzbier, you had to depend on beers from Europe. The fact was that these esoteric styles would never be profitable for commercial breweries in the US.
Kurt and Rob looked at that as an opportunity and challenged the Oregon Brew Crew to have an annual competition where the best of the club’s beers, regardless of style, would brewed and served by Widmer Brothers Brewing.
In the spring of 1998, the first beer chosen was Scott Sander’s English Brown Ale. However, for whatever reasons, a Milk Stout was the first to be brewed and was served in the summer of 1998.
This Stout became known as the Collaborator Stout and was an instant success. Over the years, this Collaborator beer has probably been brewed more often than all of the subsequent Collaborator beers combined. Its popularity was further boosted when it became the AHA’s Big Brew recipe for National Homebrew Day in 1999. That was surpassed when Widmer Brother Brewing tweaked the original recipe and introduced the Collaborator Milk Stout as Snow Plow Stout in 2004 as their annual winter seasonal. This beer won a Great American Beer Festival gold medal. Snow Plow Stout is Widmer Brothers Brewing's best selling seasonal beer. Rob and Kurt honored the Oregon Brew Crew by including a short history of the Collaborator project and a Brew Crew Logo on the six pack holders.
All of this is not even the best part of the Collaborator Project. With every barrel of Collaborator beer that Widmer Brothers Brewing sells, they donate $4 to the Bob McCracken Scholarship Fund which supports students at the Oregon State University Fermentation Science program under the direction of Dr. Thomas Shellhammer.
As of the end of January 2011, Widmer Brothers Brewing has donated over $16687.00.
Walk in to the Widmer Gasthaus Pub any time of the year, and you’ll find a Collaborator beer or two on tap. Each year more Collaborator beers are chosen during the annual competition held in May for Brew Crew members. Will your beer be the next?
An article by Laurie Yadon entitled “Portland Collaborator Project” is listed in the table of contents of the March/April 2010 issue of Zymurgy as that issue’s “Online Extra”, which can be read on the AHA website. Thanks for a great article and great exposure for the Collaborator Project, Laurie!
Another article written by Brew Crew member Laurie Yadon about her Collaborator brewing experience was published in the November/December 2009 issue of the MENSA BULLETIN, a magazine published by American Mensa for its 50,000+ members. The article (“The Brew Crew”) is available here for download (3Mb), courtesy of American Mensa, Ltd.