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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