Style: 100% Brett / Pale Ale
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 to keep up with 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, well, 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.
It's a rare opportunity to review another 100% Brett beer brewed commercially, much less a hoppy 100% Brett beer. Okay, Crooked Stave calls the 6.7% ABV Hop Savant a dry-hopped pale ale, and Chad Yakobson has stated in interviews that he rarely includes hops before whirlpool in his brews (for non-brewers, this means there are low IBUs and thus low bitterness in his beers), but it's still about the closest thing I've found commercially to the 100% Brett IPAs I brew.
And with those expectations going in, I have to say, Hop Savant is misleading to think of as an IPA. Pale ales can shirk outright hoppiness to a large extent, so that genre tag works, but this really just isn't a hop-forward beer the way you might think. Fruit flavors certainly abound, but dominating the juicy, tropical hops is a tart, herbal, citrus-heavy character that seems to be more from the Brett. Brett pops out more in the aroma as well, with a musty funk that's just present enough to pin this as a wild brew, though not really committing it to any one direction, either funky or fruity. This batch of Hop Savant was doused with Mosaic, Citra and Simcoe hops, all of which I'm fairly familiar with, and none of which are particularly obvious in the nose. The foeder-fermentation comes through as a mild oaky vanilla character, and this seems to enhance the tartness, as well as adding a tannic bitterness.
I'm most surprised by how acidic Hop Savant is — not intensely so, but the fact that it has even a mild citrus acidity is rather surprising, given that it's a hoppy 100% Brett beer. It puts Hop Savant in a weird position, a nebulous space in between genres, but certainly a very interesting place. It is a worthy summation of so many brewing techniques. If all that matters is how pleasant it tastes, Hop Savant is a beautiful little weirdo.
Availability: 350 ml bottle. One of Crooked Stave's core beers, though the dry hops are different from release to release.