Brettanomyces. It’s a curious word whose definition our resident beer-drinking sloth, Emilio, had to look up. It’s not a word he uses on the regular. Most people probably don’t. But for Chad Yakobson, founder and brewmaster of Denver’s Crooked Stave Artisan Beer Project, Brettanomyces—a non-spore forming genus of yeast—are what he lives and breathes.
While Emilio works out how to pronounce Brettanomyces, he’s enjoying a can of Crooked Stave’s New Zealand Style Pilsner in the blooming clematis vines.
Crooked Stave’s story starts long before “Brettanomyces Guru” Chad Yakobson opened the brewery’s Denver doors, and later a taproom in Fort Collins. After writing his Masters’ thesis on the brewing industry’s use of Brettanomyces, colloquially known as the “Brett,” Yakobson sought to share his knowledge about this yeast with brewers.
Side note: Crooked Stave’s “demonic dark sour” Nightmare on Brett beer was named in honor of the “Brett.”
Yakobson published his Master’s research on an open-source website called the Brettanomyces Project. While Emilio didn’t spend a great deal of time digging into the website’s nitty gritty, he tells us it looks like a rich resource for those interested in the “pure culture fermentation characteristics of Brettanomyces yeast species and their use in the brewing industry.” *
*Asterisk: Emilio borrowed that last part verbatim from Yakobson’s dissertation on the Brettanomyces Project website. Trust us. It’s better than Emilio trying to nutshell it himself.
Back to Crooked Stave.
Chad Yakobson describes his brewing approach as a progressive blend of “science and art through creativity and passion.” If that description conjures up images of a wistful Parisian artist wearing a blue beret and using paintbrushes to mix liquids in beakers, you aren’t far off.
You’re totally far off, actually. Chad Yakobson looks nothing like that. But the product of his brewing approach is an imaginative stable of beers that somehow manages to be adventurous, complex, elegant, and bold all at the same time. Proof of this is found in every beer they make, from their Cellar Series Mama Bear’s Sour Cherry Pie to their seasonal Scorpion Bowl Tropical IPA to their easy-drinking New Zealand Style Pilsner.
And because everyone loves a good where did their name come from story, Emilio has that explanation. In the brewing world, a stave is one of several thin slats of wood forming the sides of a wooden barrel. Wooden barrels are at the heart of Yakobson’s beer and brewing operations. As for the Crooked part, it isn’t explicitly spelled out, but one can’t help but wonder if it describes the path of Yakobson’s brewing journey: a winding, twisting road.