Beer: Surette Brewery: Crooked Stave Artisan Beer Project Style: Saison ABV: 6.2 percent
Another day, another new brewery in Phoenix. This week's rookie has landed on shelves after a relatively short flight from Denver, but tasting their beers might make you think they came from Belgium. Chad Yakobson, brewer and owner of Crooked Stave Artisan Beer Project, has made a name for his brewery by focusing on the wild. He's well-equipped to do it -- the man wrote his master's thesis on the fermentation of brettanomyces.
You may recall we recently began receiving beers from another Colorado-based brewery: Funkwerks. The timing is appropriate, as these breweries have been closely linked since their founding. Crooked Stave was actually housed within Funkwerks until September 2012, when the brewery found its own spot, the Crooked Stave Barrel Cellar, just north of downtown Denver.
Phoenix has been given three Crooked Stave beers to start with: St. Bretta, a brettanomyces-spiked Belgian wit; Vieille, a dry-hopped saison aged in oak; and Surette, a saison brewed with malted barley, wheat, oats, rye and spelt and aged in oak foeders packed with Brettanomyces and Lactobacillus naturally present. We focus today on the latter.
Poured into a tulip (as all saisons should be), Surette is a pale, hazed-over tangerine. One inch of dense, creamy white foam sits atop the glass. Subtle acidity is the main aroma component, but there also are hints of lemon peel, green apple, and barnyard funk. Maybe a soft touch of white crackers as well.
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This is the apogee of sourness I find allowable in a saison. So often the lacto is overdone -- the proportion here is perfect. A soft, vinegary kiss adds to the refreshment of this delicate brew, while notes of lemon jolly rancher, sweet pear, and white bread add interest before a dry finish. A medium body, moderate prickly carbonation with a good amount of silky fizz, and nigh-unnoticeable alcohol content make this a thoroughly quenching brew.
Surette is a good brew with which to introduce yourself to Crooked Stave. The balance of flavors is beautiful, and it's not overly spiced, yeasty or dry -- just a solid, drinkable Saison. I wish it came in a 750-milliliter format so I could time how quickly I made it through the bottle. This little 375 was gone within minutes.
Zachary Fowle is a Certified Cicerone, an accredited guide to beer. He works at World of Beer in Tempe.