As the craft beer world gets more competitive — especially for midsize brewers — some brands have taken an old approach to strengthen their position: teaming up. The latest big example has been the merger between Dogfish Head and Boston Beer Company, maker of Samuel Adams. But we’ve seen other examples in the past — like Artisanal Brewing Ventures in 2016 or Craft Brew Alliance over a decade ago. Another major alliance has been CANarchy. Formed in 2015, this “disruptive collective of like-minded brewers” is now seven brands strong: Cigar City, Deep Ellum, Oskar Blues, Perrin, Squatters, Three Weavers, and Wasatch. But though banding together is nothing new, this week, CANarchy has launched an interesting new concept: The Collaboratory — a single location where drinkers can go to try beers from all of its brands, as well as collaborations with other brewers.
Located in Asheville, North Carolina, The Collaboratory is kind of like a brewery taproom on steroids. Of course, it features signature beers from CANarchy brands like Oskar Blues Dale’s Pale Ale and Cigar City Jai Alai IPA, but it also promises “an emphasis on limited-edition, small-batch collaboration beers from leading craft breweries in Asheville, throughout the U.S., and around the world.” For example, they’ve opened with collaborations from Cigar City with both the nearby Asheville Brewing Company and the slightly further away Metazoa Brewing in Indiana.
Overall, it seems like anything goes across their 32 draft lines (broken down to 24 at the main bar and eight tucked away in the back): Old standbys, hard-to-find, and special release CANarchy brews, collaborations between CANarchy brewers, and collaborations with whoever else they feel like working with. Wayne Wambles, who is the brewmaster for Cigar City, is also running the show at the Collaboratory, and he apparently plans to brew about two to four beers each week on-site, meaning the taps should probably be rotating pretty consistently. Plus, of course, you can buy canned beer (that’s where the name came from in case you missed it) from all of the CANarchy brands and take away crowlers and growlers as well.
“Collaboration beers with some of the most well-respected breweries in Western North Carolina appear on this opening tap list,” Aaron Baker, Oskar Blues Senior Marketing Manager, said in the announcement. “These breweries have pushed the boundaries of craft beer for years, and we’re honored that our tap lineup represents a once-in-a-lifetime chance to try projects from all of them in one place.”
The Collaboratory also has a restaurant featuring a menu of “elevated pub fare” meant to complement the tap list, but that tap list would really seem to be the star of the show. Most taprooms mix things up to keep it interesting, but what makes the concept of the Collaboratory so intriguing is that they have so many different beers to choose from across so many different brands. And yet at the same time, they are still trying to up the ante by offering a constant stream of unique collaborations you can’t get anywhere else. Dale’s Pale Ale is easy to find; instead, the success of the Collaboratory would seem to hinge on just how unorthodox the taps can continue to be.