Ska Brewing Co.'s latest Local Series release comes as the result of a project with Old Chicago restaurants. The restaurant chain asked Ska to come up with something unique for them to put on tap as part of an effort to reconnect with craft brewing.
Ska invited Jonathan Shikes, managing editor and prolific beer blogger at the Denver weekly Westword, to help design and brew the beer
This project follows an earlier blogger-brewer collaboration Ska did with myself and Jeff Hammett, formerly of Beer 'N Bikes and currently writing at San Diego Beer Blog.
Ska also bottled Shikes' batch for release as no. 18 in its Local Series, which is distributed only in and around Durango. Ska has been doing the Local Series for many years (a list of releases is here), brewing at its whim special creations. It gives the brewers a chance to experiment, and Ska's customers a chance to try something new.
Shikes' beer was tapped May 16 at Old Chicago in Denver, timed to coincide with American Craft Beer Week.
Now on to Shikes' beer itself. It's a big recipe, an imperial pilsner that comes in at 8.7 percent ABV and 73 IBUs (incidentally, Ska brewed a standard pilsner as no. 3 in the Local Series in 2005).
It pours a pale yellow color, topped by a short froth of white foam. The taste is bready and heavy on the palette, with a little citrus and sweetness from orange blossom honey.
Strong lagers are tough to brew well. Often, they end up syrupy, overly sweet and difficult to drink. Unfortunately, this describes to an extent this Imperial Pilsner.
Ska sometimes falls into a common trap for ambitious craft brewers: beers that are too big, too much, too flavorful. Looking back at the few Ska beers that seemed to miss the mark, it's been one ingredient that dominated the taste: too much Scotch in the barrel-aged Scotch ale, too much lemongrass in 2010's DIFF, too much hops in Ska Sour.
For Big Shikes, it's simply too big to really enjoy. It's not a bad beer, but neither does it leave you wanting more. About 12 ounces is all you really want to drink; a 22-ounce bomber ought to be shared. I ended up drinking the 14 ounces or so pictured here and pouring the rest down the drain.
Ska makes some great beers: their ESB, Ten Pin Porter, Modus Hoperandi IPA and Mexican Logger, in particular, are superb examples of their styles. But while I look forward to trying their next Local Series effort, Big Shikes I can do without. C
(P.S.: This seems to be the consensus on this beer).