Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Crooked Stave - Surrette Reserva Review

Brewery: Crooked Stave (CO)
Style: Farmhouse Wild Ale / Sour Ale
ABV: 6.2%
Grade: A-

I'd been hoping to find some Crooked Stave for a long time — they're one of those rare instances where a brewery's reputation proceeds them far in advance of their actual distribution. Of course, a lot of that has to do with how much of a nerd I am for sour beer, as Chad Yakobson has really made a name for himself as an expert on Brettanomyces. Crooked Stave is one of the most unique breweries in the country: I believe every single one of their beers has Brett in it, yet they aren't a strictly sour beer producer, like Jolly Pumpkin. For example, Crooked Stave is one of the only breweries in the world regularly producing100% Brett beers as part of their standard line-up. But they brew with Brett in other ways, including the typical, yet still genre-less, "Belgian base style aged on Brett and oak."

Having said all that, Surrette Reserve is probably, out of Crooked Stave's whole unique line-up, one of the closest to other American sour ales. It is, in fact, surprisingly sour, which I didn't expect at all — farmhouse or Belgian style ales simply aged with Brett turn funky, but are rarely sour without some outside help. Brett does have the ability to produce acid in certain conditions (at least so I've heard), so I don't know if the sourness here is the result of Chad Yakobson's mystical mastery of the yeast, or some other factors — bacteria, or a lactic acid addition like Ithaca's Brute employs. It's nowhere near as carbonated as Brute, so the sourness has a relaxed, tongue-coating quality without the 'zip,' which is exaggerated even more by the dry oaky finish. As extremely dry and yet lacking in fizz as Surrette Reserva is, it stays light and bright on your tongue. 

The sourness is about medium, but Brett is mostly the focus of the beer, with a strong layer of the classic "horse blanket sweat" or whatever people say in the nose — earthy, dank, barnyard. Funky. I wish a bit more of the Brett remained in the taste, but the sour and oak begins to take over, fighting for control with some apple cider fruit character, and a few pleasant tropical notes. This is a very balanced, very drinkable beer, something I'd call an "every-day drinker" sour beer.

Availability: 750 ml bottle. One time or occasional release, from what I can tell.

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