Editor's Note: So many beers, so little time. One Big Bottle spotlights the brews we're sipping, one by one.
Many brewers still bristle at the idea of intentionally allowing wild yeast into their breweries for fear of contamination, but Chad Yakobson, the brewer behind Crooked Stave Artisan Beer Project has rolled out the welcome mat.
Yakobson launched Crooked Stave earlier this year, brewing Brettanomyces-focused beers in Fort Collins, Colorado, with the goal of expanding the expectations of what the wild yeast can bring to beer. He's uniquely suited to the task, having completed his master's thesis on Brett fermentation.
In August, Crooked Stave released the first bottles in what will be two ongoing series of beers, Wild Wild Brett and Petite Sour.
Wild Wild Brett Rouge (5.2% ABV), the first batch Crooked Stave brewed back in January, is a blend of beers 100% fermented using three strains of Brett and aged in red wine barrels with rose hips, hawthorn berries, and hibiscus added.
The beer pours a rust-tinged blush with a head almost three fingers high. The aroma is quite floral from the rose hips and hibiscus, mixed with tart cherry, cranberry, and Bretty funk. It also smells a bit dusty with a slightly chalky sweetness. The first sip takes a tropical turn with passion fruit and pineapple. It's tart, but doesn't produce the jaw-twisting pucker that many wild beers can. Beneath the fruit is a mellow earthiness that brings the flavor to a close. Wild Wild Brett Rouge is lean and very effervescent. (Seriously, both of these beers want to jump out of the bottle when opened. Have your glass ready.)
Flavorful and contemplative, Wild Wild Brett Rouge is a remarkably subtle wild beer. Its nuances encourage you to have another, and it lacks any extreme element that would dissuade you.
The hazy golden Pure Guava Petite Sour (4.5% ABV) is the first in Crooked Stave's year-round series of seasonal sour and sessionable wheat beers. It's a blend of a spontaneously soured beer that's finished with Brett and a barrel-fermented witbier spiced with sumac and coriander.
In the glass, aromas of ripe melon and sweet guava come first. Despite what the name implies, there's no actual fruit in the beer, it's all Brett character. It's also tart and a bit cheesy, but the latter could very well clean up with additional aging.
Citrus and cider apple flavors combine in sharp acidity on the palate—this is decidedly the more sour of the two beers. There's a little funky hay flavor midway through, and wheat follows. Intense, prickly carbonation inflates the perception of the beer's light body.
I look forward to trying these in again in a year or so. The Brett in both of these beers will cause their flavors and aromas to evolve over time.
Samples provided for review.