The commute between Colorado Springs and Aurora is a familiar one for Claude Burns.

While he lives in the Springs, he works his day job as a police sergeant in Aurora.

But lately, Burns has been traveling to Aurora for another reason: beer.

Burns, who founded Red Swing Brewhouse in the Springs two years ago, has been working with David Levesque, co-owner of Aurora-based Launch Pad Brewery, to create a brew for the upcoming Collaboration Fest — the first big event for Colorado brewers after the holidays.

Collaboration Fest, hosted by the Colorado Brewers Guild, showcases craft beers from brewers who team up to make a one-of-a-kind drink.

Burns and Levesque, with the help of Red Swing brewer Peter Hall and Launch Pad co-owner Paul Mahoney, are crafting a Belgian-style beer to debut at the fest.

So, how did two breweries over an hour away from each other end up collaborating?

Burns met Levesque when visiting Launch Pad Brewery after it first opened in 2015.

“I was like, ‘Oh, new brewery,’ because I like beer,” Burns said. “I got to know David, and so we just kept that relationship going over time.”

The duo’s relationship grew when Burns started to work on opening his own brewery.

“We ended up opening our brewery and they’ve been super, super, super helpful just in regard to advice, whatever we needed, equipment, materials,” Burns said. “The biggest thing is just advice, you know, and getting into the business.”

Helping Burns learn the ropes was second nature to Launch Pad, Levesque said.

“One of the things we tried to focus on when we started Launch Pad was the collaborative nature of the business. We’re all working together against a bigger company,” Levesque said. “That was a big thing for us is when Claude started up Red Swing, being able to start them off on the right foot.”

When it came time to start working on a brew for Collaboration Fest, it only made sense for the two breweries to work together.

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The team started brainstorming a few months ago, with Red Swing proposing three ideas that the team narrowed down to one: a Belgian Wit with green tea.

From there, the group started to experiment with recipes.

“We just started kind of tweaking small, little things,” Mahoney said. “Tweaking some of the ingredients is kind of the big key.”

Burns was the primary messenger between the two breweries.

“Because I work in Aurora, I’d take the recipe up to Paul, he’d do some tweaks, and then we bring it back and throw Peter’s way,” Burns said.

Mahoney compared the back-and-forth to snail mail.

“It’s kind of like the old school way of like snail mail, but it was just through dropping off instead of like doing like email, which most people do now anyways,” Mahoney said.

When perfecting a recipe, the brewers said nothing beats an in-person reaction — especially when choosing a new ingredient.

“You can’t get the eye roll or the wide eye over text, so it’s a little bit easier to see each other’s reactions,” Levesque said.

“You don’t have to try and understand what they wrote if you talk face to face, it’s very helpful,” Hall said. “It indicates so much more clearly.”

The team ultimately decided to pull out the orange peel, which is standard in Belgium Wits, and instead add lemon peel. The final product: a Belgian Wit with lemon peel in the boil and green tea in fermentation.

“This one kind of hit where it was unique enough, different enough, because with Collaboration Fest, you don’t see a lot of standard beer styles,” Levesque said. “You see a lot of unique ingredients and different takes on things. So, to kind of get a little more notice, you have to do something kind of creative.”

The beer will be on tap at both facilities, too, which will help business, Levesque said.

“People who haven’t heard of Red Swing in Aurora will actually get a chance to try it, so when they do come to the Springs area, they already know a brewery that’s down here that’s making good beer,” Levesque said. “That’s kind of the cool, unique part of doing stuff outside of your own city is showcasing other areas’ beer.”

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