Collaboration to the Extreme


Collaborative brewing has always been around, but it feels like it’s becoming more and more popular. The concept is great - instead of one brewer trying to come up with an idea for a beer, you combine forces, growing the overall creative power behind what that beer could be. While collaboration between breweries isn’t a new concept, it’s becoming more and more popular for brewery to collaborate with outside entities like record labels, celebrities, and even iconic doughnut shops.

One of the most intriguing collaborations I’ve seen recently was that of Rogue and Voodoo Doughnuts. They came together and creative the iconically bright pink Maple Bacon Porter. While I personally didn’t care for the beer – it smelled distinctly like maple syrup and was extremely sweet – the fact that these two entities were able to combine their creativity and come up with something that hadn’t been seen before should be applauded. Additionally, as mentioned, the iconic pink bottle jumps out at you no matter where it’s sitting on the shelf.

So we’ve established that collaborations are great and creative recipes are great, but at what point does creativity go off the deep end?

In one of it’s latest collaborations, Rogue seems to have pushed the envelope a bit too far. Combining forces with another local Portland icon, Rogue and Powell’s Books are brewing up an anniversary beer in honor of Powell’s 41st. This brew, aptly names White Whale Ale, was inspired by the classic novel Moby Dick. Michael Powell was inspired to become a bookseller when he happened upon a first edition of this Herman Melville classic in a box of books he had purchased. It seemed only fitting that this be the basis for the collaboration.

While this sounds fairly normal, the book being the basis for the beer was taken a bit too literally, with pages from an actually copy of Moby Dick being added to the brew kettle. While this definitely pushes beer where it’s never gone before, one has to take a step back and ask “so, why?”. What good does adding paper and ink to a beer do for the beer itself? As far as I can tell, nothing, but in full disclosure I have not had this beer.

I believe this is an example of trying too hard to be different and innovative. You have to give these two credit for coming up with something that no one has done, but while innovation and creativity are amazing, there’s always a line. This crosses the line from creative to just plain eccentric. How much of this was done for the sake of the beer and how much was done for the sake of getting press? If you think about it, in a collaboration with a book store it kind of, almost, sort of makes sense, but to see it actually happen takes it to that next extreme.

I’d be very curious to know how this beer is as well as any reasoning behind how adding the pages of the book could actually help enhance the beer. Have you had it? Let me know what you thought!

  • Hannah Smith

    I agree that Rogue has gone off the deep end with this collaboration. Personally, I think Rogue has always been better at branding than it has been at making great beer. Yes, it was somewhat genius to connect their brand with that of two beloved Portland icons, but if the results are not great (or absolutely terrible in the case of the Voodoo doughnut beer) I think it ultimately hurts their brand.

    I also think Rogue is loved far more outside of Oregon than it is within the state, especially since the pricing of their 22oz bottles is very expensive for the Portland market.