Monday, March 21, 2011

More on Ska's expansion

The Durango Herald has a fine story on Ska Brewing Co.'s recent expansion. (The expansion was also covered, with a slightly different focus, by this post on Beer at 6512).

It's nice to see Ska getting more attention for its growth. Sometimes companies grow too fast for their own good and lose control of quality, but I think Thibodeau and Co. are aware of that danger and are concentrating on satisfying the demand in their existing markets.

These new fermenters will help them do so.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Another round at Marble

I'm not a gusher. When I review beers or discuss breweries, I try to temper my praise so I don't sound like a fanboy. If beer bloggers aren't careful, they can sound a little like Justin Bieber fans reviewing a new single.

Which brings me to Marble Brewery. A few months ago, Beer at 6512 took a look at Marble, noticing the Albuquerque brewery's range of solid and often excellent beers.

Still, Marble hasn't gotten much attention. The only national attention it's received, really, was a mention in Draft magazine's top 25 beers of the year list for From the Wood, a ridiculously smooth barrel-aged ale that the lucky among us sampled at Ska's 15th anniversary party last summer.

Marble's beers are available only in New Mexico, for now. Marble was just founded in 2008 and is still expanding in its own backyard.

For Durangoans, the closest place to find a selection of their beers is Distil, a high-end liquor store in Farmington. Marble has its production facility and pub in Albu-quirky, and another pub on the plaza in Santa Fe.

Recently, after working up a thirst touristing around Santa Fe, Marble beckoned. I'd already enjoyed their well-crafted IPA and stunning Red, so I was looking for something different.

An imperial pint of Marble Brewery's English-style
pale ale at the pub in Santa Fe.
The pub had two pale ales on tap; one called Marble Pale Ale, the other was an English-style pale ale. A sample of Marble Pale Ale was bracing; it was just brutally bitter. It reminded me of the first time I tried Modus Hoperandi — way more hop presence than you would expect even for a frequently hoppy style. Hopheads no doubt would love it, but I was looking for something a little more refreshing.

So I opted for a pint of the English-style pale ale. It was caramelly and nutty in a beautiful amber body, with a nice balanced hop profile. It was an accomplished and flavorful English-style pale ale.

I took home a few bottles of various Marble beers, and was most impressed by their Oatmeal Stout. The style isn't always pulled off well, and can be so characterless that it turns boring.

Not Marble's. As I've come to expect from them, it was superb. Creamy all day long, and carrying more depth and flavor than one has a right to expect.

Every one of Marble's beers is flavorful, even the pedestrian styles that can be found at most craft breweries. Head Brewer Ted Rice does not do boring, mediocre or average.

I've been circling around it for a while now, and I'm ready to sit: Marble has surpassed Santa Fe Brewing as the best packaging brewery in New Mexico, and their beers would go toe-to-toe with what you would expect from consistently high-quality Colorado breweries like Ska, Avery, Left Hand, etc.

It's time to sit up and take notice of Marble Brewery.

Monday, March 7, 2011

New fermenters for Ska

Today, a new batch of brewing equipment is scheduled to begin arriving at Ska Brewing Co., where it will give the Durango brewery room to grow — for a little while.

Ska purchased three additional fermenters and a brite tank. The fermenters are massive 240-barrel tanks that together will increase Ska's brewing capacity by nearly 70 percent, said Dave Thibodeau, Ska's president and co-founder.

"It didn’t take long to fill our existing capacity," Thibodeau said in an e-mail. "Even after acquiring Steamworks’ tanks last summer, we still managed to max out. We’re doing really well in our existing markets and demand continues to grow. In short, we needed them."

He added, "We intend to fill the existing pipeline and really get a measure on where our existing sales ceiling might be. Right now we have no intention of entering any new markets in 2011, but we do have a number of other fun things in the works, such as the release of Mexican Logger in cans in April. These tanks will take the pressure off and allow us some flexibility in production as we spend a few years growing into them."

This follows epic growth for Ska ever since they moved into a new brewery in September 2008. The new brewhouse, coupled with canning and introducing Modus Hoperandi IPA, have turned Ska from a sub-10,000 barrel a year brewery to one that eclipsed 15,000 barrels in 2010.

The new tanks will put Ska's capacity at well north of 20,000 barrels.

These new tanks will give Ska room to grow and hit their existing markets, like Denver, Illinois and Texas, a little harder. And it's just one more reminder that Ska is not such a small brewery anymore.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Ska presents "Brew Minions"

Brew Minions, A Parody from David Thibodeau on Vimeo.

Ladies and gentlemen, Ska Brewing Co. has produced a 22-minute video parodying the Discovery Channel show "Brew Masters."

Dogfish Head's Sam Calagione makes a cameo in Ska's parody. It follows the story of Thibodeau & Co. as they try to deliver a beer to their idols, the ska band The Toasters.

If you have 22 minutes to spare, this is totally worth watching. It's really pretty entertaining, and the production value is impressive.

Ska's press release follows:

Brew Minions follows Dave and his team as they flawlessly execute a project to make a 30th Anniversary beer for the long-running NYC Ska band The Toasters. Along the way they cross high mountain passes and travel almost across town, pioneer techniques to produce beers (and short films) of questionable originality, and ignore advice from Sam himself, who makes a cameo, but was otherwise not harmed in the making of this video.

From Rainbo Bread to bagels to bits of British bees, Dave is constantly pushing his team and himself to keep going, even though it’s not clear that anyone, including the Toasters, wants them to. The imagination of the Ska Brewing team is matched only by their obliviousness, which they wear like a badge. Attending beer conferences with Sam, glamorous product launches with rock stars, ripping off ideas and making toast, it’s all in a days work for Brew Minions.

“It’s easy to make fun of ourselves,” said Dave Thibodeau, Ska Co-Founder and President. “It’s hard to make a video that makes fun of us though, even a short one. It was supposed to be short. And it’s expensive. If anyone thinks this is funny they owe us.”

“Brew Minions” was written, directed and produced by Ska Brewing Co. and Marc Snider / Exposure Productions in Durango, Colorado. The post-credit video was produced by Red Tettemer and Partners.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Impressive dubbel on tap at Steamworks

A good Belgian-style beer is a wonder to behold, and Steamworks Brewing Co. has tapped one.
Steamworks has D'Deuce Dubbel on tap. It comes in at approximately 7 percent alcohol and 20 IBUs (I lost my notes and the figures come from memory, but they're about right).

It pours a dark amber with a small but persistent head of foam. It comes in a little 10-ounce glass for $4.

D'Deuce has a very nice balance and yeast character. Some Belgians go way too far on banana esters, or sweetness, but this is just a really solid dubbel.

If you like Belgians at all, this is a good one to try.