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Brewing with Dave Thibodeau of Ska Brewing

Ska Brewing's co-founder and co-owner celebrates 20 years of beer. (Issue 21)
Ska brewing co-founder Dave Thibodeau celebrates 20 years of beer. (Credit: Owen Ogletree)
Ska brewing co-founder Dave Thibodeau celebrates 20 years of beer. (Credit: Owen Ogletree)

Nestled in the hills just outside scenic downtown Durango, Colorado, Ska Brewing holds cult status among many followers of craft beer in America. Known for flavorful beer brands stamped with fanciful titles and labels, Ska owners Dave Thibodeau, Bill Graham and Matt Vincent have allowed their exuberant personalities to shape every aspect of the brewery's booming 20 years. Ska co-founder Dave Thibodeau tells The Beer Connoisseur how he blended a passion for ska music, comic books and homebrewing into the recipe for the brewery's successful run.


BC: When and where did you pour the first Ska beer to the public?


Dave: It was September of 1995 at the Telluride Blues Fest. Our first beer definitely was not great, but we got a feel for the industry and received lots of input from brewers at the event. People seemed impressed that we were so young and into brewing in such a big way. We got away with a beer that needed work, but there's no way a brewery could do that now.


BC: How did you guys get into beer and brewing at such an early age?


Ska Brewing Beer ConnoisseurDave: Bill and I went to high school together just outside Denver. We were hanging out in my parents' living room one day in the early '80s and discovered my dad's homebrewing journal on a shelf. We were 17-year-old party kids who loved beer, and this homebrewing idea got our attention.


Right: Thibodeau lays down the law, beer in hand. (Photo Credit: Owen Ogletree)


Dad's first recipe in the book dated back to 1969 and was made up of just sugar and baker's yeast - basically prison beer. He had made his last beer in 1980 and stopped homebrewing right before we got into it. We had no idea about the process but wanted to give it a go. My dad got really excited and jumped back in to help us out.

Bill and I went to two different colleges, and I became obsessed with brewing. I brought beers to school for people to taste, and everyone freaked out. Eventually, we both moved to Durango and started working on Ska in 1993. Ska music was the soundtrack to planning and starting the brewery  we had to drink our previous batch of beer and listen to ska music every time we made a batch. We were superstitious and wanted to do things the same way each time.

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