Crooked Stave will rely on sour beers for sweet success

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Chad Yakobson has a master's degree in beer.

And like most academics, he's putting that degree to use for the greater good, namely by researching different kinds of yeast strains -- primarily brettanomyces, which is used in certain styles of "sour" ales -- and brewing beers based on what he learns.

Brett beers, as they are known, have sour flavors that are normally discouraged in beer-making, but are encouraged in this Belgian-inspired style. It's an acquired taste, but one that builds loyal, even fanatical followers (tickets to the second annual Boulder Sour Fest this June sold out within minutes last month).

Last year, Yakobson founded the Crooked Stave Artisan Beer Project, a one-man brewery that operates primarily inside of Funkwerks Brewing in Fort Collins. In late May or early June, Crooked Stave will release its first Brett beer, American Petite Sour.

In the meantime, however, he'll tap a special non-sour Belgian-style beer that he made just for Euclid Hall and in conjunction with the team there. That beer, Good Glory, will be tapped tomorrow at 4 p.m. at the beer-centric restaurant. A second version -- this one with brettanomyces added -- will be tapped for Euclid Hall's first anniversary in August.

After that, Yakobson plans to brew four to six beers throughout the year, which he'll bottle in 750 ml containers and sell to liquor stores along the Front Range. Since the brewery is small, he doesn't plan to keg much of it because it would run out faster.

To brew the American Petite Sour, Yakobson used a recipe for a classic wheat beer, then added springtime ingredients like coriander and aged the beer in a 660-gallon oak fermenter with his favorite strain of Brett yeast. As the seasons change, Yakobson plans to alter the recipe slightly to add ingredients appropriate for the weather, getting darker as he goes along.

"It will be a year-round beer that changes seasonally," he explains. The beer will also be more tart than sour, so that it is more approachable to drinkers.

After that, he plans to release four other beers: L'Brett d'Or, a golden sour made with 100 percent Brett and aged in chardonnay barrels; Flemish Red, aged in pinot noir barrels from the Western Slope; a dark, sour Baltic porter aged in whiskey barrels; and finally, Yakobson's take on a classical classic Gueuze -- the funkiest of the sour beers.

All of the beer will be made with yeast cultures from Yakobson's yeast library.

Yakobson lives in Denver and plans to move his operation to Denver sometime in the next two years, but for now, he used the brewing equipment at Funkwerks before transferring the beer into his own two fermenters. From there, most of his beer is put into barrels, which are stored at Funkwerks. Yakobson currently has 52 barrels that he got from Napa Valley and plans to have another fifty by the fall.

Raised in the Morrison area, Yakobson attended Colorado State University to study winemaking and then moved to New Zealand, where he intended to get a master's degree. "I was interested in the biochemistry of barrel aging," he says. "But I was always a beer drinker, and after living in New Zealand for two more years, I knew that beer and fermentation interested me much more than wine.

Yakobson then moved to Scotland to get his brewing degree and later came back to the United States, where he got a job at Odell Brewing. If he had stayed on the wine side, Yakobson says he would have had to move to the Bordeaux region of France, because it makes the best product.

But Colorado, his home state, was comparable to Bordeaux when it comes to beer.

Follow Westword's Beer Man on Twitter at @ColoBeerMan.

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