The day broke weird in the parking lot of the Durango Hampton Inn.
Senior citizens jumping at wayward luggage carts, while arguing over the best route to the car. The sensible way, pointed out by the matron, down the handicap accessible ramp, or straight over the curb like some asphalt kayaker, as promoted by her partner.
A man literally barking like a dog at his wife, while she walked on, eyes straight ahead, the scorn gleaming off her bug-eyed sunglasses, roll-away luggage in tow.
And car alarms going off intermittently for no other apparent reason than to alert anyone who would listen that the morning was not quite right, and that reality had some how slipped its grip.
The day definitely wasn’t boding all that sane. From past experience, when your morning starts out that odd, the freakiness just piles on like an over-heaped plate trolling the all you can eat buffet. But the weird juju wouldn’t deter us, we were in town to celebrate at Ska Brewing’s 17th anniversary party.
The drive down the previous day in no way hinted at anything odd. An extended lunch and tasting at Three Barrel Brewing in Del Norte softened us up for our three day weekend. So laid back was the trip down, that we didn’t pull into Durango until 4:00 that afternoon, famished and thirsty yet again.
Dinner was spent at a so called Texas barbeque close to the hotel; the food so-so. The diners were a mixed bag of tourists and locals, some looking like they’d rather be eating anything other than meat, but gnawing intently on hunks of beef and pork slathered in spicy sauce. At least there was Ska beer to quench, in the bottle rather than on tap, but still local and tasty.
That night was peanuts compared to what was in store while we waited for the day cease its crawl, and the party to begin. We headed downtown to kill time, window shopping, browsing, and running into an incongruous coffee festival. A block had been cordoned off and filled with caffeine fiends, filling the air with an irresistible java aroma luring coffee junkies from four counties over. We naturally bought a couple of tons of beans to take home.
Coffee jitters made the need for a beer imperative, and luckily we were close enough to the perfect place to medicate a stimulant with a sedative. Carver Brewing, hove into view, an oasis in our high-octane caffeinated haze, serenading us with its barley song. No sooner had the veil been lifted from our eyes, beery goodness seeping in to salve raw nerves, when a herd of brewers invaded and bivouacked the stools next to ours. Santan Brewing had entered the building.
After exchanging thoughts on how good Carver’s beers had become, they gave us the lowdown on what Santan brews to try later. They declared Count Hopula a must, after seeing my predilection for hops.
Just when it seemed the afternoon would last for eternity, seconds slowing ticking off like hours, it was finally close enough for us to head over to Steamworks and wait for the shuttle to the party. Crammed in shoulder to shoulder at the bar with what seemed like half of Durango, the Wife savored her favorite Kolsch, while I had an outstanding version of their Third Eye Pale Ale. The cask conditioned ale was generously dry hopped with the Apollo variety, a combination that satisfied my palate much more than the standard recipe.
The Saturday afternoon crowd began filling every niche, grabbing available bar stools as contentiously as a three for one during a blue light special. One lucky lad nabbed an empty seat next to us, beaming relief as the bartender set his frothy pint down. The ‘kid’ turned out to be one of those rarest of breeds, someone who was born and raised in Durango, kind of like finding a teetotaler at GABF. He echoed the sentiments we’ve heard over the years, the town loves their beer, and Ska ranks near and dear in their hearts, making the anniversary party a celebration for Durango as a whole as much as for the brewery itself.
Spirits were high as we all piled out of the vans that had hauled us over to Ska. Every tour bus and shuttle van in Durango had been called into service schlepping beer geeks from downtown to the warehouse district, only the exodus at Dunkirk could compare to the desperation to reach a destination.
A theme park of beer and food assailed us on all side as we made our way through the festivities. No matter how tempting each booth was, our priority was to ensconce ourselves at the tables before the Zia Taqueria trailer and the rich aromas wafting out of it.
Old school ska music from the local Buster’s Ghost filled the ether as I sipped my first Count Hopula Blood Red IPA from Santan Brewing. Both the beer and the music impressed, satisfying the hop head and rude boy that dwells within. In truth, besides the beer, I was there for the warm up bands more than the headliner; Reel Big Fish came from the third wave of ska and were fairly diluted for my sensibilities. The Specials, The Beat, and Madness originally got me into 2 Tone, leading me to discover the original wave of Jamaican Ska from the early Sixties. RBF did a good job though, as tight as anyone I’ve heard, pumping the crowd and elevating the experience.
We had been anticipating hearing the middle act, The Nunns of Brixton after meeting band member Tony doing a bartending stint at Hogshead Brewery. Solid performances of a mainly Clash influenced set made them a crowd favorite, electrifying the stratosphere. The accompanying beers also tingled the senses, Avery’s duganA IPA, Telluride’s fresh hopped Tempter IPA, and Ska’s own Hoperation Ivy Fresh Hop Ale infused the palate with beery goodness.
We shared the extra seats at our table with a rotating cast of craft beer comrades taking a break or sitting to wolf down some pizza. Coming from places like New Mexico, Denver, and even Utah, the mixed bag of humanity were wholeheartedly relishing the evening.
A cycle of delicious beer and food passed through the collective maw, fortifying the masses until the final encores were played. Sensing an imminent flood of demand, we oozed out to the shuttles before the final notes rang through the night.
A late night meal at Durango Brewing capped off the corpulent day, completing the perfect storm of Durango breweries without intending to.
The urge to attend another Ska anniversary party will be intense over the next few years, but we’ll be resisting with every ounce of our being, like a 12 stepper scurrying past a liquor store. We’ll be holding our beery breaths for what should be the penultimate in hedonism, Ska’s 20th anniversary party in 2015, which will make any party in the intervening years pale by comparison.