Not so long ago, beer brands were built around a flagship, a solid brew with wide appeal that was always on tap. Like the Spanish Armada, flagships such as New Belgium’s Fat Tire and Sierra Nevada’s Pale Ale seemed like invincible juggernauts — until they weren’t.
Today’s craft beer geeks demand a steady drip of novelty in the form of endless adjunct-loaded flavor variants. Courtney Servaes is more than happy to provide that at her brand-new brewery Servaes, which joins Transport in downtown Shawnee, Kansas.
Servaes started homebrewing in 2012, at first using an aluminum stock pot and a turkey fryer. Eventually, she was brewing four or five times a week.
Inside the sunny Servaes taproom, they pour what Courtney proudly calls “novelty beers.” A recent visit included a hazy IPA flavored like carrot cake and a sour witbier inspired by rainbow sorbet. The rainbow sorbet beer, built off a wheat base called Like Butterflies, was her breakthrough.
“My wife came up with the idea, and I remember thinking that it seemed impossible to brew a beer with so many different flavors and make it all work,” Courtney says. “When we took it to the festival, people went crazy. It was sort of the beer that put me on the map and started getting me noticed.”
Nationally, sweet flavored beers are big — the most talked-about release of the year is a brew made with Lucky Charms cereal from a brewery in Virginia — but the trend hasn’t hit hard in Kansas City. Yet. Servaes aims to change that, with Courtney setting a goal of releasing 100 unique beers in 2019. A recent list featured Peach Cobbler, Creme Brulee and Tutti-Fruitti Jelly Bean.
“I built an entire business model around the idea of novelty beers, around the idea that every time you come into the brewery, you’re going to taste something different,” she says. “I don’t want the same beer sitting around for multiple weeks. I want your experience to be different every single time you come in.”
She’s embraced an approach long shunned by puritanical German-influenced lagerheads and Anglophile Real Ale enthusiasts.
“When I use the word novelty to describe my beers, it’s because that’s exactly what they are,” she says. “They are fresh. They are new. They are original, and, for the most part, they are unlike anything anyone else is doing in the area on a consistent basis. None of them are for show. I might throw an entire carrot cake or pumpkin pie or box of brownie mix into my beers. That’s not for show. My goal for every single one of my beers is to taste exactly as advertised. If I say it tastes like brownie batter mix, it’s because that’s what it tastes like.”
And if she says it tastes like creme brulee, better reach for a spoon. GO: Servaes, 10921 Johnson Drive, Shawnee, Kan. 4–10 pm Thursday and Friday, 11 am–10 pm Saturday, 11 am–10 pm Sunday. 913-608-5220, servaesbrewco.com.