With a focus on playing with Brettanomyces yeast and aging its beer in oaken barrels, Colorado’s Crooked Stave Artisan Beer Project has been putting years of scientific research into drinkable art since 2010.
A labor of love, the building of a barrel happens one vertical stave at a time, with an attention to shape and detail necessary for the overall functionality of the finished product.
For around 2,000 years, barrels were the containers that got a variety of goods from one place to another. Those good included nails, flour, apples, molasses and coffee. Long before pallets, shipping containers and packing tape, barrels were the workhorses of the trading empire. Barrels needed to be able to withstand rolling and jostling, as well as the varying temperatures and humidity in a ship’s hold on long journeys across the Atlantic Ocean in the early days of exploration and colonization in the New World.
A cooper is a craftsman who has the knowledge and skill to lash thin staves together like pieces of a puzzle, heat the wood until it’s temporarily pliable enough to secure hoops around it and give it the barrel shape we all know and recognize.
When transporting liquid like turpentine, ale or brine-cured meats, it was essential the barrels not leak.
The character and identity of wood transfers itself to whatever liquid it contains. For beer, wine and liquor, it provides a safe place for aging and maturing, and in that respect not much has changed over the millennia.
In the case of Crooked Stave, its wild and sour ales ferment in oaken barrels for anywhere between six months to three years. From there it’s either blended, packaged for sale or bottle-conditioned for further evolution.
Colorado WildSage Brett Saison
Colorado WildSage Brett Saison came packaged in a can, conditioned with a minimal amount of yeast added, and was 7.2% alcohol by volume. It poured pale gold and clear with an ample off-white head and generous lacing. It smelled gently of wet barnyard, herbal greenness, grass, dry citrus and unburnt dried white sage, and there was a deep and pleasant dankness that was comforting like soft earth.
In flavor, tart lemon mixed with sweeter lemon curd, and there was a similarity to ginger ale right down to its highly effervescent body. It tasted fibrous and of hay, and dried white sage pulled across my tongue.
Crooked Stave would like you to enjoy this beer between 46 and 54 degrees and paired with a caprese salad with balsamic reduction or an ash-ripened goat cheese.
Petit Sour Blueberry
The Petit Sour Blueberry was fermented with mixed cultures and then underwent an additional fermentation with the help of fresh blueberries while hanging out in oak. This wee 4.5% ABV ale poured light chestnut to medium amber in color, slightly hazy and with little to no head. I noticed tartness, green apple, mild funk and wild Maine blueberries warmed up and ready for a plate of pancakes. The flavor offered tart blueberries slightly less than ripe from the vine, light funkiness, a middling sourness and drying oak in a thinnish body.
Suggested serving temperature for this beer is also between 46 and 54 degrees, while the brewery recommends pairing it with ceviche or saltimbocca.
Contact Amber DeGrace with comments and questions at email@example.com and find her on Twitter at @amberdegrace.