Sour beers and wild ales seem to be exploding in popularity here in the United States in recent years. While many of them are almost an afterthought by already established beer makers, several breweries are making their mark on the craft beer industry by either specializing in or exclusively brewing beers with some type of wild yeast or souring bacteria.

Crooked Stave is one such brewery and they are not messing around when it comes to getting the most out of the funky bugs that bring us those lovely and unique flavors1 found only in sour beers. If you want to know more about the mastermind behind Crooked Stave’s wild yeast experimentation, I suggest you check out Erik Perink’s review of Origins for more background on Chad Jacobson’s passion.

Crooked Stave Surette bottle

Most of Crooked Stave’s beers could be considered limited releases, and one of its more popular offerings is a provision saison2 called Surette.

In keeping with the simplicity of the provision style, it is brewed with malted barley, wheat, oats, rye and spelt3 then fermented in an oak foeder4 with brettanomyces and lactobacillus.

After popping the cap on the 375ml bottle of Surette I take a quick sniff and am delighted with an obvious lactic sour note with hints of green apples. It pours a hazy golden orange into a Teku with very little fanfare, having no head to speak of and what does appear immediately recedes to leave a faint ring of bubbles around the edge of the glass. The nose after pouring is similar to my initial experience, with some green grape and a little funkiness coming out and a touch of honey sweetness on the back. All in all, the aroma is fairly complex and has me really looking forward to drinking this beer.

Crooked Stave Surette

My first sip of Surette leads with a substantial tartness and pretty much follows the nose, although much more subtly than I had anticipated. The carbonation is very light, particularly for a saison, which is a little disappointing but not a deal breaker for me as I am personally not a huge fan of the over-the-top carbonation found in many traditional saisons.

The finish on this beer is very clean and refreshing, as I would expect for the style. There is a very nice citrus note left on the palate that gradually fades into a slight sweetness, and as it opens up a bit there is a little bit of vanilla from the oak that comes out on occasion.

Crooked Stave Surette
BREWERY: Crooked Stave Artisan Beer Project
LOCATION: Denver, Colo.
STYLE: Provision saison
ABV: 6.2 percent
IBU: n/a
AVAILABLE IN: 375ml bottles
Ultimately, Surette is not a beer that I would consider an exercise in the creative combining of ingredients to produce an out-of-this-world brew. I would definitely consider it an example of how expertly manipulating souring bacteria and wild yeast can produce some wonderful flavors from some fairly standard5 ingredients. Chad Jacobson has done exactly that with Surette. The flavors are subtle, but unique, and quite substantial for a saison.
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