Athens Beer Week colla-beer-ations at the brewpub

Akademia Brewing Company has an event every day this week for Athens Beer Week, and both today and Saturday its team has collaboration beer releases on the books.

Morgan Wireman, head brewer and co-founder at Akademia, partnered with Peekskill Brewery and Cherry Street Brewing to make a double IPA and a dry-hopped saison for Night Owls to enjoy.

“The most challenging part about a collab is making sure the beer turns out well, seeing how it’s basically an ‘exbeeriment’ using ingredients and/or techniques that one or the other hasn’t used before,” Wireman said. “Alternatively though, it’s a chance for the brewers’ creativity and skill to shine.”

Amit Ram, head brewer at Peekskill Brewery in Peekskill, New York, agreed.

“You want to try a new yeast, you want to try a new hopping method, something you can roll the dice on, usually a collaboration is that opportunity. Plus, just sharing experiences and knowledge, that’s how you learn in this industry,” Ram said.

Wednesday: Peekskill collaboration double IPA

Take it to the Macs is a 9.6 percent DIPA with a nose of orange, vanilla, pine and wildflowers. It’s got flavors of star anise and guava with a hint of pineyness. The beer is named for Mac McMillan, Akademia’s head cellar dweller.

Peekskill and Akademia share a bookkeeper — Tammy Prince — who gave both the idea to do a collaboration brew. Wireman previously deemed Peekskill’s beer delicious, and recipe formulation began.

Peekskill Brewery opened nearly 10 years ago and was one of the original standout brewpubs in the Hudson Valley area, Ram said.

“It’s located right on the Hudson River, literally like 200 feet from the water,” he said. “It started as a brewpub that was a small, three-barrel system and then in 2012 … they built out the current location.”

The larger facility is a two-story taproom and restaurant with a 15-barrel brewhouse, producing up to 3,000 barrels of beer a year.

“I didn’t know much about the Georgia beer scene at all, and it’s great to have that exposure. And for bringing our beer and bringing our reputation and our name down,” Ram said. “[Akademia] also makes a rang of different beers, but I think definitely you have been hitting hard on the hop-forward IPAs and kind of making a name for yourselves down there. It kind of works with some of what we do. We like hoppy beers too, so we thought it would be great to make a hoppy beer.”

Ram said he and Wireman bounced off different hops that each has in their contracts to use, and after brainstorming, the team came up with using Azacca and Denali hops.

Saturday: Cherry Street collaboration saison

The second collaboration has a completely different flavor profile. The Lemon Drop dry-hopped saison is 6.8 ABV and opens with bubblegum on the nose. It’s got a rich, full body with hints of funk and clove, and finishes with notes of black pepper.

The saison made a couple Beer Week sneak peeks, first at the Chops & Hops tap takeover in Watkinsville, where Southern Brewing Company’s Allyson Hester tried it, and again at the brewpub’s beer dinner.

“I don’t usually gravitate toward saisons, personally, but it was a perfect balance of floral versus hoppy. Most saisons aren’t very hoppy, but I felt like the hops were well done in this one,” Hester said.

The saison collaboration has a relatively high final gravity for its style, but Nick Tanner, owner of Cherry Street Brewing in Cumming, Georgia, said it’s better to be up than down.

“We were intending to brew a nice, sessionable, slightly refreshing, slightly kind of spicy saison for the spring, and it’s still been kind of cool and damp so we figured this would be the perfect time to release it,” he said.

The beer is dry-hopped with Lemon Drop.

“We both haven’t really used Lemon Drop hops before, and we felt with the yeast [Akademia] was getting in, and the flavor profiles with the Lemon Drop hops we felt would pair with the springtime for a really nice brew,” Tanner said.

Tanner was raised in Atlanta and attended college in Colorado, where he began homebrewing. His homebrew club was Cherry Street Brewing Cooperative, named for the street they lived on. The club focused not only on beer, but also on community outreach, sustainability and education.

When Tanner returned to Georgia to work in the restaurant industry with his family, he took both the name and the philanthropic endeavors back with him, and turned one of his father’s restaurants into a brewpub.

“Our final approval came 12/12/12,” Tanner said. “My dad’s had restaurants in Atlanta for over 30 years now, so we’ve got a good reputation here in Atlanta and we’ve expanded a few times over the past five years.”

Several of those years included visits to Athens Beer Week and the Classic City Beer Fest, including the upcoming events this weekend.

“I really enjoy teaming up and getting with people who are doing the same things, and look at and approach beer the same way. That’s what Matt and Morgan are about,” Tanner said. “They’ve got good heads and they look at beer in a fun, unique way. I had a lot of fun brewing the beer with them.”

Morgan first discovered Cherry Street when he worked at 5 Points Growlers several years ago.

“My business partner Matt Casey had already been talking to Nick Tanner about doing a collab. They also use Modern Hops, the same distributor as us,” Wireman said. “Amit, Nick and Chris, Cherry Street’s head brewer, are all very skilled brewers and have been brewing commercially for a while. I learned quite a bit from all parties. We’re looking forward to doing more collaborations with them.”

View Akademia’s full line-up of Athens Beer Week events here!

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