Full Moon Brews: Getting ritualistic with Crooked Tooth Brewing Company

August 3, 2022
By Jessie Mance
By Jessie Mance

Manifesting full moon magic

It was 3:30 a.m. when my alarm went off.

I groaned. I chastised myself for making plans so early. A few tortured minutes later I finally hoisted myself out of bed and began my morning routine: wash face, brush teeth, sunscreen, attempt to de-grease hair — the usual slog. The very same routine I move through every morning in preparation for the day ahead. After drowsily attempting to cope with the headlines of the day, I donned my sneakers and drove off into the dark night, still wondering what in the name of Beyoncé had inspired me to get out of bed this early.

It was still very much what people call “nighttime” as I drove up to Crooked Tooth Brewing Company, located at 228 E. Sixth St. The full moon was peeking out from behind drifting stratus clouds as I entered the back patio. I immediately recognized the magic that drew me there that day, and the reason I set my alarm so early.

Crooked Tooth Brewing Company
Setting the scene for a full moon brew day (photo by Joseph Ochoa)

A bonfire was crackling away in the center of the space, its flames licking the dark dawn sky. A table was adorned with collected stones and feathers, singing bowls, jewel-toned tinctures, bells, wild roses plucked from a garden, juniper boughs, candles, incense, and jars of herbs. I felt eons away from my menial morning arrangement of toothpaste, lotion, and a hairbrush.

This was a space where routine gave way to ritual. Where craft is a calling. This was a Crooked Tooth Full Moon Brew Day, and the beers that emerge from these ceremonial gatherings have been a gift from the brewery to the Tucson community since 2018.

Despite what my slow roll out of bed that morning would indicate, I came to the ceremony with an eager and open heart. I was joined by brewery co-owner Julie Vernon, her taproom manager Danielle Blackwell, head brewer Dan Smith, brewer Max Houghton, social media manager Joseph Ochoa, friend of the brewery Cas Kanne (notably one of the first female brewers in Tucson), and three women from Dark Sky Brewing Company in Flagstaff, Arizona — Larami Sandlin, Tiffany Bettinger, and Shannon Fleischman.

Crooked Tooth Brewing Company
The Barley Moon Brew team (photo by Joseph Ochoa)

It was the perfect convergence of old friends and new, each person contributing to the history and practice of beer making, and each carving out time and space in their lives to manifest some full moon magic.

The end product of the morning’s congregation, a barley wine with rye and infused with onyx, is called Barley Moon and will be released in about a year after a long rest in whiskey barrels. The specific details of the sacred brew day I will leave under the veil of darkness and within the hearts of the brew team, but it was a morning of connection, celebration, and solemnity punctuated with laughter (and pastries).

Every one of the very special rotating beers of the Full Moon Brew series is designed and scheduled with reverence and intention. Each brew honors a specific goddess and harnesses the power of the precise alignment of the stars and planets under which it is released.

About this process, Vernon explained to me, “We sit down and look at the astrology of the release month, what is going on in that season, and how we can support the community at that place in time, while also honoring the divine feminine and the alewives that came before us.”

Crooked Tooth Brewing Company
(Photo by Joseph Ochoa)

In addition to the celestial guidance the brew team sources from, Vernon says that recipe creation can often take into account upcoming weather patterns, struggles the community may be dealing with on a scale ranging from allergens to politics, and other earthly variables and upcoming societal junctures. The beers are meant wholeheartedly to be the intuitive herbal medicine that Tucson needs at that moment in time, and to serve as a tangible (drinkable) point of connection between us all.

“Because that’s what beer does, it brings people together,” said Vernon.

Each batch of a moon brew yields 150 22-ounce bottles of beer (which can only be purchased at Crooked Tooth Brewing Company), and the rest goes into kegs which are tapped at the brewery and in bars across town. Once the style, spirit, and purpose of each full moon beer are decided upon, the Crooked Tooth team must determine what ingredients will best manifest that intention and bring the vision to life.

Crooked Tooth Brewing Company
Full moon brews currently at Crooked Tooth Brewing Co. (photo by Jessie Mance)

Vernon is trained in Ayurvedic medicine and Andean shamanism, while Blackwell has an extensive background in herbalism, and this ancient wisdom lays the groundwork for creating a successful herbal concoction. Their foundational understanding also allows the brew team to wander — with informed confidence — down creative paths that most craft breweries don’t dare venture.

“This is our opportunity to experiment with beer in ways that were more commonplace in ancient times, and it’s allowed us to be super open to whatever comes through intuitively about what beers need to come into the world,” said Blackwell.

“In this space, we can play and create in a way most breweries don’t,” said Vernon.

Some of their wanderings have led them to beers with ingredients such as bee pollen, mint, cacao, kumquat, basil, turmeric, berries, sandalwood, and peppercorns. Has there ever been a Full Moon Brew ingredient that just didn’t work?

“Thyme,” Vernon and Blackwell exclaim concurrently. “Tasted like pizza,” they laughed.

It’s not surprising to me that even a misstep can elicit big grins and a great story from this crew.

Crooked Tooth Brewing Company
Head Brewer Dan Smith (Photo by Joseph Ochoa)

When asked about the very first Full Moon Brew, Vernon and her business/life partner Ben credit two beers with that title. The first, called Wiracocha pre-dates the opening of the brewery and marks a time when the couple were homebrewers. This beer was enhanced with a healthy amount of palo santo wood during fermentation and was a great success amongst the friends and family lucky enough to enjoy it.

The next “first” Full Moon Brew was made by the brewery in February of 2018 and was affectionately called Herbalicious. This was Crooked Tooth Brewing Company’s first professional foray into brewing under the full moon with ceremony and community purpose. Herbalicious was an imperial Scottish ale brewed with rose, honey, the herb damiana (utilized for stress reduction, mental stamina, and as an aphrodisiac), and rose quartz (every moon brew is infused with a semi-precious stone or crystal for its healing properties, a nod to the ancient practice of gem therapy).

Crooked Tooth Brewing Company
Capturing the spirit of a full moon brew (photo by Joseph Ochoa)

These initial beer offerings were the humble beginnings of what would become the Full Moon Brew series. Perhaps more significantly, these legacy brews marked the genesis of a brewing ritual that speaks volumes about the love Julie and Ben Vernon and their staff have for craft beer and community.

Ready to have your own ritualistic experience?

The beers of the Full Moon Brew series can be found in the Crooked Tooth Brewing Company coolers, and are sold on their own or as part of a very special monthly “Moon Box” collaboration with other local artists and makers. Each beer is beautifully boxed with three locally made products that utilize or are inspired by the beer and its ingredients — so magical.

Look for the 22-ounce amber bottles with hand-dipped wax seals, each vessel bejeweled with a semi-precious stone on a hand-twisted copper wire and adorned with intricate label art created by local artist Gina Beca.

Crooked Tooth Brewing Company
Artemis Moon brew (Photo by Joseph Ochoa)

I recommend consuming a Full Moon Brew with the same degree of sincerity and reverence with which it was created. Carve out time in your day to explore this beer with all of your senses, and be completely present in the experience as the brew team was while making it.

Explore the label art and the dedication inscribed on every bottle.

Pour the beer into your favorite glass and take the time to observe the hue, the clarity, and the way the carbonation bubbles to the surface as if called there. Take a seat in your favorite spot, perhaps outside where the movement of the trees and clouds (and that adorable lizard over there) can accentuate the experience.

Take in the aroma of the beer and try to see if you can pick out any of the unique ingredients that were thoughtfully incorporated.

Savor each sip of this special beverage and remember the care and intention that went into manifesting it. Think about the people who lovingly created space and gave themselves fully to the brew day. Recognize the healing powers of the herbs, grains, fruit, and crystals that have been artfully layered to create the elixir this precise moment called for.

Rituals like these replace monotony with meaning and put us back in connection with ourselves and the natural world around us. When paired with a local hand-crafted beer designed for deep healing, a ritual can be just the thing we need to keep us feeling grateful for every morning and moonrise.

Crooked Tooth Brewing Company is located at 228 E. Sixth St. For more information, follow Crooked Tooth on Facebook or Instagram

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Article By

Jessie Jean Mance was born in Tucson and never met a riparian area she didn’t like. She is a lover of lightning, sunsets, mezcal, music, and other intoxicating experiences. Mance resolutely believes that fresh air is medicine, burritos are the...

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