Saturday, March 27, 2010


I feel the need to again apologize for my slow blogging pace lately. Life's been busy.

I'm now off to Phoenix for a few days of baseball spring training. I plan to stop at Four Peaks Brewing, an excellent brewery with fantastic atmosphere located next to the Arizona State University campus.

Four Peaks also happens to be the former employer of Durango Brewing's managing brewer, Scott Bickert.

If I have time, I'll stop in Papago Brewing, a Scottsdale brewpub that also offers an expansive guest tap list. It looks like they have numerous beers not available in Durango.

I'll bring my camera and write a post when I return. If you're interested, here's my post from a similar trip to Phoenix (and Four Peaks) a year ago.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Durango Brewing release at Falc's

Lady Falconburgh's will host a celebration Saturday, March 20, for Durango Brewing Co.'s 20th Anniversary.

The festivities begin at 4:20 p.m. (yeah, I know). A keg of the brewery's new Belgian-style 20th anniversary ale will be tapped, and souvenirs will be given away at the 20th minute of every hour, according to the Durango Telegraph's Top Shelf column.

An assortment of DBC beers will be on tap for $2.

I'm curious to see how the Belgian-style anniversary ale has finished. Should be fun.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Steamworks raises $1,000 at clam bake

Steamworks Brewing Co. reprised its clam bake March 5 at Durango Mountain Resort, raising $1,000 for La Plata County Search and Rescue.

Skiers could buy a Steamworks beer and a bowl of clams for $7.

“A bowl of clams and a pint of beer multiplied by a lot of skiers can go a long way,” Brian McEachron, Steamworks co-founder, said in a news release. “The sun made a much-welcomed showing and we went through 140 pounds of clams and 30 pounds of crawfish.”

Santa Fe DJ Melanie Moore spun tunes.

"We initiated the clam bake five years ago as a way to enhance the ski experience and raise funds for local nonprofits,” Steamworks co-founder Kris Oyler said. “We’ve since learned that though Search and Rescue provides a very vital service, the organization is not that well known, and it doesn’t receive the donations it needs. We want to help alleviate that to as great of an extent as possible.”

The event sounds like a good deal of fun. (I wasn't able to make it with my 9-to-6 gig). Search and Rescue is indeed a worthy organization. They've done some pretty impressive rescues over the years, from rivers to mountaintops. I've always figured if I got lost in La Plata County, I'd be pretty lucky to have Butch Knowlton and crew looking for me.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Ska Brewing sales grow 54 percent

Sorry for the dead air, dear readers. I typically try to post at least twice a week, but I've been busy with other things lately. Let's get to it.

Ska Brewing Co. announced last week that its sales increased a "whopping" 54 percent. Usually, I'm pretty careful about using words like "whopping," but it's justified here. Volume rose 46 percent.

The craft-beer industry as a whole saw sales increase 10.3 percent and volume grow 7.2 percent, according to the Brewers Association, an industry trade group.

So, two bits of good news. It means that more people are drinking good beer and supporting small, independent breweries. It also means that Ska in particular is kicking ass.

The Durango brewery opened a new $4.8 million, 24,000 square foot headquarters in Sept. 2008. That has given Ska the ability to fulfill more demand.

“We’ve been really fortunate," Ska President Dave Thibodeau said in a news release. "Double-digit growth every year since we started allowed us to build the new facility, and that allowed us to keep pace with growing demand last year. Our beers continue to be well-received, and craft beer in general keeps gaining popularity every year. As craft beer geeks, we love to see that. It’s good for the industry, for craft beer fans and for Ska.”

I would also credit some of the growth to Modus Hoperandi IPA, now Ska's best-selling beer. It debuted in February 2009 and has found a very enthusiastic audience.

I don't have information on growth at Steamworks or Durango Brewing, but I'll report it if I can get it.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Sunday round-up

- Ska Brewing Co. has a double-dry hopped version of Euphoria Pale Ale on cask. The brewery is also not far from releasing its Mexican Logger seasonal.

- Carver Brewing has Smokey the Beer on tap, a Rauchbier (smoked lager) from Pagosa Brewing. The smoke flavor is not exactly subtle, but try it if you like the style.

Now how about getting some of Pagosa's Belgian-style treats on this side of the Pine River Valley?

- Oregon breweries appear to be taking the hint when it comes to cans. Colorado's breweries have been much more aggressive and early to can their beers. But now a small operation called Estacada Brewing has adopted cans, reports The Oregonian. Caldera Brewing in Ashland, maker of a superb pale ale, is probably the most notable Oregon brewery to adopt cans.

But wait! Cans contain BPA liners, which apparently are going to kill us all. A good discussion of the issue is at The Oregon Economics Blog here. More comments at Beervana here.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Preview: Durango Brewing's 20th-anniversary ale

I stopped by Durango Brewing Co. on Monday to taste the brewery's upcoming 20th anniversary Belgian-style ale. Brewer Damon Scott poured a glass straight out of the fermenting tank for me.

It's still finishing, but the ale is expected to land around 8.2 percent ABV and 27 IBUs. The initial batch is 15 barrels (465 gallons).

It pours a light golden color with a little bit of bubbly white head. In taste, it's closer to a Belgian-style wit than a saison, I'd say. The orange and coriander flavors come out. It's fuller-bodied and not as dry as a classic saison.

Pilsener malt forms the base, with a little wheat and chocolate malt rounding out the profile. It's hopped with Czech saaz hops.

Durango Brewing's release should be out by the end of March. It's shaping up well, and I'm looking forward to trying to final product.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Modus Hoperandi's remarkable rise

Modus Hoperandi India Pale Ale, introduced in 2009, has become in one year Ska Brewing Co.'s best-selling beer.

This is remarkable. Since 1995, when Ska was founded, its best-selling beers have been Pinstripe Red Ale and True Blonde Ale. Then, in 2009, here comes this new punk on the block.

I knew Modus had been selling well, but when I asked Ska President Dave Thibodeau if Pinstripe was still the best-seller, and he said Modus had overtaken it, I was taken aback. Modus’ victory is that of the upstart.

It’s especially surprising given Modus’ upfront aggression. Modus is not what is often called a session beer, something smooth-tasting and under 6 percent alcohol by volume that one can throw back in some quantity.

Modus, rather, is like a 19th-century dueler that slaps you in the face and challenges you not to cower. It’s big, it’s strong and it’s hopped to hell and back. I don’t care what the numbers say, Modus is far more bitter than its 65 IBU rating suggests.

People love it. Modus has earned fawning ratings on crowd-sourced review sites like BeerAdvocate. Hopheads talk about it like it’s the Holy Grail of beers.

Anecdotally, I frequently hear people rave about it. The guy next to me at work loves it. I see people walking around Durango in Modus T-shirts. Modus is all over the Internet.

Ska’s decision to can Modus has obviously been important to its success. I’ve watched as Oskar Blues, then Ska and others have found an eager market for canned craft beer. Now, Avery Brewing in Boulder is getting in on the can craze. It might not be long before we see most craft beer in cans rather than the familiar brown bottles.

Modus has also been marketed well. The deep green cans suggest hops by their color alone. The three cartoon men on the can (representing Ska’s three owners?) carry an attitude suggesting the swagger of the beer itself.

When I reviewed Modus shortly after its release, I was somewhat ambivalent. I’ve never been a fan of the school of brewing that simply seeks to stuff as much hop flavor in a bottle (or can) as possible. We’ve seen imperial IPAs that claim to exceed 100 IBUs. What’s the point? It’s as if chefs were caught in a strange trend to put as much salt into a recipe as possible.

I gave Modus a B+, recognizing it was well-brewed and would be well-received (and, by the way, correctly predicting that “hopheads will love it.”)

Modus doesn’t claim to be the hoppiest IPA. But it’s clearly going for bragging rights. Drink Modus next to a classic IPA like BridgePort’s, or even Avery’s, and it’s immediately clear that Modus seeks to beat the competition into submission. It’s an extraordinary beer, in the classic sense of the word (extra-ordinary, as in not at all ordinary).

I’ve come around to Modus. It is bitter, there’s no getting around that. But sometimes, on a chairlift or with a slice of spicy pizza, Modus is the perfect beer.

Ska will probably always brew Pinstripe and True Blonde – as it should, they’re good beers.

But if you happen to meet a Ska drinker in Denver, or Houston, or Chicago, or Phoenix, it seems increasingly, that person will know the brewery by one beer: Modus Hoperandi India Pale Ale.