In a fitting prelude to this week's Great American Beer Festival, the Viceroy Snowmass played host to a liver- and artery-fossilizing event, as the hotel kicked off the inaugural Crooked Stave Artisan Beer Project Weekend. The Denver micro-brewery, located in The Source and owned by brewer Chad Yakobson, has made a national name for itself by producing carefully crafted, esoteric takes on sour beers (saisons and lambics, to be specific). Yakobson joined forces with Viceroy Executive Chef Will Nolan and Food & Beverage manager/Cicerone Danielle Becker to pair up Nolan's signature Cajun/Creole-inflected cuisine with a veritable truckload of Crooked Stave's limited release beers. From the "Meet the Brewer" welcome reception and saison and lambic seminars, to Saturday's 10-course blow-out beer pairing dinner, Curbed Ski was there to eat, drink, and be hungover.
Every welcome reception should include charbroiled oysters with lemon chive butter, bacon and crawfish hushpuppies, and deviled eggs with slices of black truffle and prosciutto tuiles, paired with Double Dry Hopped Vielle with Motueka (a New Zealand hops species, available as a summer limited release) and St. Bretta Batch #1 with Valencia oranges and Colorado wild sage. Nice to meet you, too.
Yakobson is a brewers' brewer, but he's also a regular people-person. Intelligent, highly skilled, articulate, friendly, and approachable, with an encyclopedic knowledge of beer history, brewing technique, and Belgian-style ales, it was a pleasure hearing him discourse on his love of sour beers and farmhouse ales. Or, as he says, "Saison is more of a family than a style. There are lots of different ways to produce them. But that's just my Soapbox of Saisons."
Kudos to pricing each event separately (starting at just $20 per seminar), which included vast quantities of four different beers and snacks from Ricard Brasserie. Hence the many locals in attendance, but we also love that off-season rates and full-blown fall foliage were in effect, making this an affordable luxury getaway with plenty of downtime for outdoor adventures.
Yakobson also imports beers, most of them esoteric Belgian varieties to die for. We loved the Zure Van Tildonk 2013, from Hof ten Dormaal brewery in Flanders. This farmstead (yes, we said farmstead; the family who produces it grows their own biodynamic wheat and barley, among other things) blond sour is aged in a monastery, and has compelling lactic, grapey, malty characteristics due in part to the ambient yeast used in its fermentation. Pair this bad boy with a fruity cheese like Rogue River Blue.
Word of the weekend: "Brettanomyces." Yakobson waxed poetic about this yeast found on the skins of fruit. Also known as Brett, this British brewing fungus gives sour beers- along with certain bacteria- their compelling, wild, earthy characteristics. We heart Brett.
How to decide the best food and beer pairing from an epic, 10-course meal? The fourth course of avocado and grapefruit salad with baby arugula and burnt citrus vinaigrette was perfection with L'Brett d'Or Grand Cru, a stonefruit-nosed lambic made with Palisade peaches and a hoppy, crisp flavor. And the L'Brett D'Cherry lambic with braised Colorado lamb shank tortelloni, slow-cooked cipollinis, and lamb jus was also pretty amazing. But our hands-down fave was roasted ribeye, butter-whipped potatotes, and fried spinach with dark beer jus, paired with the outrageously bombtastic Bourbon Barrel Cherry Origins. Think liquid cherry pie, with a complex, slightly viscous quality, and a sour, almost vinegary finish.
Best dessert beer: Try Blackberry Dark Origins; it tastes like Chocolove's Raspberries in Dark Chocolate bar. Yes, it's blackberry, but it has a dark berry nose that reminds us of our favorite candy bar in a glass. Crooked Stave might be in Denver, but it just made Curbed Ski's Best Ski Town Breweries list by virtue of its utter awesomeness. Be sure to stop by if you're in town for GABF (Yakobson is also, unsurprisingly, a judge).
· Beers or Bust: The Best Ski Town Breweries, April '14 [Curbed Ski Archives]
· One Year Later, Crooked Stave Beers are Making People Smile, Not Pucker [Eater Denver Archives]
· The 10 Greatest Moments from Telluride Blues & Brews [Curbed Ski Archives]
· The 18 Hot Spots for Dining & Drinking in Aspen [Curbed Ski Archives]