Style: 100% Brett / Witbier
I was ecstatic when I read that Crooked Stave's beers would be headed to NYC thanks to a neat little swap with 12% Imports — it was a bit of news I never really expected to hear, given that Crooked Stave barely seems big enough to cover their home-turf Colorado market. If you spend any amount of time online reading about sour beer and Brettanomyces, you probably already know all about brewmaster Chad Yakobson, and understand my excitement. If not, suffice it to say that Chad's operation is pretty much one-of-a-kind: there is probably no other brewery in the world focusing on Brettanomyces the way that Crooked Stave does.
St. Bretta is a 100% Brett witbier, one of the many all-Brett fermented beers that Chad brews. I make a point to track down any 100% Brett beer that I can, being that I have a thing for brewing them myself, though many commercial examples I've found disappointing; either too cloying or too phenolic. Not so with St. Bretta — I could tell even before taking a sip that Chad has nailed it. The nose is bright and lively with lemongrass, citrus, oak, hay, and a relatively clean, almost Belgian-y funk that wouldn't be too out of place in a regular witbier. Surprisingly, there's also a strong undertone of lactic sourness, much more than I would expect from just the advertised citrus. (St. Bretta appears to switch up the fruit involved based on the season, which is a really cool idea. This "Spring" version of the beer uses Minneola Tangelos, which are apparently a hybrid of tangerines and grapefruit).
This unexpected tartness is the big hook of St. Bretta, for me. It's a common misconception that Brettanomyces produces sourness in beer. This isn't really true — Brett can produce low levels of acidity, and also dry out a beer with high attenuation, which can result in a very tart character, and St. Bretta suggests the extreme end of that. I suppose some of this acidity is also coming from the fruit, but it tastes deeper and less obviously citrusy than that — there are moments where my brain is convinced this is a nice mild Berliner Weisse. Whatever the trick, it's a nice one. The tartness plays extremely well with the wheat base and makes the general fruitiness of the beer feel more earned. Towards the finish, the citrus becomes even more pronounced, ending in a slightly-bitter, slightly-tannic snap. There's little funk throughout, little declaration that this is a Brett-fermented beer. For those who still expect 100% Brett beer to taste 100% more funky, the acidity adds a nice compromise, a clear note of "wildness." And most importantly, it makes for a refreshing, drinkable beer as well as an interesting showcase of 100% Brett magic.
Availability: 12.7 ounce bottle. Colorado area, and now, New York City.