Ska Brewing in Durango, Colorado has become my recent favorite in-state brewery. As mentioned in my “Canned Beer & Camping” post, I first tried their Modus Hoperandi on a camping trip a few years ago. My initial impression was that of an overly hoppy beer, since I was drinking straight out of the can; I’ve always loved hoppy beers, but this seemed to go far beyond good taste. After we got back, I poured a can into a glass and let it breathe, what a difference! All of the complex flavors came out, and the hops no longer overpowered the rest of the beer.A year or so later, we decided to take a few days off and explore southwestern Colorado; neither one of us had been to the Great Sand Dunes, and my wife had never visited Durango. So, Beer Map in-hand we set off for first Alamosa and then Durango; we visited several breweries and brew pubs on that trip, and I will report on those in later posts. But first I’ll post about the one that made the greatest impression us which is of course Ska.
A little background first though. Having come of age in the late Seventies and early Eighties, my brother and I were into diverse music, early New Wave and Ska among a long list. My brother ended up going to school at Fort Lewis in Durango, so I naturally visited him a couple of times down there. We were both into what was deemed Alternative music at that time, and were into the club scenes and underground hangouts.So when I was researching our trip I visited Ska’s website and was intrigued by the attitude it portrayed. It had the same edgy feel of the culture I had known from the Eighties, although I suspect most of the inspiration comes from the Ska revival of the early Nineties.
The brewery and tasting room is located in the warehouse district south of old Durango, in a newish building. Black and white checkered tiles adorn the outside of the structure, and a tap-ready delivery trike (cool!) greets you at the entrance. The bar sits in a vaulted space that is open to the story above, with home brew supplies, a gift shop, pub tables, bench seats and tables, and a nook filling in the large space. One of the first things you notice are the cans filled with grass as decorations on the pub tables and bar, which are pruned on a regular basis as we observed on one of the two visits we made there. This is in keeping with their commitment to the environment and community, as are most of the local breweries; nearly all of them get their energy from solar and wind power.I briefly talked to one of the owners (I think it was Matt) and he told me that the reason why he stocks home brewing supplies is to help nurture the brewing culture in the Durango area, and that he really doesn’t make a profit off of it; it’s just the whole community of it. He also related that the current owners actually bought out the original group who started the brewery sometime in the early Nineties.
The beers are exemplars of what craft brewing truly is, with each variety having a unique, full-bodied flavor. The various IPAs and the ESB fill the palette, while the nitrogen-infused stout is creamy and tasty beyond belief. Add to all of that the tacos, and you’ve got heaven on earth.
They don’t actually have a commercial kitchen on the premises, instead they partner with a local, Zia Taqueria who creates the food of the gods in an airstream trailer parked just outside the side door of the bar. The cost, should you order, is lumped into your bar tab, so ordering and paying are quick and easy.When we first came into town, we were too early to check-in at the hotel, so we stopped in to parch our thirst and kill time, and instantly fall in love with the place. All of the staff are great, having genuine conversations with the patrons, not just the usual bar patter. We found out that they were having live music on the following night, and were enthusiastically invited.
Having a name like Ska, you’d think that the only music being played and performed would be what would delight a “rude boy”, just the opposite is true. Their soundtrack had everything imaginable, and well selected. The live band that played on the following night was a very good Celtic band that brought out families with young children in addition to the usual brew pub crowd. The visits left indelible marks on our peace of mind, making us wish that we lived in Durango year round.
Until next time, as always, stay thirsty my friends.