Beer Man

Crooked Stave will triple in size in 2013, sell sour beers out of state

Chad Yakobson talks fast and he doesn't stand still -- not when there is so much to do.

The founder, owner and head yeast whisperer at Crooked Stave Artisan Beer Project is in the midst of a major expansion at his northwest Denver Barrel Cellar, adding employees, barrels, storage space and taproom hours, but that's just the beginning of what he has in store for beer lovers in Colorado -- and possibly out of state -- in 2013.

"This is an extreme labor of love," says Yakobson, who specializes in making wild and sour ales. "I can't explain the number of hours I spend here."

See also: - Crooked Stave adds funk to Denver's beer culture with a barrel cellar and brewery - Crooked Stave is brewing in Denver and readying a separate barrel cellar - The Source, an artisan market with a restaurant, beer garden and brewery, will open in River North

Here, and just a mile or so away at Prost Brewing, where Yakobson contract-brews the majority of his beer before hauling it back to the barrel cellar, where his real work begins, culturing the beer with various strains of yeast and bacteria before aging it either in used wine or liquor barrels or in foeders (giant wooden casks used for aging wine or beer).

Crooked Stave produced 450 barrels of beer in 2012, and sold 250 barrels (the rest is still aging). This year, the brewery will produce at least 2,000 barrels, or roughly 315 percent more than in 2012, and sell about 1,250 barrels, or about 400 percent more.

To do that, Yakobson recently purchased four 60-hectoliter foeders from the Seguin Moreau Napa Cooperage. Each one holds the equivalent of 50 or 51 barrels of beer. They will complement the four existing foeders at Crooked Stave.

"It was so exciting when we go them in and now we have new ones. Every time we finish something, it seems like there is something else to do," Yakobson says. "We may have more foeders now than any other brewery in the country besides New Belgium."

Continue reading for more on Crooked Stave.

He also plans to buy 190 more regularly-sized oak barrels (a few from Leopold Brothers Distillery) by April, which will bring his total to about 320.

In August, Yakobson plans to open his own brewery and taproom -- with a twenty-barrel system, seventy seats, two new foeders, more barrels and some other tricks - in the Source, an artisan food and beverage-themed marketplace in RiNo. At that point, he will shut his current barrel cellar to the public and use it just for production.

But in the meantime, he is running out of room -- which is why Yakobson is hoping to lease 2,000 square feet of space next door to the barrel cellar where he will be able to store unused equipment, bottles and his bottling line when it isn't being used.

But that won't be often. Yakobson began the year by making one-off beers in what he called his Wild Wild Brett series and bottling in 750 ml bottles; the series will come to an end next month, however. His new plan is to bottle every-changing varieties of four standard sours, Saison, Surette, Hop Savant and St. Bretta, in 375 ml bottles.

"The citrus will always be changing, probably every quarter. One time, it might be Mineola tangelos and the next it could be blood orange or Meyer lemon. You will have to look at the back of the bottle or the web site to know," he says. "We want people to recognize our beers, but we want those beers to evolve as well."

And they may evolve out of state. Yakobson now has six fulltime employees, including a sales director, and he plans to start distributing some of his beer outside of Colorado this year to states where his wild and sour ales are already known and appreciated.

"We want to fulfill our home market, but we make eccentric, boutique beer and we want to showcase it in other states, like Oregon, California and New York," he says. Yakobson doesn't have a specific time frame for when that will happen, but it should be soon.

"Every beer here is a reflection of me, of my palate and the flavors that I appreciate. That is an intimate way to brew, and I want to be able to share that," he says.

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