Over the last couple of years, I've enjoyed learning about the craft beer industry.

Though I'm not creative enough in that area to imagine some of the concoctions I've had the pleasure of tasting — local brewer Burn ‘Em makes a creamed corn ale, for instance — I hold the creative standards of these people in the highest reverence.

At a media event recently for the upcoming Blue Chip Brewfest (Saturday, April 11, tickets available at Blue Chip or bluechipcasino.com) I was introduced to the idea of a beer cocktail. A representative from one distributor poured me a chocolate raspberry drink, made from a double chocolate stout and a raspberry ale. At first skeptical, I was soon making note of the beers used so that I may try it at home. Unbelievably delicious.

I spent time at this media event with representatives from more than 10 breweries and distributors. They shared with my wife and I information about their brewing process, distributorship and collaborations they've worked on.

It's that last part that has me the most intrigued. For the uninitiated, it's become increasingly popular for some of these craft breweries to work together, each using their specific set of skills to come together to create some tasty brews.

It's a type of partnership that I simply can't imagine in almost any other field. Could you imagine, for instance, chefs at two prominent local restaurants coming together to create a dish that would be sold at each establishment? Perhaps it's happened somewhere in recorded history, but I've never seen it.

There's an amazing sense of community among craft brewers. We have that to some degree in the newspaper industry, too. When I was in the sports department, I was always chummy with guys and gals from other papers and we always enjoyed good working relationships. Occasionally we'd even share data like box scores or something like that as a professional courtesy. But I couldn't imagine, for instance, me and current N-D assistant sports editor Steve Gorches collaborating on a feature while he still worked in Lake County. It just wouldn't have happened, no matter how well we got along.

But among the people who craft our favorite libations, working together comes as second nature. In fact, when my wife and I spend a day visiting different breweries, it's not at all uncommon for workers or owners at one place to recommend we go to another place.

I really dig that. There's a sense that they're all in this together and they want to brew the best beer they can possibly brew, and they're smart enough to know that other people have something to offer and they can learn from each other.

Greenbush out of Sawyer, Michigan, has a slogan: Good beer wins. When these brilliant people work together, we win, too.

Contact Managing Editor Adam Parkhouse at aparkhouse@thenewsdispatch.com or 1-219-214-4170.

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