What do you get when you cross a sexy, cycling pin-up girl with a winged primate? The answer, of course, is an Imperial Double Red Collaboration Ale (although you’d be forgiven for having guessed a thrift-store inspired Halloween costume). A product of an East-meets-West collaboration between Flying Monkeys Craft Brewery and Central City Brewing, the red-tinged ale was made in celebration of the 2013 Canadian Brewing Awards.
The Breweries: Central City Brewing and Flying Monkeys Craft Brewery
Central City launched in 2003 as a brewpub in Surrey, B.C. Since then, the company has grown into a small empire that includes a brewery, distillery and retail alcohol store. Popularity among craft beer enthusiasts and awards from critics drove Central City’s expansion. Among other honours, Central City was named Canada’s Brewery of the Year in 2010 and 2012 by the Canadian Brewing Awards. Central City’s Red Racer IPA is its flagship brew, although the Red Racer brand has a range of beer styles and seasonal offerings.
Flying Monkeys is located in downtown Barrie, Ontario, overlooking Kempenfelt Bay. From the brewery’s tongue-in-cheek website, one can glean a few facts about the company– that is if one doesn’t suffer a seizure first. Sifting through the psychedelic flash, the short of it tells the story of Flying Monkeys founder Peter Chiodo.
Chiodo went from being an observer in his granddad’s basement brewery to homebrewer to monkey-suited executive to Flying Monkeys owner. The brewery was originally called Robert Simpson, after Barrie’s first mayor, but was rebranded to align with Chiodo’s mandate to produce unique beers.
The Beer: Imperial Double Red Collaboration Ale, 9.5% ABV, 750 ml
Crafted using highly sought-after Mosaic hops, the Imperial Double Red Collaboration Ale pours a deep red copper with a frothy off-white head. Aromas of tropical fruit and roasted malt are balanced on the nose. Upfront, the beer’s taste is heavily hoppy and malty, with a slightly more pronounced malt character. There are also supporting notes of bitter chocolate, roasted malt and dried fruit.
The Branding: “Mischievous and carefree” meets “Flirty and freewheeling”
In the craft brewery world, a simple “X” suffices when it comes to indicating a collaboration between breweries (the Imperial Double Red Collaboration Ale, for example, is a product of Flying Monkeys X Central City). From a branding perspective, however, the fun part is melding the companies’ logos together to create a unique label that is as distinctive as the limited-edition beer.
The Imperial Double Red Collaboration Ale’s label, which features a freewheeling pin-up girl with a flying monkey on her handlebars, was designed by Barnstorm Creative Group. The image was created by the same graphic design team behind the Red Racer branding.
The iconic ginger on the red bicycle and the logo’s wordmark were once the subject of a trademark infringement controversy. In 2010, California’s Bear Republic filed a lawsuit against Central City, claiming Central City’s Red Racer branding was a mishmash of their two beers, Racer 5 IPA and Red Rocket Ale.
Likewise, Flying Monkey’s is no stranger to contention. In 2011, the company’s Smashbomb Atomic IPA, which features a cartoon explosion on its label, was rejected by the LCBO for being of questionable taste.
Having crossed provincial borders to collaborate, however, the two breweries have more in common than controversy. Much like their respective branding, the mash-up of logos on the Imperial Double Red Collaboration Ale is reflective of the breweries’ shared belief in making innovative beer free of restraints.