Each year, SAVOR invites breweries to collaborate on a party favor that attendees take away from the event. Historically, these beers have often been, ahem, “too interesting,” like the Dogfish-Sam Adams abomination SAVOR Flowers, or not interesting enough, like Yards and Heavy Seas perfectly pleasant Philtamore Collaboration Ale. That being said, last year’s New Belgium-Hardywood Baltic Porter with chocolate was well done, and this year’s collaboration looks to build on that.
Port City and Crux will pay homage to Virginia and Oregon’s viticulture; the former brought Viognier grapes to Crux’s facility in Bend in October of 2017. There three members of the Port City team (lead brewer Adam Reza II, brewer and yeast wrangler Abbey Temoshchuck, and founder Bill Butcher) worked with Crux brewers to create an Optimal Wit-style beer, to which grapes were added. Crux contributed Oregon Pinot Noir grapes, and the beer was put into red wine barrels along with several house strains of brettanomyces. For now they’re calling it a Barrel-aged Imperial Wit with Wine Grapes, which is not going to be a category at the Great American Beer Festival.
Chris Van Orden, former co-editor of this site, and Manager of Marketing and Beer Strategy at Port City, notes that Butcher worked with Tom Black, Crux’s Director of Sales, back when both sold wine, and began discussing a collaboration at SAVOR 2017. “In deciding the style, we looked for a beer that played to both of our strengths. We wanted to draw on Crux's talents for barrel-aged sour beers and they were eager to pull from our experience with raw wheat in Belgian-style witbiers…. Since then, Crux has been tending the barrels to make sure that the resulting barrel-aged, mixed fermentation wheat beer will be in ideal shape for SAVOR.”
Here’s the official description of the beer: “Situated on opposite sides of the country, Crux Fermentation Project and Port City Brewing Company have long admired one another's work from afar. When the opportunity to collaborate arose, they chose to brew a beer that showcases each brewery's strengths and pays homage to their shared oenological roots. With a higher gravity version of Port City's flagship wit as the foundation, a healthy amount of Pinot Noir and Viognier grapes were crushed into the hopback before the beer was then "banished" into red wine barrels. There it was pitched with a couple of Crux's house strains of brettanomyces. The result is a collaboration in the truest sense.”
There have been some years where either kegs or bottles of the SAVOR collaboration beer went into distribution, but given how much of this beer was made, it seems unlikely. That being said, look out for a Crux-Port City joint event during SAVOR week.