Crooked Stave was founded in 2010 when Chad Yakobson completed his master’s thesis on wild yeast fermentations. The Coloradan used his research to launch a brewery and distributor that would produce 100% Brettanomyces-fermented beers. Despite this common current, Crooked Stave brewing prides itself for making funky and innovative new brews. Most notably, their Wild and Barrel-Aged Sour beers have hit the ground running, having been rated as the top sour beers in Colorado and the world by New York Post and Serious Eats, respectively.
Crooked Stave truly treats making beer as an art form and respects other brewers who do the same. In addition to being a brewery, Crooked Stave has also doubled as a distributor since 2013. Their portfolio runs the gamut, representing everything from cideries to distilleries, but always only choosing small, independent producers. This feeds into the company’s mission to support bold experimentation with alcoholic beverages. We took a swig of some of their best for one of our 2 O’Clock Tastings to get a look at their artistic vision.
Picture an ancient grandfather, beard and all, sitting comfortably in a rocking chair on a farmhouse porch and drinking a cold one. If you could turn that image into a beer, this would be it. Vielle, which comes from the French word for "old," is the perfect name for this simple, classic style of beer. With its straw-like color and barnyard-lemon smell, this brew first appeared to be simple and earthy. On the tongue, however, it had a taste balanced right on the fulcrum between sour and sweet. It finished with a clean, mouth-puckering freshness, perfect for the first day of summer.
No, there is no actual Saint Bretta - instead, this brew is named after the Brettanomyces yeast strains within, which it elevates to sainthood. At first sight, it beamed like a brilliant lightbulb, glowing a hazy, dark yellow, like a pineapple hard candy adorned with a lively, frothy head. After the bold coloring, St. Bretta was more reserved on the nose, boasting rounded, fruity aromas instead of the sharpness of Vieille. The light, not-overbearing aroma continued on the palate, as St. Bretta was well-rounded in taste, with herbal notes bolstered by vinegar and pepper. The finishing smack of lemon drop candy left us thoroughly impressed.
Surette boasted a heftier ABV and a darker color than the previous brews, sporting a goldenrod hue with a ring of foam and big bubbles around the edge. Subtle honey aromas mixed with a sharper, artificially nuanced sweetness, like the sugar at the bottom of a bag of Sour Patch Kids. Brewed with traditional harvest grains and aged in barrels, this beer was oaky and sour (the tartness a result of the barrel-aging), with an airy dryness and refreshing tone. We can see this being a great drink after a long day of work, one that both soothes and excites.
The Progenitor bottle features the namesake dictionary entry, a detail that reveals the care and precision that went into this brew. Visually, it was of a hue with the other beers, featuring a golden color and white pillowy head. However, the nose revealed this beer to be a grapefruit sour, exuding the aroma of white grapefruit pith with a vague, bready sweetness underneath. Everything came together on the palate - the sourness of the grapefruit combined beautifully with the bitterness of the citrus hops, complicated by an underlying layer of barnyard funk. This fresh, sour beer was easily the crowd favorite, one that we could have quaffed all day long.