Beer Man

Crooked Stave Moves Its Brewery Equipment Out of the Source, Will Keep Tap Room

When Crooked Stave Artisan Beer Project opened its showplace tap room inside the urban-chic Source market a year ago, owner Chad Yakobson planned to start brewing there right away. But for month after month, his shiny new equipment sat empty as he and Zeppelin Development, which owns the building, tried to work out logistical issues.

The situation was never resolved, and Yakobson, frustrated, decided a few weeks ago to simply pick up his equipment -- which includes a 21-barrel brewhouse, six fermentation tanks and a coolship -- and take it to his other location in the Sunnyside neighborhood. He carried out the move last weekend in two all-night operations.

See also: Video: The Source Celebrates its First Birthday in River North

"We put a lot of time and energy into this," Yakobson says about the buildout of the tap room and brewery at the Source. "So it's disappointing. But we were able to figure out a way to keep going."

Founded in 2010 in Fort Collins, Crooked Stave moved to a Denver business park at 1441 West 46th Avenue, in September 2012, where it opened a taproom and created a barrel-aging cellar for its wild and sour ales. Unlike most beer makers, Crooked Stave makes its wort (beer before it has been fermented) at other breweries. Yakobson then transfers the liquid to his barrel cellar where he inoculates it with yeast and bacteria and ages it in wooden barrels or in large wooden tanks, called foeders.

Crooked Stave opened the tap room at the Source in October 2013 and mostly closed the Barrel Cellar to the public, although not to production.

Yakobson has since leased more space in the business park, bringing his total there up to around 12,000 square feet. He plans to set up the brewhouse there and to begin brewing by the end of the year. He'll also double the number of tanks he uses and expand his foeder farm from thirteen vessels to nineteen.

Crooked Stave, which has a five-year lease on the 2,900-square-foot space, will continue to operate its tap room at the Source, and plans to add more tap handles, tables and chairs and to "spruce things up," Yakobson says.

"Of course we would have loved to have Crooked Stave brew at the Source, but at the end of the day we just love Chad's beers and support his effort to increase production at one location and operate the tap room at the Source more efficiently," says Kyle Zeppelin, of Zeppelin Development. "More sours are promised for the tap room, as well as additional seating capacity; that's something we look forward to. Crooked Stave remains an important part of the Source, and we are excited to see how they grow in their role."

The problems at the Source were "a combination of a lot of things," Yakobson says. The first was that once his equipment was in place, he had trouble making the logistics of the location work. He wasn't able to connect his equipment, including a glycol chiller, as easily as he had hoped and he didn't have as much access to the alleyway behind the Source as he'd expected for bringing in and shipping out malt and wort.

The second problem was that Crooked Stave has expanded so quickly that the brewhouse would have been at capacity by the time he actually hooked it up, Yakobson says. By moving, he'll be able to add more storage tanks.

"We've been brewing everything over at Epic Brewing," says Yakobson, who takes the wort from that facility to his barrel cellar. But Epic has told him that they won't be able to take the time and space to brew his wort for him beyond this year due to its own growth.

Because the barrel cellar will now become a major production facility, Yakobson says he doesn't plan to reopen the tap room there. He also announced in October that he will end the Cellar Reserve, a membership club, so that he can "focus on increasing production of its core barrel-aged sours -- L'Brett d'Or, Origins and Nightmare on Brett -- as well as creating more specialty one-off barrels, and opening public access to more beers previously only available to a select group of Cellar Reserve members."

And earlier in November, Crooked Stave revealed that it will host seven bottle releases between now and the end of the year at the Source.

The move itself was a logistical challenge as four workers from RMS Cranes and Rigging tried to figure out how to maneuver the equipment around in some tight spaces inside the Source and out the back door. They waited until most of the customers had left other businesses at the Source to begin working, so the operation took place overnight.

"We ended up removing the grain silo from the mash tun, and it was then a breeze to get all of the equipment out," says Crooked Stave marketing coordinator Sarah Haughey, who was on hand for the move, along with other Crooked Stave friends and family.

"They moved four of the fermenters, the hot liquor tank, grain silo, mash tun, stairs/platform on the first night, then the remaining fermenters, coolship, five brite tanks, water filter, heater, grain mill, and other miscellaneous pieces of equipment."

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Jonathan Shikes is a Denver native who writes about business and beer for Westword.
Contact: Jonathan Shikes