If you could describe a decade by its marketing strategies, then it would be fair to say that the 2020s are on track to be known as the decade of collaboration.
While there has always been a trend for brands to work together - Apple and Nike have a fitness line they curate together, Cath Kidston worked with Heinz on a collection of collectible soup cans, and for American readers who can remember the height of the lego video game craze, there was a menage a Trois of epic proportions in the shape of the StarWars, Lego Eggo breakfast waffles.
In the 2020s, almost every industry is finding a way to collaborate. Whether it is online influencers seeking collabs with popular brands or fast fashion working with fast food to create something truly unique, looking at you, Primark and Greggs! Collaboration is an ideal way to raise awareness of a new product line, and the food and beverage industry is no different. Recent culinary delights have included Gelupo x Robin Gill x Andrew Clarke x Stevie Parle; delectable limited edition gelato flavours inspired and created by some of London's top chefs. However, what has got us excited is the prospect of exciting drinks collaborations, specifically beer.
What is a beer collaboration?
Beer purists will argue that the classic recipe of barley, yeast and water is all you need to create a refreshing pint of the foaming golden ale, but the reality is that there is a lot more to creating a drink with a taste you just can't wait to get your hands on.
Some brewers marry their beverages with art, commissioning artists to create artwork for cans and bottles inspired by the contents of the vessel in a visual collaboration. However, what has piqued our interest is the brewers working together to create something truly unique.
It may seem strange for competing brewers to work together to create a new drink, but the marriage of flavours it can create is unrivalled. Not to mention double the expertise can lead to double the flavor experience.
Who is making collaboration beers?
Innis & Gunn is no stranger to collaboration beer; they currently offer three limited-edition beers. Not content to work with other brewers, they have jumped genres and worked in tandem with whisky distillers to craft something truly remarkable.
The most recent release is the Islay Whisky Cask. For 12 weeks, this beer matures in a rare oak whisky quarter cask from famed scotch whisky makers Laphroaig. Through this process, the beer takes on the spiciness of the oak and delectable peat, woodsmoke and burnt toffee flavors that personifies the whisky.
If you prefer your whiskey with an E, give their Rye Whiskey Cask blend a try for a union of rye and malt like no other.
Why are they a good idea?
It's no secret that industries have to evolve to remain successful. Innovation is the cornerstone of keeping on top of your game. Collaborations are the ideal way to experiment with different flavors. Not only will it keep loyal customers coming back for more, it is the perfect way to entice new audiences to enjoy your products. The Innis & Gunn collaboration with Laproigh is a perfect example. Laphroaig regulars are likely to try the new beer and potentially become Innis & Gunn customers too, if they have a good experience.
Marrying audiences in this way is one of the quickest ways to grow a customer base. Care does have to be taken though, as a poorly thought out product can lead to disappointed customers on both sides that subsequently boycott both brands.
Are collaborations valuable for the craft beer industry?
Absolutely! While you might think that only big companies would be confident with collaborations, it is simply not true. Microbrewers are more and more frequently working with each other to develop new tastes, whether it be limited edition runs for beer festivals or for a line that finds its way onto supermarket shelves and into pub fridges. Working with direct competitors may seem like an odd business move; however, today's consumers actively seek out collaborative partnerships.
The concept of brand loyalty is changing with the times, and while people will always have their favorites, there is an excitement in trying something new. Craft breweries can tap into this and use it to their advantage. A new concept becomes less risky to take to market if another company is taking it with you. Marketing campaigns can also be shared or launched in tandem, increasing their likelihood of succeeding.
We can't wait to see what other types of collaborations the rest of the decade brings. But one thing is for sure, with the success of this latest Innis & Gunn release, other major beer brewers won't be far behind. Who knows what spirit they will marry with their beers next.