Like a winery, Crooked Stave brewery is raising money with a reserve membership program

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Crooked Stave's brews aren't for everyone. But for beer fans who love sour and wild ales, they're worth the pucker -- and the price.

Chad Yakobson, the one-man operation behind Crooked Stave brewery, knows that, which is why he's been selling memberships to people who love this style of beer and who want to get something in return for helping him capitalize on the future of his company.

Founded in 2010, Crooked Stave has been leasing space from Funkwerks Brewing in Fort Collins, but Yakobson plans to move the brewery to Denver's RiNo neighborhood this summer. Focused almost exclusively on wild or sour beers that are brewed with brettanomyces yeast and souring bacterias, all of Crooked Stave beers are aged in barrels.

Crooked Stave Cellar Reserve memberships cost $300 and come with swag (like beer glasses, a T-shirt and tote bag), benefits (like beer discounts and event invitations) and ten bottles of special beers that won't be available commercially for the most part.

So far, Yakobson has sold 133 out of a possible 400 memberships, but he plans to cut off sales in six days, on March 1, so he can keep it manageable.

"In the wine industry, reserve memberships are quite common. Wineries use them for the same reason we do," Yakobson says, to raise money while the product -- which can take months or even years to develop -- is aging in a barrel. "I was brewing and making beers for eight months before I sold anything," says Yakobson, who released his first bottled beer last August. "It's very labor-intensive and it's very capital-intensive."

Yakobson only brews a small amount of beer at a time, which he packages in 750 ml bottles that usually retail for $12.99 each. Since he began, he has brewed 315 barrels, or roughly 9,765 gallons of beer. The Cellar Reserve beers will be ones that he has only made one or two barrels of, however.

"These are fun beers, but there are usually only about 400 bottles of each," he says, so they can't really be distributed to liquor stores. Leftover beers from these batches will either be sold to Cellar Reserve members or possibly out of the brewery itself.

Yakobson thought about going through Kickstarter to try to raise money for his move and his new brewery, but decided against it. "We already have product, and we've been making a name for ourselves, so I don't want to ask for free handouts. We are going to give something back and make it worthwhile," he says.

"These are the people who are putting trust into our product," he adds.

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