The Way Crooked Run Branches Off its Main Brand for Sour Promotion

When Sours aren’t your primary focus, sometimes a name change can help set the tone in delivering a message to consumers.

Crooked Run has always had something of a sour program even from the beginning, but helping with the sub-brand name Native Culture Project, the Virginia brewery has been able to show consumers two sides of the company.

“About three years ago Brad Erickson and myself started getting involved in coolshipping and mixed fermentation beers,” explained Head Brewer McKinnen Leonard. “After one season we were hooked and knew we had to grow the program as soon as possible. We decided that a sub-brand was the best way to tie in Crooked Run but keep the beers we would be producing separate so Native Culture was born.”

Whether it was kettle sours or mixed fermentation everyone on the Crooked Run seemed to gravitate toward them, Leonard added.

“Kettle sours have been a part of our core lineup for the past three years ranging from classic Berliners, fruited Berliners, pastry/cocktail-inspired sours, and Goses,” he said. “These beers have really made a name for us, but they aren’t the pinnacle of sour beer in my opinion.”

READ MORE: Can Coolship Brewing be Profitable?

Leonard said they decided on the name Native Culture for a few reasons.

“We would be using native yeast that we either propagated or blended together to create our own unique culture, all ingredients would be sourced from as close to home as possible, and the way each brewery handles sour beers is different and that alone creates a distinctive culture amongst us,” he said. Most of the sours are predominantly sold in-house. However, Leonard said they do sell to a few select bottle shops that they have personal relationships with and have doubled production of these brands from 2019 to 2020 and released a minimum of one beer a month.

The coolship is the heart and soul of the program, Leonard said. There are a few core beers that Native Culture is building stock on now, such as a Methode Traditionnelle Gueuze-inspired beer, a sour red (the brewery’s Cuvee), and a co-pitch Saison with Buckwheat.

“Beyond those beers, we make a schedule every season with our most unique ideas,” Leonard said. “So far this year we have brewed a Golden with Indian blue corn, a coolship co-pitched Lager, a co-pitched Saison we knocked out into the coolship with caramelized citrus fruit and honey, a co-pitched Saison with hibiscus and lime, as well as a Wee Heavy with smoked squash brewed using our coolship with our friends at Barreled Souls in Maine.”

The sour program started with two wine barrels and a four-bbl bright tank in the Leesburg, Virginia location and quickly became a warehouse filled with over 70 barrels and countless stainless bright and fruiting tanks. In the past year and a half, Leonard said they have been doing more blending than ever, often young Saisons with a mature sour beer or a younger Lacto-forward with a more mature Brett-forward beer.

“This past summer we made the switch to using only local fruit when possible,” Leonard said, adding they have been utilizing different techniques when processing and fermenting them along with using fresh herbs, aging beer in secondary liquor barrels, and bottle conditioning with different yeast and sugars to get a unique characteristic as just a few more ways the brewery can create a more complex and enjoyable experience for the customer.

Photo courtesy Crooked Run/Native Culture

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