December 10, 2013

North Denver Breweries Win Big at Great American Beer Festival

Anybody who’s been paying attention lately knows that the North Denver brewing scene has grown into a force to be reckoned with. From beer geek darling Crooked Stave to the German beer masters at Prost, the collective has steadily gained a strong following with neighborhood locals across the board. However, after an impressive showing at this year’s Great American Beer Festival, they now have the hardware to back it up. Four of our local breweries earned a combined total of six medals, but it was the SandLot Brewery, located within the friendly confines of Coors Field that stole the spotlight by winning the Large Brewing Company and Large Brewing Company Brewer of the Year honors.

This award may initially cause many to pause. After all, the relatively tiny SandLot Brewery didn’t even eclipse the 3,000 barrel mark last year, which actually puts them on the lower end of the Small Brewing Company of the Year award (1,000-14,999 barrels). However, the Brewer’s Association, the organization in charge of administering the competition, counts not only a brewery’s output, but also the output of any of its “parentage” breweries. In case you didn’t know, SandLot is part of the Blue Moon Brewing Company, which is under the Tenth and Blake Beer Company umbrella, which in turn represents the craft brewing collective arm of behemoth MillerCoors. And considering MillerCoors broke the 60 million barrel mark in 2012, it’s safe to say SandLot’s parentage surpassed the 6 million barrel minimum just a wee bit, placing them into the Large Brewery category. (Interestingly enough, it was actually the SandLot that helped create the parentage rule after it won Small Brewery of the Year award back in 1995. Many cried foul that they had an unfair advantage due to their backing.)

In addition to their overall brewery honors, the SandLot continued their winning streak by bagging three more medals to bring their lifetime GABF medal count to a mind-boggling 43. Gold medals went to their Move Back Dortmunder and Second Hand Rauchbier, as well as a bronze for their Goat Rancher Bock. Happily, the Sandlot has announced that they will remain open the public this baseball off season, Tuesday through Saturday from 2-8 pm. Stop in and see what all the precious metal fuss is about.

Crooked Stave also continued their winning tradition, snapping up a bronze for Hop Savant. Available at liquor stores as well as their new RiNo taproom, this light ale is fermented with their characteristically funky, fruity brettanomyces yeast and then intensely hopped. The twist is that the hops are added at the end of the brew, thereby contributing flavor and aroma, instead of bitterness. Between the fruity yeast esters and these late-addition hops, Hop Savant is a tropical bonanza of grapefruit, pineapple, apricots, and white wine grapes.

Onto Prost, who in only their second year of existence won their first medal and a gold no less. This stellar LoHi brewery specializes in authentic German-style beer so it’s no surprise that their win was for the Keller Pils, a mildly hoppy, unfiltered German lager. Enjoy it for a limited time in their taproom.

Finally, we come to Great Divide who ended their two-year medal drought by taking gold for their Chocolate Oak-Aged Yeti Imperial Stout. Available each spring beginning in April, this bruiser of a stout has both cacao nibs and a dash of cayenne pepper added to it before being aged on oak chips for a sweet, vanilla finish. A great winter treat if you can hold onto it for that long.

Considered to be the most prestigious beer competition in the world, GABF medals are an incredible honor to win. This year alone, 745 breweries entered some 4,809 different beers to compete in 84 beer style categories. Those numbers add up to some stiff competition and our neighborhood should be happy to earn just one, let alone six.  Just for perspective, the entire state of Washington, well known for its beer scene, only won four medals combined. Be sure to get out and enjoy this wonderful beer mecca we live in. It’s truly something special.

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October 4, 2013

Crooked Stave Grand Opening at the Source

Crooked Stave’s had their grand opening at the Source Marketplace today. Well attended, but chill crowd. The space is beautiful, there is a koelchip in full view, and the beers were just as good as you’ve come to expect. Really, what more can you ask for?

Tap List:

  • Hop Savant
  • Vieille
  • St Bretta Fall
  • Nightmare on Brett
  • Origins Batch #2
  • Surrette


Various industry folks were there including Troy Casey of AC Golden and Gabriel Gordon of Beachwood Brewing, who just finished installing the super sweet tap system. Who knew a man could make killer BBQ, run an brewery and make artistic tap systems on the side? Not this guy, as Gabriel can attest. A couple of photos:

Crooked Stave Taproom

Crooked Stave Taproom

The tap system designed and installed by Gabriel Gordon of Beachwood Brewing & BBQ

crooked stave sour beer

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December 22, 2012

Crooked Stave: Artisan Beer Project

North Denver Newcomers, Crooked Stave, wins Silver at the November Great American Beer Festival held in Denver.Photo by Lindsay Dawson           DSCF0453

Cult Following.  It’s really an odd term. Certainly an exaggeration in many cases, though it does express one’s dedication to something. I think of examples like The Lord of The Rings, Star Trek, and The Grateful Dead. It’s not as if their “followers” are in actual religious cults, but their actions: travelling across the country, waiting in the sleet and cold, and donning costumes, shows that they it’s not just some fanciful whim, but an actual part of people’s lives. Part of who they are as a person. So, when I say that Crooked Stave, a beer-maker near the I-70 Pecos exit is quickly developing a global cult following, I don’t say it lightly. Owner and brewmaster, Chad Yakobson has created a portfolio of beers that transcends your average brewery to a level that has inspired people across the country to do whatever it takes to get their hands on them.

What’s so special about their beers? Well, if you’re reading this column, you probably already have a good idea of the basic flavor profile of a beer: malt, hops, and maybe some yeast character. There are a multitude of intricacies within that profile. Are th

e malts heavily roasted? Hops intensely bitter or more flavor forward? Does the yeast have that typical Belgian essence? And so on, and so on. But, what you might not be aware of is the profile of an entirely different realm, known as “Brett” beers. This rapidly growing style is what Crooked Stave is considered one of the world leaders in creating. Describing these beers, brewed with a so-called wild yeast (brettanomyces or “brett”) instead of traditional brewer’s yeast, requires a completely new set of adjectives. Things like grapefruit juice, barnyards, pineapples, and musty cellars often come up when describing these beers.

I’m sure most of you are thinking, why in the world would you want to drink something that reminds you of a barn? Well, that’s a valid question, I suppose, but one that I don’t have a very good answer to.  All I can say is for whatever reason, I enjoy drinking them, and I’m by no means the only one. Their vast array of unique, raw, and earthy flavors make drinking them a slow, contemplative sipping experience. Think of them as the equivalent to an aged, artisan cheeses. If you prefer a rich wedge of Rochefort Blue over, say a Monterey Jack, you just might be the type of person that enjoys this distinctive class of beers.

Crooked Stave started out as a nomadic brewery; using other brewery’s equipment during off-hours and aging their beer wherever space was available. Over time though, their popularity soared and it became apparent they needed a home of their own. They signed up for a space in the upscale Source Market, a local artisan development set to launch in the RiNo district next year. Until then though, they have beer to sell and customers knocking and have thus opened a taproom at 46th Ave and Pecos.

The space is small with only an eight-seat bar and a couple of tables and has a friendly, yet bare bones feel. Bartender Danny makes everyone feel at home and is quick to provide suggestions for those unfamiliar with their beers. They continuously rotate six taps, offering some of their bottled beers, as well as unique, taproom-only blends.

A recent standout is the L’Brett D’Or, a Belgian Golden ale fermented with brett and aged in French oak barrels. The result is very dry with a strong lemon-like sourness. Notes of damp straw, toasted bread and peaches linger in the background and complement a funky, barn attic-like aroma. They also offer a version of this beer soaked in Perle hops giving it a spicy, minty flavor that blends well with the earthy aroma.

Their recent Saison was also great and perhaps a bit more approachable for the uninitiated. It has a bready, malt body offset by a pleasant hop bitterness. Hints of oak, biscuits, white pepper and a light tartness, round out a mildly musty fragrance.

Yep, these descriptions may be a bit odd.  But, I highly advise you to try to withhold judgment until you’ve tried them. Imagine describing a Stilton cheese or a goose pate to someone who’s never had them.  Some things, while delicious, just don’t translate well on paper. Plus, like most cult followings, they’re not for everybody, but that is part of what makes them so superb.  To reach true greatness, you have to go a bit outside of the norm. So next time you’re feeling a bit adventurous, check out Crooked Stave and see what beer geeks have been clamoring for the nation over. You just may have a new favorite brewery.


Crooked Stave Taproom

1441 W. 46th Ave. Unit 19


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