Monday, December 14, 2009

Unlocking Pinstripe's secrets

As part of my collaboration with Ska Brewing Co., the brewery is letting me in on some of Pinstripe's secrets.

I met Friday with Ska President Dave Thibodeau, Head Brewer Thomas Larsen and Beer N Bikes blogger Jeff Hammett to discuss ideas for our upcoming collaboration beers.

To give a little background, Thibodeau reached out to Jeff and I and offered us the opportunity to brew whatever we want on Ska's equipment. A five-gallon keg of each beer will go on tap later this winter.

As I've said, I plan to brew an imperial red ale based on Ska's Pinstripe Red Ale. To get a better idea of the beer's components, Thibodeau, Larsen and I delved a little into Pinstripe's DNA.

Ska's flagship beer, Pinstripe (5.2 percent ABV, 42 IBUs) uses a semi-proprietary variation of an English ale yeast strain, Ringwood Ale Yeast 1187. It's also the backbone of Ska's True Blonde Ale, Buster Nut Brown Ale and Ten Pin Porter.

The yeast strain is so important to Ska that it keeps a sample frozen in a Colorado Springs lab in case all hell breaks out at the Durango brewery. CSI, Durango.

It tolerates up to 10 percent ABV, more than enough for my purposes. I'm aiming for roughly 7 percent ABV with my double-Pinstripe (to be named cleverly at a later date).

Pinstripe is primarily spiced with Liberty hops, an American descendant of Hallertauer Mittlefrüh hops. Tettnang and Cascade hops add to the aroma.

I'm considering upping the Cascade quotient in my beer, because I've found that many beers I admire - Mirror Pond Pale Ale, and Ska's fresh-hop Hoperation Ivy - use Cascades. Of course, I have to exercise some restraint so I don't end up with an imperial IPA (which Ska already brews).

My beer will likely be brewed in late January or early February. Jeff's beer, tentatively a Belgian-style IPA, will go first because it can ferment at a higher temperature and there's some issue with temperature control on Ska's pilot system.

This is a very innovative project. The only other blogger-brewer collaboration I can find is a project by Dogfish Head of Milton, Delaware, and BeerAdvocate to brew an extreme beer. And with all due respect, BeerAdvocate is kind of the Borg of beer blogs: a collective hive mind absorbing everything beer-related that comes within its ubiquitous reach. This is a much more local effort.

If you ever get a chance to talk with Thibodeau or Larsen, pick their brains. They're old-school Colorado guys who can speak fluently about the history of craft beer in Colorado.

Thibodeau and Ska co-founder Bill Graham attended Wheat Ridge High School in suburban Denver with Larsen's older brother. Larsen came to Ska a year ago from Wynkoop Brewing Co. in Denver and helped out as Ska moved into its 24,000-square-foot headquarters in Bodo Industrial Park. He basically stuck around until Ska gave him a job.

If I don't get in Larsen's way too much, we should brew a hell of a beer.


  1. beer advocate as BORG, sucking up "everything beer-related that comes within its ubiquitous reach", haha. nice one soggy.

  2. looking forward to it- I am also a Cascade fan (they grow well in Durango btw- I produce a couple of dried pounds in my back yard every year)

  3. When did you plant the rhizomes in durango? I have some to plant this year and wondered when is best.