The label is the same, but the taste varies among the 39 breweries making the Maine Brewers’ Guild Collaboration Beer. Photo courtesy of Maine Brewers’ Guild

You may have seen the eye-catching beer can label with a colorful depiction of the state of Maine and wondered which brewery it came from. If you look closely at the side of the can, you’ll see the brewery’s name. Then you might come across the same can and find another brewery’s name. That’s because the Maine Brewers’ Guild Collaboration Beer 2020 is a partnership between 39 breweries across the state that came together to raise money for the Guild and show support for each other during this challenging time.

“When markets are tight, the instinct is to differentiate, but our industry has grown through collaboration,” said Sean Sullivan, executive director of the Maine Brewers’ Guild. “Beer labels are an extremely powerful marketing tool, and for brewers to scrap their signature look in favor of one unified brand, for even a single beer release, is a visual demonstration of their commitment to each other.”

The idea came about after suppliers like Crosby Hops, Maine Malt House and others reached out to the Maine Brewers’ Guild with offers to help the industry through a donation. Other donors include Yakima Chief Hops and Blue Ox Malthouse.

Brewers hopped on Zoom to develop the recipe. IPA was the agreed-upon style before the call, and a list of available donated ingredients was given ahead of time. After about 45 minutes, 13 Maine brewers hammered out the recipe using Simcoe, Amarillo, Azacca, Ekuanot and Idaho 7 hops, Blue Ox American Vienna malt and Maine Malt House wheat malt.

“It was decided that each brewery would use their own base malts and their own yeast, to ensure uniqueness of each brew,” said Sullivan. “There is a lot of talk about hops in the beer community, but malts and yeast can really change the taste of a beer. I think people will be really surprised to see just how different each of these beers will taste.”

Try a side-by-side tasting to see for yourself. You might discover each one to be a reflection of that brewery’s philosophy. Take Moderation Brewing Co.’s iteration. Its version is a bit on the sweet side, playing up the malt characteristics, in line with their malt and yeast-focused style. Then there’s Bissell Brothers Brewing – a light hazy yellow in color and hops all the way down, characteristic of their signature hops-forward style. Austin Street Brewery’s version is a balanced brew with a rich caramel color, while Mast Landing is a darker caramel that balances slightly bigger flavors. By the way, the label art was designed by Mast Landing co-owner Parker Olen, who often donates his time and talent to help the guild with graphics.

Besides a fun sensory experience, these brews supply funds to the Maine Brewers’ Guild’s pandemic efforts. Established in 1986, the nonprofit, whose mission it is to promote and protect the craft beer industry in Maine, created the Maine Beer Trail Passport. Whether advocating on behalf of breweries to ensure they receive support from government relief programs, deciphering complex regulations, informing brewers of opportunities to get their beer to market and support their employees, or educating consumers, the guild’s role in Maine’s craft brewing industry has become even more important during the pandemic.

“The Maine brewing community has always been a source of pride for us,” said Ian Dorsey, founder and president of Mast Landing Brewing in Westbrook. “This year, we’ve seen how strong the foundation of support is amongst Maine brewers. Coming together to co-release a beer supporting our Guild is the perfect symbol of the unity we feel so deeply.”

You can find Maine Collaboration Beer releases at breweries, bottle shops and restaurants around the state into early January.

Catie Joyce-Bulay is a Winslow-based freelance writer who recently moved back to her home state. Find her writing on beer, travel and people pursuing their passion at catiejoycebulay.com or Twitter: @catiejoycebulay.

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