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Ska Brewing – Durango Colorado

Enjoy some fresh beer at Ska Brewing or play cards in this sad wet tent. Tough decision.

Enjoy some fresh beer at Ska Brewing or play cards in this sad wet tent. Tough decision.

Two days ago I returned home from the annual week-long camping trip I take with my father and the stack of camping equipment is just about dry. Due to a wild fire in our usual spot in southwestern Utah, this year we ended up in Durango, Colorado. One of my favorite places in the country, mostly for the beauty of the mountains, rivers and forests, Durango is also home to Ska Brewing, one of the coolest little breweries in the state.

After being out in the mountains since Sunday, we drove into town on Wednesday morning. The goal was to restock out supply of ice and a few other necessities that didn’t hold up so well in the almost-daily monsoon downpour, and after a brief shopping trip, we ventured over to Ska Brewing for an early lunch.

Ska Brewing – the new way to lunch

Not much of a beer person, I had to coax my father into Ska with the promise of a tour of the facility, which, unfortunately, I had to renig on. I found out, immediately after we sat down, that the tours are only run at 4PM, albeit every day. I could have looked this up on the Ska web site, sure, but since we camp about 10 miles from any cell signal I was kind of flying blind. And since it was 11 AM, and as much as I would have liked to stay dry and happy with a beer in my hand for five hours, it just wasn’t going to happen.

Ska has one of the coolest (and on-brand) taprooms around. Inside is Food Container, which is a modular restaurant add-on to the taproom constructed of reused shipping containers. You can get amazing brick oven-fired pizzas, fries, sandwiches, etc, and eat it right there in the brewery. I ordered some of the pub chips to go with our beers, as we had a finished off a stack of huge pancakes as a late breakfast at the campsite and weren’t very hungry.

The Mexican Logger at Ska BrewingI started with the Mexican Logger, Ska Brewing’s cerveza equivalent. Not normally one to put a lime in my beer, I decided “when in Rome” and went with it. The beer was crisp and refreshing, deserving of the awards garnered at the last few Great American Beer Festivals.

I really wanted to try brews I can’t get in Arizona, so next I ordered the Steel Toe Stout. This creamy, dark beer is more my speed, and didn’t disappoint. Also offered on Nitro, but I went with regular strength version of the brew. Notes of coffee and a little sweetness made this a great beer to sip while contemplating the local art. Turns out, I’m an idiot, and we can get Steel Toe Stout here in AZ. Apparently, just not where I’ve been looking for it.

The Steel Toe Stout and my Brombeere-clad tasting notes bookI finished up with a Decadent, which, yeah, we can also get in Arizona, but since dad was driving and this was likely the last place I was going to have access to a flush toilet and hot water that didn’t involve starting a fire for the better part of a week I wasn’t in a big hurry to leave.

All in all, it was a fun visit, but much too short. Looking out the big windows towards the mountains in the east, a storm was brewing. We decided it was time to bail. Next time I’m in Durango I’ll go back and try a flight of taproom-only offerings. With any luck, I’ll be able to try a few more of the local breweries that don’t distribute to Arizona…

Oh yeah, and take the damn tour.

Seattle Beer Tour

At the beginning of April, I was fortunate enough to be in Seattle for a web designers conference (An Event Apart), so I tacked a couple of days on at each end so I could create my own Seattle beer tour in and around downtown Seattle.

My Seattle Beer Tour
My goal for the week I was there was to hit 12 breweries, which is really ambitious for me. Especially considering there were going to be three full days of conference sessions and basically one full day of travel. In the end, the goal of twelve proved too much, but I was able to get ten in. That said, one was a second-location duplicate, but I didn’t realize it until I had to improvise. I thought it would be nice to capture my thoughts about the places I spent time while there, so here is what could be the first in a nine part series, I guess.

My hotel, the Edgewater, was, as the name implies, right on the water, so everywhere I went was an uphill hike, but walkng around the city was a great way to find the little holes in the wall shop, like Cloudburst Brewing. Located basically just uphill from my hotel, this cool little place was the first spot I found. The long, narrow taproom was packed that night, as it was one of the nights Gonzaga was in the NCAA tournament. The one television over the bar had the room crowded around it, and while I normally try to avoid the TVs in a brewery I was lucky enough to find a single seat, so who am I to say no to the barstool gods?

Phoenix? Do you ever get any rain there?

Almost exclusively made up of locals, the other patrons were friendly enough though, especially when they discovered I was from Phoenix. Because that just so happens to be where the tournament was being played.

“How hot is it there now?”

“Why would you leave Phoenix in the Spring to come here?”

“Did you see the Gonzaga players in Phoenix?”

Very. For work. No.

Anyway, back to Cloudburst. This great little spot loves their IPAs, as evident from their butcher paper menu. I also tried the Dumpster Fire Smoked Oatmeal Stout, and it lives up to its name.

At the end of the day, the juicy Shame Spiral Double IPA was my favorite of their fantastically-named offerings. When you find yourself in the Pike’s Place region of Seattle and want to get away from the crowds, just head northwest. You’ll run right into it.

Next up in my Seattle Beer Tour session will be Holy Mountain Brewing. Not downtown, but well worth the drive.

Pocket Tasting Notes in time for Arizona Beer Week

With the rest of the country up to its collective armpits in snow and winter yuck, Arizona is soaking up the sunshine, which means we’re sneaking up on beer festival season! The season kicks off with the Arizona Beer Week, from February 9 – 18, 2017!

Arizona Beer Week

Arizona Beer Week Strong Beer Festival

Learn more about the Arizona Beer Week Strong Beer Festival here.

While there are literally events all over Arizona at virtually every brewery, bottle shop and tap room, the first major event is the 17th Annual Arizona Strong Beer Festival on Saturday, February 11, 1:00 – 5:00 pm. If you can only attend one beer event a year in Arizona, this is definitely the one to hit. At last count, there will be 130 breweries from around the country here, and with over 450 craft beers on tap, there will be something for everyone. Tickets start at just $40 for 40 tastes, with (sold out) VIP tickets for $75 and Super VIP, which is now apparently a thing, tickets for $100.

Arizona Beer Week is put on by the Arizona Craft Brewers Guild, a fantastic organization that represents nearly 100 breweries, breweries in planning and craft beer businesses in Arizona.

Great Arizona Beer Festival

Hot on the heels of Arizona Beer Week is the Great Arizona Beer Festival, March 11, 2017 in downtown Phoenix. This amazing craft beer tasting event showcases over 200 beers from more than 50 breweries! And not just from Arizona but around the country, with each one bringing their A-game brews. Another great part: the Great Arizona Beer Festival is a locally-organized fund raising event. All proceeds benefit Sun Sounds of Arizona, a non-profit radio reading service helping 49,000 people in Arizona with print disabilities.

Tasting Books

Tasting book, recording the new Oatmeal brown at Helton Brewing in Phoenix.

Tasting book, recording the new Oatmeal brown at Helton Brewing in Phoenix.

Sure, some of the attendees are going to look at these festivals as giant keggers. To really enjoy the festival and create a lasting impression of the beers you liked (or didn’t), take your time! Actually taste the beers, and bring along a pocket notebook to record your thoughts as you drink each beer. Taking notes as you drink is a lot easier than trying to remember how each beer tasted later.

And who knows, if you don’t write it down you might forget you found a new favorite!

With 200-beer tasting books or super-easy-to-carry 48-beer pocket size books available, there’s one that suited to you!

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