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6 Good, Bad and Ugly Beer Partnerships

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PORTLAND, Ore. (TheStreet) -- Small beer brewers in the U.S. have a long-standing tradition of working with each other on beer projects. When they step out of the beer world and link up with a partner that has nothing to do with brewing, bottle shops or even bars, that's when things get interesting.

The craft beer partnership is still a rare occurrence, but it's getting far more common as the benefits spill over to both sides. Few have done a better job of pulling this off in recent years that Sam Calagione, the founder and head of Delaware-based Dogfish Head Brewing. While Dogfish collaborations with brewers including Sierra Nevada, Maui Brewing, Avery Brewing and Russian River Brewing have been frequent and well received by beer lovers, it's his work with the Discovery Channel on the 2010 series Brew Masters that readied Calagione and Dogfish Head for a bigger spotlight.

In 2011, Calagione and Dogfish Head joined a pair of Italian brewers to create the Birreria restaurant that is part of celebrity chef Mario Batali's Eataly project. The first Birreria led to two more locations in Chicago and Rome, where Dogfish Head-produced, cask-drawn ales make their way to diners from around the world. Calagione lent Birreria his avant approach to brewing and his American take on obscure European styles. In turn, he got the attention of an audience physically and ideologically distinct from the fans at his Rehoboth Beach brewpub.

That, ideally, is the template for brewer partnerships with other businesses. Even seemingly incongruous industries such as media companies and music studios can end up benefiting from a great beer with their name on it. If a beer drinker can't make the connection or the beer isn't up to snuff, however, get ready to save some warehouse space for a weird beer with some company's corporate logo on it.

While this idea hasn't been completely embraced by fiercely independent small brewers, we found a handful that were willing to take the plunge. Let's see how it worked out for them: