Jeff Crabtree is one of an increasing number of beer makers who have found greater success by brewing the kind of beers that sparked their creative passion, rather than brewing a core set of classical styles.
Crabtree uses a 10 barrel brewhouse that had been previously employed by the now defunct Greeley beer maker Union Colony Brewery. The brewery anticipates production of more than 1400 barrels of beer in 2012.
A trusty 750 mL bottling line
Crabtree uses a trusty old bottling line it sourced form nearby Left Hand Brewing when that brewery switched to 12-ounce bottles. Many of Crabtree's farmhouse ales and barrel projects are bottled in 750 mL cork and cage bottles.
Crabtree was the first brewery in Colorado to employ the services of a Longmont-based business known as Mobile Canning. The concept is simple: a truck containing a custom-built canning line arrives at your brewery and cans only as much beer as requested. This new cost-effective way to get canned product to market for small breweries is proving popular. Traditional canning lines are extremely expensive, plus they take up a lot of space, and the minimum order for printed cans is somewhere in the 250,000 range. Thanks to Mobile Canning, four packs of Crabtree's GABF Silver Medal winning Oatmeal Stout and its Eclipe Black IPA can now be found in local stores along Colorado's Front Range.
The concrete factory
The brewery and tap room are located in a post-war concrete factory that Jeff owns. The brewery has grown from a small corner of the building to filling almost all of it. Significant expansion is in Crabtree’s future, including a new dedicated tasting room in an off-site location.
The barrel program
Crabtree has a significant barrel program for a small brewery. The 55 wine and spirit barrels the brewery currently has were sourced through a local barrel broker who specializes in hunting down barrels from as far afield as California and Europe. Crabtree has released four barrel aged, bottle-conditioned projects in 750 mL bottles, with lots more on the way.
Crabtree’s tasting room offers up to 11 beers on tap. The selections change frequently, including year round beers, seasonals, and one-off experiments. Crabtree also sells its bottled and canned beers at the tasting room, and offers growlers to go.
The Berliner Weisse
The brewery's greatest claim to fame thus far is its 2011 GABF Gold Medal winning Berliner-Weisse. It’s a truly shinning example of the almost forgotten sour wheat beer. For those who prefer their sour beers with a slightly sweeter edge, Crabtree has developed its own organic rendition of a traditional raspberry syrup to add to your beer.
On the day we visited, our favorite beers were the robust and roasty 2011 GABF Silver Medal winning Oatmeal Stout and the Ginger Bee, a blonde ale brewed with Colorado wildflower honey and fresh ginger.