Crooked Stave Artisan Beer Project is about experimentation and exploration with the science and research to back it up. This Denver based one-man operation led by Chad Yakobson is known for its sour and wild barrel-aged beers. Yakobson, a Colorado native, will take his beer to the Great American Beer Festival this year for the first time. But if you don't have tickets to the sold-out beer celebration, you are in luck: Crooked Stave's tap room at the Barrel Cellar has extended hours and will tap a new barrel-aged sour beer each day at noon.
Yakobson currently brews at River North Brewery and Prost Brewing. He transfers the beer to the Barrel Cellar to ferment. Next year, Crooked Stave will move its brewing operations and tap room to a larger space inside The Source, a planned high-end artisan market set in an 1880s foundry building in the River North neighborhood. Eater talked to Yakobson about his background, brews, and what he's bringing to the GABF.
Crooked Stave is an unusual name for a brewery— what's in the name? Stave are all the pieces that make up oak barrels. Oak is a focal point of the brewery. A crooked stave is one that is different-that represents our approach. In the industry, we are the crooked stave.
Would you explain your beer making process? It's fun and unique. Where most breweries end is where Crooked Stave starts. We produce clean, flavorful beers and then age them in oak for anywhere between 3-18 months. Our Wild Wild Brett series don't go into oak. These 100 percent Brett beers are the staple of our lineup. We use our proprietary yeasts that were cultured during my research and are continuing to culture. They are small batch fermentations we put through a series of tests to explore the aromas and flavors they produce. There are 10 strains and each one has different characteristics-citrusy, dry, tropical fruit, funky earth.
Speaking of yeast strains, you wrote a thesis on Brettanomyces, the Brett-strain of yeast. How did you get to that point? I started out studying horticulture at CSU, focusing on viticulture. I was studying wine making but was always bigger on beer. Since college I was drinking beer, sour beer, a lot of La Folie. There was no information out there. The focus of my thesis was looking at the fermentation characteristics in Brettanomyces. When I first arrived at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh to study beer, I knew I wanted to write about it.
What kind of barrels do you use? We have all sorts. We use a lot of used French Oak, white wine barrels. We just got three foeders-1,800 gallon barrels and we have 225 liter barrels. We also use some cognac, whiskey, and brandy barrels.
What are you working on right now? Two 100% Brett beers. Both are designed around new research looking at enzymes and their ability to create new flavors.
What can we expect from Crooked Stave in the future? More unique sour and barrel aged beers. Looking at new aspects of flavors in the Brett beer through use of raw materials and ingredients.
What beers are you entering at GABF? Our Petite Sour in the German Style Sour category; Surette-our wood aged saison in the Belgian and French Style Saisons; Sentience-a bourbon barrel aged wild quadruple in Barrel Aged Sours; Persica a golden sour with peaches in Barrel Aged Sour; and Wild Wild Brett Indigo fermented with blueberries in the Brett Ale category.
Which beers do you think have the best chance to win? I strategically chose these because I think they have a good chance of winning. This sounds really cocky but I wouldn't be surprised if every single one won a medal. Every brewery should say that. I am especially excited about the Persica. I love that beer.
What breweries do you want to check out at GABF? Bells, Cigar City, Cambridge Brewing Company? there are so many.
Any advice to first time GABF participants? Not to participate in the aahhing when someone breaks a glass. To pace themselves and drink a lot of water. What's the saying? It's not a race. It's a marathon.
— Laura Saffioti