Hey friends, are you as happy as we are that it’s the weekend? The past month has felt like “all work and no play” for your friends at Bottle Makes Three. We have both been pretty busy with the day jobs, but we’ve still managed to squeeze in a few adventures. For example, last weekend we escaped the daily grind long enough to squeeze in a quick trip to Durango for the Ska Anniversary Party. It was the perfect remedy for too much work and too little play, and we’re happy to tell you all about it.
Our 2017 Durango Road Trip
To be clear, this weekend getaway wasn’t optional, we had to go. We missed the last two Ska Brewing Anniversary parties, and dammit, we were not going to let anything cause us to miss another one. Not only did we get to do a little celebratory skanking with the folks at Ska, but we also visited several other Durango breweries. In fact, we can now finally say we’ve visited all the breweries in Durango, so score one for Team BMT!
Before we start breaking down our trip for you, we feel we should tell you that this story is best enjoyed if paired with a delicious Ska beer. So go grab yourself a Modus or a True Blonde, and then let’s get started…
Friday: Gotta Get to Ska
The plan was to skip out of work a bit early Friday, but despite our best efforts, we didn’t get on the road as early as we hoped. (Thanks, pesky day jobs.) When we finally did hit the road we had just one goal in mind: Get to Ska Brewing for happy hour, and for the 5 p.m. release of their 22nd Anniversary beer. The beer, a Rye Barrel-Aged Imperial Stout, was being released in bombers and we wanted to snag a few bottles. We booked it straight to Durango with no stops along the way, and arrived just in time to check into our hotel before 5 p.m. Finally, it was time to start our beer-filled weekend!
Pro tip: If you’re heading to Ska the only place to stay is at the Homewood Suites by Hilton-Durango. It’s literally a four-minute walk from the Homewood Suites to Ska Brewing. No matter how many Ska beers you enjoy during your visit, you can be safe in the knowledge that you’re just a quick stumble away from your room.
Our Ska happy hour included several great Ska beers. We really loved their new Mod Project lineup of brews. Jeff’s favorite was the Barrel-Aged Strong Ale With Plums, while I was all about the Pink Vapor Stew. Thanks to a freebie beer from a friend (thanks Dane!) we also tried the newer Mod Project release, Tart Mexican Logger, which was also delicious. Seriously, Ska makes a bunch of really great beers.
We had big plans to hit the town on Friday night, but we were too tired from our long week. Instead, we finished our brews, purchased our 22nd Anniversary beers, snagged a crowler of Modus Mandarina IPA, and walked back to the hotel. The crowler made for a nice nightcap and the early bedtime meant we’d be ready to tear things up in the morning.
Saturday Afternoon: Let’s Do This, Durango!
Saturday we woke up ready to party, Durango-style, but the Ska shindig wasn’t starting until 4 p.m. With lots of time to kill we spent the morning exploring downtown Durango, then it was all about the breweries. We had previously been to Carver Brewing and Steamworks, so our focus this trip was on the three Durango breweries we hadn’t visited yet. First on the list was BREW Pub and Kitchen. As soon as they opened, it was game on!
BREW Pub and Kitchen
We arrived at BREW Pub & Kitchen around lunchtime. I ordered a coffee brew while Jeff picked an IPA. Can you guess which beer is which in the pictures below? Logic would probably suggest the lighter beer is the coffee, because you’re smart enough to know that since we’re asking the question, we must be trying to trick you. After all, only a great fool would assume it is the obvious choice. Then again, we know you are not a great fool and would have counted on you picking the less obvious choice, so clearly, the coffee beer must be the darker one. Or is it the lighter one? Well, which do you choose?
If you guessed the dark beer was the coffee beer, you are absolutely wrong. The dark beer above is BREW’s Sonny Black IPA, which Jeff ordered and absolutely loved. It may look inky black and heavy, but flavor-wise it was a nice, crisp IPA. Meanwhile, the blonde beer is my Joey Coffee Kölsch, which was light in color but heavy on rich coffee aroma and flavor. Both beers were delicious, as were the nachos we had for lunch during our visit. Nachos and coffee beer maybe aren’t the ideal pairing, but whatever, I like what I like. It was delicious.
BREW Pub & Kitchen was awesome. We loved everything about the brewery and taproom. The have a great food menu and such tasty beer choices that it was hard to decide what to try. Plus, BREW offers a nice selection of guest tap beers & full bar. It’s silly that in our previous Durango trips we never made it here. We won’t make that mistake again.
Durango Brewing Company
Our next stop was at Durango Brewing Company. Open since 1990, Durango Brewing is one of the oldest breweries in Colorado. Outside they had an amazing patio, while the inside could make you think you’ve made a wrong turn into the train museum. Okay, not really.. but it had a great train theme that highlighted Durango’s history as a town founded in 1880 by the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad. Plus we both really just like trains and beer, so we thought this place was pretty cool.
I had a tough time deciding on a brew, so I stuck to a few Durango Brewing tasters. I had the Vienna Lager and the Blueberry Wheat. I didn’t get as much blueberry as I would have liked from the wheat, but the Vienna Lager was really good. Jeff had the IPA, no surprise there, and thought it was pretty solid as well. While we weren’t hungry, it’s worth noting that Durango Brewing did have a full menu, and the food looked tasty. Maybe next visit we can explore more of their menu.
Animas Brewing Company
The last brewery we had left to visit in Durango was Animas Brewing Company. Nestled just near the Animas River, this place was packed with people enjoying the beautiful, sunshine-filled afternoon. The restaurant and patio were especially full, so we snuck into the bar. The place was nice, and definitely decorated to appeal to the outdoor enthusiasts who frequent the river and park next door. At Animas, Jeff had the Class VI IPA and I had the River Gose Through It. The IPA was pretty good, but the gose didn’t have the hint of sourness I would have expected from the style. Maybe I was being too picky, or maybe I got the wrong beer… who knows. It was still good enough that I drank it, so I don’t have any complaints.
At this point in the day, we decided it wouldn’t be wise to have more beer since we were heading toa beer festival. Fortunately, Animas Brewing had plenty to explore outside their doors. We wandered over a pedestrian bridge that crossed the Animas River and took in all the beautiful views along the riverbank. We kept wandering until we happened upon the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Durango Fish Hatchery and Wildlife Museum. It was a happy accident, and ended up being a fun way to kill some time. We wandered through the museum and checked out the rainbow trout growing in the hatchery. It was fun and truly interesting. The fish seemed pretty bummed that despite following us around in their tanks we never rewarded them with food. Sorry, guys. Next time we go to Animas Brewing we’ll visit again, and I’ll know to bring quarters for fish food.
Saturday Night: Celebrating 22 Years of Great Ska Beers
Party time had finally arrived, and if there is one thing we know for sure, it’s that Ska Brewing knows how to party! They host a great throw-down every year, no matter what obstacles try and get in the way. For example, just days before the party this year, Hurricane Irma cost them their headliner, Less Than Jake. Did Ska cancel the show? Hell no! They decided to donate a bunch of dough to hurricane relief and went on with the party. And because they are Ska Brewing, another band – The Dendrites – drove down last-minute from Denver to step in and perform. Just more proof that everybody loves Ska Brewing.
The Ska Brewing Anniversary Party is awesome because it mixes all elements of a great beer festival with a kick-ass music fest. It’s a totally chill festival and loads of fun. Breweries from all over Colorado and beyond come to take part in the festivities, including several breweries from nearby New Mexico and Arizona. There is plenty of great food options, including Ska’s own Container Restaurant, which makes some killer pizzas, sandwiches & apps. But what really makes this party great is the Ska Brewing folks. They are all so nice and welcoming, and genuinely happy that everyone comes out to celebrate with them. We meet new folks each year who tell us how awesome it is to work at Ska Brewing. Sometimes it makes us totally jealous that their job is full of fun and beer, while our jobs lately are filled with stressful projects and looming deadlines. It makes us question our life choices. But then we have another beer put on some silly costumes for the photo booth, and everything in the world is totally awesome.
Have you heard the one about a unicorn, a rooster and Focus on the Beer’s Ryan Hannigan walking into a photo booth? If not, we don’t have a punchline for you, but we do have a pretty awesome photo. BTW, that unicorn really doesn’t know how to play the sax. Silly unicorn.
Ska’s Anniversary Party is clearly a fun time, but for us it’s so much more than a fun beer festival with great music. This party is our chance each September to take a mini vacation from whatever is stressing us out at the moment. The long road trip gives us the time to enjoy miles upon miles of beautiful Colorado scenery, just as the leaves are beginning to change for the season. We get to plan fun detours to visit places we’ve never been, and try those far-out breweries we rarely get a chance to visit. And even though it’s a 6-hour drive from house to Ska Brewing, we always run into friends there. Even better, each time we go we make a few new ones. It’s just an awesome time all around, and we’re happy we got to make it back this year.
The only thing that would make it better is if we could just all collectively talk the Mighty Mighty Bosstones into playing Ska’s 23rd. Jeff has offered to start up a collection for their airfare if that helps. The balls in your court, Bosstones. Let’s make this happen.