Ska Brewing Company
Visited on: Wednesday 6th June 2018
In some ways this was a sad day for me. We were here in Durango to go for a ride on the Durango & Silverton Railway. However all journeys on the railway had been suspended a few days earlier because of forest wild fires. In particular one that was raging close to the line-side between the two towns.
Just one positive, albeit in a minor way, was that we would now have time to visit all six of Durango’s breweries in a more leisurely fashion.
(Note: Durango Brewing which we visited on that very day, has closed its operation and tap room in the town and moved it all to La Junta, CO. So there will be no report on that. So there are five breweries in Durango as I write.)
It is the most southerly of Durango’s breweries, about two miles from the centre yet accessible via a local bus service. There is a stop less than five minutes from the brewery and this is how Linda, John and I arrived. It is in a very impressive building dubbed “Ska Brewing World Headquarters”. This is interesting, because in total contrast to the present day situation the brewery had very humble beginnings.
Inside the main bar room we noticed an area for merchandise. On the right of the room is the bar counter and at the far end is the food service area which is made of two shipping containers attached to the building. Above the main room there is a balcony with a lot more seating.
The brewery’s aforementioned “humble beginnings” go back to 1995 when it was founded by Bill Graham and Dave Thibodeau with a very small plant located in the Durango down-town area.
They utilised second-hand equipment that had previously been used in dairies. They were joined by Matt Vincent in 1999. They got a good start back in 1996 because of an inspired marketing opportunity orchestrated by Bill.
The following is not a digression as you will see. Way back before the brewery was even a dream, the town of Durango instigated a festival in 1978 named Snowdown. This would appear to be a few days of drunken revelry in January / February designed to alleviate the worse aspects of the freezing Colorado winters. So Bill Graham goes to the Organising Committee with a beer brewed to a one-off recipe and offers it as the official Snowdown Festival beer.
They liked it straight away and signed it up. The tradition of Ska brewing the official festival beer has continued. It was a very good way at that time to bring the name of the very small brewery to the attention to Durango’s drinking public. It was only sold during the period of the festival and that immediately created a demand. It soon became a “must have” beer.
Apart from that they continued to produce beers for the local Durango market. A massive change occurred in 2008 when the partners invested in a new brewery located in the Bodo Industrial Park south of the town.
It has a 24,000 square foot building and cost $5 million. It contains a large brew-house, offices, a bottling line, two canning lines, a food concession and a home-brewing supplies shop. So successful was this new brewery that it has already reached capacity and they are looking for a new location for a second brewery.
When we visited there was a good selection of beers to be had. From the Ska main plant were the following: Lefthand IPA (6.6%) with flavours of orange, passion fruit, peach and lemon; Mexican Logger (Summer Seasonal) (5.2%); Pinstripe Red Ale (5.2%); Steel Toe Milk Stout (5.5%); True Blonde Ale (5.0%) and Modus Mandarina IPA (6.8%).
There was also Rue B Soho grapefruit lager (5.1%); Faceplant Electro-Lager (5.8%), collaboration with Steamworks; Decadent Imperial IPA (10.0%); Rudie Session IPA (4.5%); Ska Face English-style Barley Wine (1.5%) and Modus Hoperandi IPA (6.8%).
Then there are the beers produced on their pilot brewery under the generic title of the Mod Project. These are only offered to the public here, the Ska Brewing Tap Room; you will not find them in general distribution. When we were at the brewery they had the following experimental beers for our delectation: Pink Vapor Stew (5.1%), a sour ale; Berliner Weiss (4.5%); Tafelbier (3.7%), a low-alcohol German lager; Tart Mexican Logger (5.2%), a sour version of this regular summer beer, and Helter Skelter Extra Pale Ale (6.5%).
So, if you are in Durango the Ska Brewery tap room is well worth travelling to, especially as there is public transport option.
Ska Brewing Company, 225 Girard Street, Durango, Colorado 81301. Tel: 970 247 5792
Hours: Monday-Friday 9.00-20.00; Saturday 11.00-19.00; Sunday 11.00-18.00
Bus route 3 will take you to the brewery. You board at the down-town Durango Transit Centre.
Alight at the Turner Drive/Sawyer Drive stop. Walk forward in the same direction as the bus.
Turn left into Giraud Street. The brewery is on the right. Bus 3 runs Monday to Sunday: 07.00 to 20.30.
It is a circular route so you must go to the same stop to return to Durango down-town.
Durango can be reached by Greyhound Bus and by air to its Regional Airport.