Let me start out by saying I have a long running obsession with Crooked Stave. Now that I have got that off my chest I can get started. Chad Jacobson is the head brewer for Crooked Stave in Denver, Colo. He is known in the industry as being one of the leaders in the world of brettanomyces (brett) fermentation. Many brewers use brett, but not many have the true understanding of the curious little organism like Chad Jacobson. He has spent his entire career researching brettanomyces and what it can accomplish and it shows in his beers. As a home brewer obsessed with brettanomyces I owe almost everything I have learned to Jacobson and his research.
Unfortunately, I do not live in Denver, so getting my hands on many of his beers is fairly difficult. But when I heard he was working on a collaboration with Anchorage Brewing Company1 I got excited. Anchorage is another brewery that is high on my list thanks to its use of—you guessed it—brettanomyces. Every time I walk into a bottle shop and see anything from Anchorage it seemingly ends up in my cart and I knew that this release would be no different.
Between the Staves was brewed back in late 2012 and fermented in oak barrels. Three different strains of brettanomeyces2 were used to produce the beer in an effort to make a unique brettanomyces experience. Once primary fermentation was complete the beer found a home in Cognac barrels from France for almost a year. Only 650 cases of the beer were produced with 600 seeing distribution in select markets and 50 staying at home in Anchorage.
I would be excited with just about any beer from either brewery, but the fact both worked together on a single beer fuels massive anticipation. The wait is over. I pour it into the glass and hold it up to the light—only to realize that it is not the most attractive beer. It’s a very dirty and mucky brown that turned a dark rusty color around the edges when held to the light. While this does count for something in my book, it does not weigh that heavy in my final impression of any beer.
The aroma of Between the Staves hits with a nice sour cherry note followed by a musty funkiness that is surely from the various brettanomyces strains involved. There is also a bit of acetic acid that gives off a vinegar note that reminds me a lot of a Flemish red. There are subtle hints of apricot, dark grapes and oak that help round out the nose.
The taste follows along with the smell for the most part with the big sour cherries up front followed by a very nice mellow acidity. A bit of acetic acid is noticeable but not as prevalent as I would have thought based on the smell. The musty funkiness of the brettanomyces is also not as present as you would expect from the nose. A nice fruity sweetness comes in as I swirl the sip around that lingers into the finish. The cognac barrels lend a nice dark grape skin flavor along with a touch of oak. Overall, the flavors all meld very well together and the beer is very well-balanced.