2015 BEER DISCOVERY TOUR: Crooked Stave Artisan Beer Project, Denver Colorado (June 25, Brewery Stop #4)The fourth brewery we stopped at on our cross country beer discovery tour (click here to read about the whole trip) was Crooked Stave Artisan Beer Project in Denver CO on June 25th. After hitting New Belgium north of Denver, we drove south into town and checked in at our hotel to unload some stuff. We were looking forward to trying this brewery as we had recently tried some of their beers at our local favorite bar, the Hop and Vine. The H&V poured a number of Crooked Stave beers during a sour fest and it was great to try them in person.
This brewery is located in a recently renovated industrial complex with a LOT of different businesses inside the main building to include a specialty meat market, three or four restaurants, a liquor store, two or three other bars, and a common seating area. Once inside the main building (parking lot is gravel, so if it’s rainy, it might be muddy), head to the far back left corner and you’ll find Crooked Stave. They do have a number of bar seats and tables inside their area. I believe this is a 21+ only bar, so no kiddo’s allowed (YEAY!). Even as we got there mid-afternoon, it was busy (for a week day) and got even more busy (standing room only) by the time we left. NOTE that The brewery has a LOT of beers that are available on location only (not distributed), as well as bottles to go in a cooler and plenty of swag (shirts, hats, etc.) available to purchase (we bought a couple of T-shirts).
We quickly discovered that with 20+ tasters of pretty strong ABV sour & barrel aged beers, that it was going to be a challenging visit. This was the third brewery in the Denver area that day and we forgot that being at elevation that the beer hits you a little faster. Even with the challenges, we were able to power through them after about two hours of slow sipping. We did notice that some of the sour beers opened up and had somewhat different flavor profiles as they warmed up. As you’ll also notice, they do a lot of variations on their flagship beers, aging them and adding in brett to push the sour aspects.
Since there were so many beers to try, I will do my best to list off what we tried with some details below. Overall, a vast majority were outstanding with a mix of fruits and sour profiles. There were a few 10%+ ABV beers that we had a harder time finishing due to the number of beers and the alcohol forward approaches they had. I would HIGHLY recommend to anyone visiting or that lives in Denver to check out this brewery. We enjoyed the time we spent there, and their awesome beers!
|Vieille (Apr 2015)
Crooked Stave • “Old” Sasion • IBU: ?? • ABV: 4.2% • 6 SRM
NOTE: Dry Hopped with Motueka Hops
The base of a couple of beers we tried, this saison has a yeasty forward and slight citrus nose. The front and mid are pretty balanced with the sharper citrus rind and yeast present.
|Vieille Cranberry & Spice (Apr 2015)
Crooked Stave • “Old” Sasion • IBU: ?? • ABV: 6.2% • 10 SRM (red)
NOTE: Hibiscus, cinnamon, nutmeg and cranberries
This saison has a cranberry and spice nose. The front mouth has a bit of fruit sour, spice hints and floral. The back is balanced with the sour and yeast presenting. Overall this is a good variation on the Vieille Saison.
|Surette Provision Saison (May 2015)
Crooked Stave • Saison / Farmhouse Ale • IBU: ?? • ABV: 6.2% • 8 SRM
NOTE: Extended Barrel Aging
With a light orange hue, this beautiful sour ale had a nice lacing and solid white head that lingered. Nose is tart citrus and grassy with barnyard yeast funk. It’s full bodied with a decent subtle aromatic approach while sipping. The mid to back mouth-feel is a little low carbonation, but holds it own with a range of good flavors ranging from citrus to slight hoppy bitters.
Crooked Stave • Saison / Farmhouse Ale • IBU: ?? • ABV: 6.2% • 6 SRM
NOTE: Brewed with herbs and spices (pumpkin, squash, etc.)
This is a lighter version of the standard Surette, lacing had large bubbles and the head was thin and dropped to a sheen in the glass. The nose is sour, funk, fruity (apples), and notes of spice. The front to mid mouth have a a bit of spice present that helps bring the full flavors forward. The barnyard and citrus pith funk is a bit more present as well than the standard Surette. This one was a bit challenging for us.
|Colorado Wild Sage
Crooked Stave • Saison / Farmhouse Ale • IBU: ?? • ABV: 7.2% • 6 SRM
NOTE: Brewed with sage
This is a yellow staw/orange rind colored draft with a decent full head that clinged to the rim making a nice spidery lacing. The nose is tart with lemongrass, brett, and stale salteen crackers (bready?). The front and mid mouth are pretty tart up front with sharp lemongrass and fruits (tropical to lemon) and subtle sage characters. The mid and back have a clean finish with some crip edging from the yeast funk and lemon.
|Late Spring St. Bretta
Crooked Stave • American Wild Ale • IBU: ?? • ABV: 5.8% • 4 SRM
NOTE: Brewed with Tango Mandrain
This is a bright, murky yellow color with a solid finger white foamy head that clinged nicely on the rim. The nose is a bit of orange and dry lemon pith with slight yeasty funk. There is a bit of dry citrus hopping on the mid and it really sits on the back. This is a crisp and refreshing beer.
|Goldent Nugget Mandarin St. Bretta
Crooked Stave • Witbier / Wildbier • IBU: ?? • ABV: 6.2% • 4 SRM
NOTE: Brewed with Tango Mandrain and Brettanomyces
This is a cloudy yellow draft with a some frothy white head, limited lacing. nose is bitter citrus zest (lime?), grapefruit, brettanomyces, funk and slight vegital. The front is super tart with citrus and yeast funk. Medium carbonation and a lingering yeast and grapefruit citrus based bitter.
|Pomelo St. Bretta
Crooked Stave • Witbier / Wildbier • IBU: ?? • ABV: 6.8% • 4 SRM
NOTE: Brewed with Citrus and Brettanomyces
The cloudy and lingering foamy white head presents as a solid unfiltered, sour beer. The nose is orangy, lemony, brett, and some softer spice notes. The front and mid mouth are pretty tart and the yeast is expressed pretty solidly with the acidic brett’s shining till the back. Challenging for those not into brett driven beers.
|Autumn St. Bretta
Crooked Stave • Witbier / Wildbier • IBU: ?? • ABV: 5.5% • 3 SRM
NOTE: Brewed with Navel Oranges and Brettanomyces
Clear and low head, soft yellow and orange tints with a nose that speaks to sour brett driven citrus characters and barnyard funk yeast notes. The funk is somewhat lighter on the mouth-feel, some orange pith bitters and thinner approach makes this an approachable sour beer. There is a hint of dry yeasty bitterness on the back.
|Hop Savant Amarillo
Crooked Stave • Sour IPA • IBU: ?? • ABV: 7% • 10 SRM
NOTE: Brewed with Amarillo hops and Brettanomyces
This draft poured a nice straw/golden hue, slight cloudy with low foamy head that had some nice lacing on the rim. The nose is solid hops and some funky brett with notes of chalky citrus and herbal hints. The front and mid mouth is watery, lime tart (rind), and some oak on the back with lingering hop notes.
|Hop Savant Citra
Crooked Stave • Sour IPA • IBU: ?? • ABV: 7% • 10 SRM
NOTE: Brewed with Citra hops and Brettanomyces
Slight golden/orange hazy colored, white head that dropped quickly, leaving some lacing on the rim. The nose is a bit of orange, grapefruit and brett yeasty funk. The front and mid are pretty sharp with hops, citrus and slight dry esters. The mouth-feel is somewhat solid, carbonation was higher than other Hop Savants, and the back end did hold the hops against the sour notes from the brett.
|Hop Savant Galaxy
Crooked Stave • Sour IPA • IBU: ?? • ABV: 6.7% • 12 SRM
NOTE: Brewed with Galaxy hops and Brettanomyces
Straw yellow and orange hue, solid white head that dropps quickly, but leaves nice spotty lacing on the rim. The nose is zesty and sharp from the brett. The front mouth is citrus zest (tropical) and earthy funk with a lingering brett acidic note through to the back. Pretty sour and challenging to those not into sour beers.
Crooked Stave • Sour / Wild Ale • IBU: ?? • ABV: 6.2% • 4 SRM
NOTE: Dry Hopped Golden Sour
Cloudy yellow colored draft with a smaller white head that dropped off quickly, leaving little lacing. The nose is pretty complex with a range of spices, tropical notes, fruit (grapes), and barnyard funk from the yeast. The front mouth is fruit forward with notes of mango, orange, and peach. The mid has earthy-wood, peppery and a somewhat unpleasant medicinal note. The carbonation is mild and the overall sour characters are secondary to the fruits.
|Petite Sour Boysenberry
Crooked Stave • Sour / Wild Ale • IBU: ?? • ABV: 5.5% • 30+ SRM (dark purple/red)
This clear, reddish/purple hued beer has a slight bright white head that dropped quickly to a slight rim on the glass. It has a bit of sweet jammy berries on the nose, funk and sour is secondary. The front mouth is berries, tartness and some dry fruit peel notes. The sour characters linger in the medium carbonated body and there is a slight dry finish on the back. This was one of the table favorites.
|Petite Sour Grapefruit Radler
Crooked Stave • Sour / Wild Ale • IBU: ?? • ABV: 5.5% • 10 SRM
NOTE: Primary fermentation in oak with the brewery’s mixed culture of wild yeast and bacteria, and then received the equivalent of over a pound per gallon of grapefruit juice.
This cloudy pinky/orange hued draft has a shallow head that lingered on the rim but dropped quickly. The nose is juicy grapefruit, pulp, and solid acid bitters. The front mouth is somewhat harsh with a full blast of grapefruit rind and no sugars to balance it out. This radler is pretty tart and opened up somewhat as it sat to more of a full bodied beer than a juice box like drink.
|Petite Sour Tart Cherry
Crooked Stave • Sour / Wild Ale • IBU: ?? • ABV: 5.5% • 18 SRM (reddish)
NOTE: Tartness comes from the addition of the equivalent of over a pound per gallon of sour cherries, after being primary fermented in oak with our mixed culture of wild yeast and bacteria.
This slight hazy, red-hued draft had a small head that dropped to a sheen, no lacing to speak of. The aroma is a little bit of yeast/barnyard, and pure tart cherries with hints of jammy sugars. The taste is really huge jammy cherries with tart (unsweetened) notes. This is a pretty acidic and sour beer that has the oak and earthy acidic qualities that come in on the mid to back. The mid-carbonation and full mouth-feel lends well to the dry sours that range from raspberry to cherry.
|Petite Sour Blueberry
Crooked Stave • Sour / Wild Ale • IBU: ?? • ABV: 5% • 18 SRM (blue/reddish)
This draft is hazy and a mid-purple like hue and no head or lacing. The nose has a more subtle fruit fragrance than others in this line of sour beers. The lactic acids and sour notes from the yeast express on the mid and the blueberries show up on the mid and back as fresh fruit and not as much sugar as I’d like. The medium carbonation and fuller body make this a nice sour beer with a decent balance of fruit and funk.
|Petite Sour Passionfruit
Crooked Stave • Sour / Wild Ale • IBU: ?? • ABV: 5% • 3 SRM
Soft yellow and unfiltered, this beer has a nice bright bubbly head with spidery lacing. The nose is somewhat yeasty funk forward with acidic notes of passionfruit, which ends up being somewhat unpleasant (like a wet diaper). The front mouth-feel is sweet-tart like with fruit-forward approaches to the citrus zest. Lemon and grapefruit are expressed on the mid-back and this mid-carbonated beer doesn’t really end well for most of us. The lingering sour and dry-yeast ends in the rotted side and not fresh fruit.
|Cerveza Sin Frontera
Crooked Stave • Saison / Farmhouse Ale • IBU: ?? • ABV: 5.64% • 18 SRM (reddish)
NOTE: Three-part collaboration with Jester King Brewery and Brasserie Trois Dames, this beer was fermented with Crooked Stave’s house culture of wild yeast and bacteria, all three breweries used an identical base recipe and aged the beer in the same style of Spanish Sherry Barrels.
Slight hazy and mid-red hued draft had no head or lacing. The nose is somewhat more subtle than other sours we tried, it’s got hints of the oak, tobacco, and earthy acidic/brett notes. The sour and tart notes to this beer are really soft and pleasant. You can definitely find the sherry, vanilla/oak, and mild grain build on the back. There is a dry sour character on the back as well.
Crooked Stave • Belgian Ale • IBU: ?? • ABV: 8.92% • 40+ SRM
NOTE: Dark Belgian-style Sour Aged in Sherry Casks
Completely dark brown and edging of red with an off-white head that had nice retention on the rim. There is a bit of brett yeast funk with dry sherry/cabernet wine notes on the nose. The front mouth is complex like a fine wine, hints of chocolate, cherries, sour and acidic characters from the brett, and some mild spicy and herbal characters. The mid and back are full bodied, sweet, and dry with all the front notes lingering to the back. There is a bit of sour that drys out on the back also, but it’s not too over-powering.
|Origins (Burgundy Sour)
Crooked Stave • Sour Ale • IBU: ?? • ABV: 6.5% • 40+ SRM
NOTE: Burgundy sour ale aged in oak barrels.
Super dark brown/reddish hue with a slight tan head that dropped to a slight sheen on the glass. The nose is like smelling wine, oak, grapes, with hints of the barnyard funk showing up. There is a dry cherry and oaky character that did compete with the acidic tannin’s in the sour wine notes. There is a thinner mouth-feel and a dry finish that does leave you with a residue on the teeth like a heavy red wine can.
|Nightmare On Brett (Aged In Red Wine Casks)
Crooked Stave • Sour Ale • IBU: ?? • ABV: 9.6% • 40+ SRM
NOTE: For the fourth batch of Nightmare on Brett (9.666% ABV), we aged our Dark base beer in a large oak foeder and later in Red wine casks for 12+ months with our mixed culture of wild yeast and bacteria.
Dark burgundy to brown hues, tan head settled quickly and left slight dotty lacing on the rim. The nose was full of dark fruits and wood, dry acidic esters and yeast. The front mouth is super acidic sour brett with a low carbonated finish. Mid is grapes, plumb and other dried fruits. There is a slight amount of earthy notes from the barrels. This is a really strong beer, alcohol forward, and not for the beginner.