When the Crooked Stave Artisan Beer Project got its start in Denver in 2012, the brewery raised money with a members-only Cellar Reserve club; to belong, fans coughed up $300 in exchange for guaranteed access to some of the brewery’s limited-release projects. Although most of the beers were excellent and helped Crooked Stave quickly make a name for itself, one of them, Persica — a sour golden ale aged in oak with Colorado peaches and fermented entirely with Brettanomyces yeast — stood out.
“It’s the one that really started to put us on the map,” says Crooked Stave founder Chad Yakobson. “Persica holds a special place in our hearts.”
It’s also the beer that Crooked Stave will use to usher in the next phase of its growth on Saturday, April 16, when the brewery welcomes the public back to its original Barrel Cellar location (at 1441 West 46th Avenue) for an event and shows off the brewhouse and coolship that it only just began using.
And the Barrel Cellar, now called the Crooked Stave Brewery and Barrel Cellar, will look a little different than what people may remember from before it closed in late 2013, just after the brewery opened its shiny new tap room at the Source market in River North. “I think the look of that room will be quite a shock to people,” Yakobson says.
For starters, the brewery now encompasses 16,000 square feet in various units in the office park at 1441 West 46th Avenue, just off of Pecos Street. Some of that space is filled by Crooked Stave’s 25-hectoliter (or about 21-barrel) brewhouse, which includes ten stainless-steel fermentation tanks and a coolship — an open-topped vessel used for specialty fermentation and for adding other brewing ingredients.
Yakobson had originally planned to debut the system at the Source, but it went unused for a year there because of a dispute between Crooked Stave and Zeppelin Development, which owns the Source. Yakobson moved it to the Barrel Cellar in November 2014.
The brewhouse sat empty for another year there, however, as Crooked Stave began several construction projects at the Barrel Cellar, including the expansion of its foeder cellar, which will eventually house 23 to 25 foeders (large wooden vessels used for aging sour ales). In the meantime, Yakobson continued to brew wort (beer that hasn’t yet been fermented) at Epic Brewing; he has contract-brewed his wort at other breweries since 2012, transferring it to the Barrel Cellar where he adds yeast, bacteria, fruit and other ingredients for aging in foeders and wine and bourbon barrels.
Finally, at the end of December 2015, Yakobson cranked up the brewhouse and is now brewing 100 percent of his own wort in-house. “It’s amazing to have full control,” he says, adding that Crooked Stave brews four to five times per week.
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Persica Day will give Crooked Stave a chance to show off what it has done so far, although Yakobson says there are still several more renovation phases to come. The Brewery and Barrel Cellar won’t have regular hours for now, but will be used for special events like this one, he adds.
The party will start at 10 a.m., when bottles of Persica go on sale. Since there is only a limited amount, customers will be limited to six bottles each, first come, first served; the beer won’t be distributed in local stores. Crooked Stave will also tap “numerous barrel-aged sour beers from years past and to make a day out of the release.”
Some other breweries across the country have special days during which they release a highly sought-after beer that people are willing to wait in line for. These include 3 Floyds Dark Lord Day in Indiana, Cigar City Hunahpu Day in Florida and Russian River’s Pliny the Younger day in California. In addition, Crooked Stave has hosted the Denver incarnation of Zwanze Day, which is organized by Belgium’s Cantillon lambic brewery.
Yakobson says he wants to create a similar buzz for Persica. “It warrants a special day in our hearts, and we are finally getting a chance to bring that to fruition. We love all of our beers, but having a special day for Persica calls out its importance to us.”