Twin Port breweries and cideries are known for their award-winning brews.
But they don’t just brew to turn a profit and win awards. Many local breweries say unlike other industries, they partner with one another to create specialty brews. Breweries — along with cideries — also partner with local organizations to make specialty brews, and the organizations benefit from the profits of those drinks.
For breweries, collaborating with one another is an opportunity to learn from other brewers and try new, unique batches.
While sipping on an Earth Rider beer, Allyson Rolph, the head brewer at Earth Rider Brewery, said collaboration between breweries is widespread in the industry. At the Superior brewery, the staff use partnerships to learn and improve its beer.
“It is an opportunity to challenge ourselves in perhaps a new way. So whether it's a new ingredient that we haven't used that another brewery uses or a technique or a way of calculating something … we're always trying to learn,” Rolph said.
The industry even has its own word for the partnerships, “coopetition,” which is a mix of "cooperation" and "competition."
“Even though … they're kind of technically our competition, everybody's always … exchanging ideas, or buying hops or filters from each other, or people move (between breweries),” said Laura Mullen, co-founder and vice president of outreach and marketing of Bent Paddle Brewing Co.
Compared to other industries, it's far more collaborative, said Brad Nelson, director of brands at Earth Rider. “Ultimately, craft isn’t in competition with itself. It’s in competition with (large beer brands),” he said.
Earth Rider’s list of fellow collaborators includes Dangerous Man Brewing Co., Ursa Minor Brewing and New Belgium Brewing.
Across state lines at Bent Paddle in Duluth, its newest Christmas cookie cream ale was made in partnership with the Bentleyville “Tour of Lights.” About one dollar per pint was donated to Bentleville, said Mullen.
“They're just really fun because it helps spread the word about the nonprofit, but also … helps Bent Paddle’s visibility, and we get to support the nonprofits with something people love, which is beer,” Mullen said. The love was evident, as the beer sold out within two hours of being on sale at an event celebrating the partnership.
Breweries partake in partnerships with local nonprofits because it allows them to give back to their communities — which they see as important to do.
Giving back to the community is also natural for breweries, because they often serve as gathering spaces, said Ben Hugus, CEO and co-founder of Ursa Minor Brewing.
“It's a place where people get together. It's a place where people share their stories. So it only feels natural that … these businesses — breweries — would would work with their communities to support them back,” Hugus said.
Ursa Minor, which opened in fall last year, has done two collaboration brews, one with the Kraus-Anderson Duluth Bike Festival and the other with the Northland Paddlers Alliance.
For the Paddler partnership, they selectively choose what beer to brew. Hugus said they settled on a wild rice and rye pale ale, which reflects wild rice’s role in local waterways.
But, Hugus said it isn’t easy to choose its partners. Ursa Minor is approached daily with people requesting donations. “It is really hard because a huge part of our brand and what we want to do as a brewery and, frankly, brewery culture, is giving back to their communities,” he said.
It could be easier for breweries to raise money. They could do normal fundraisers, but “we're a brewery, and that's usually what people kind of want to approach us about is stuff like this,” said Mullen. She said the brewery has donated over $600,000 since it opened in 2013, a total that includes beer donations and items.
Although a part of a smaller industry, Duluth’s two cideries have also launched several giving-back campaigns.
Adam Ruhland, co-founder of Wild State Cider, said proceeds from the cidery’s new People’s Cider will go to support scholarships for children to attend YMCA’s Camp Miller and Camp Kitchigami — causes Ruhland and the other co-founder, Andrew Price, are passionate about.
It’s a hands-on cider for the community. The apples used were picked from the backyards of the Twin Ports and donated to Wild State. Community members also helped press the cider, which will be released on Dec. 4.
They decided to make a cider instead of a more-simple fundraiser because it benefits the cidery and the organization its supporting, as well as gives the public a product to focus on.
“Having a tangible asset that people can wrap their heads around or get excited about just adds to the enthusiasm from the public,” Ruhland said.
Right down the street at Duluth Cider, co-founder Jake Scott said in an email they haven’t done any collaborative ciders — yet. But the business has held events that raised profits for the Valley Youth Center and Habitat for Humanity.