Collaboration beers are fairly commonplace around Asheville these days as many local and regional breweries have united to create new products for their customers.
Hi-Wire Brewing, however, has kicked teamwork up a notch with its yearly 12-pack, featuring out-of-market mashups and striking packaging that resembles spray paint cans.
The 2019 box, out Friday, Jan. 18, features Hoppy Pilsner (5.5 percent ABV) made with Cincinnati’s Rhinegeist Brewery, dry-hopped with Vic Secret, Motueka and Ella; a Blonde Brunch Stout (4.8 percent ABV) brewed with Charleston, S.C.’s Revelry Brewing, made with vanilla, cinnamon, cacao, lactose and coffee; and a No Coast IPA (6.7 percent ABV) collaboration with Atlanta’s Monday Night Brewing, double dry-hopped with Idaho 7, Citra, El Dorado and Amarillo.
According to Hi-Wire creative director Javier Bolea, the three participating breweries were selected for their imaginative devotion to great craft brews. “Collaborations aren’t always going to be easy because you’re doing things outside of what you would normally do,” he says. “It’s all about finding common ground with other artists. It’s a learning experience. Everyone operates so differently.”
For this year’s box — the series’ third installment — the common thread is “beer-first” breweries. “[These collaborators] are making the beer they want to make,” Bolea says. “They’re doing well in their markets, but what they really care about is the beer. That’s their core philosophy. We got along with them really well. We hang out and grow these relationships.”
The collaboration starts with an email among brewers, during which they agree on a style and formulate a recipe. “We want to do something we don’t normally do,” Bolea says. “We have everyone come to the Big Top [production facility in Biltmore Village] and brew on our big system.”
The brew days also include lunch at the taproom, part of an overall experience in which different-sized operations have the chance to try on each other’s business personas. “Revelry is a smaller brewery, and they get to play a lot, [whereas] we have our flagships that are sold in six states,” Bolea says. “We get to play in their world for a bit, and they get to play in ours.”
Further conveying the project’s collaborative nature is the vintage spray paint theme on the cans. The labels have pink, blue and green circles overlapping to create different colors, symbolizing the new recipes showcased inside.
“The visual also works on a deeply nostalgic and emotional level,” Bolea says. “Moving away from the usual Hi-Wire branding allows us and each of the breweries involved to move out of our comfort zones and play with some new ideas and ways of creating.”
Bolea says the collaboration box is a quick seller and will be available throughout the Hi-Wire distribution network in the Carolinas, Ohio, Georgia, Tennessee and Kentucky. About 3,600 boxes have been hand-packed, and a few kegs of each beer were also filled. “It’s very labor-intensive,” he says.