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Owen Ogletree's picture

Brewing with Dave Thibodeau of Ska Brewing

Ska brewing co-founder Dave Thibodeau celebrates 20 years of beer. (Credit: Owen Ogletree)


BC: How did you come up with the colorful characters and artwork on your labels and promotional materials?

Dave: We were punks who were into music and comic books. We gave away our first brews as gifts and used "Ska Brewing" labels that we made on one of the first Mac computers. We concocted a fictional story of a massive brewery that represented corporate macro beer, and the skeleton guy was the CEO of the evil brewery conglomerate. The "True Blonde" heroine was called Lana Lovibond, and she saves the day in the comic. True Blonde ale was the first beer we made and premiered at the Telluride fest. Pinstripe Red Ale was our second beer, and our evil skeleton head character is called Mr. Pinstripe. It's amazing how consistently our crazy comic book themes have permeated our merchandise, beer labels and logos over the years. I think it takes characters to brew with character.

BC: What's a special Ska beer that stands out to you as a creative favorite?

Dave: I love our Modus Hoperandi, which is our flagship beer now. When I first had it in 2008, it blew my head off. I thought it was far more bitter, citrusy and piney than the average consumer could handle, but it blew up immediately. I fell in love with it, but it caught me off guard. UK-style ales were our focus for the first ten years, but we really got into hops a couple of years before our release of Modus Hoperandi.

BC: Do you get useful feedback on your beers from customers in the brewery's popular tasting room?

Dave: Many of our friends and customers have crazy ideas for new beers that we try to make on occasion, and we have a 3.5 barrel pilot system to make special test batches just for the tasting room. One of our regular customers is called Bird. We met Bird at Purgatory Ski Resort around '93 where he worked in the machine shop. He was a big Budweiser guy back in those days and hung out at a bar near Purgatory with a Bud in his hand every day.

Right: Thibodeau relies on feedback from customers and friends to make his business better. (Photo Credit: Owen Ogletree)

He started drinking our True Blonde when we got an account at the bar, and I'm proud to say he never went back to Bud. When we moved into this brewery space at the end of 2008, Bird followed us over, drinks here all the time, and we recently hired him as a driver. He's not really good at giving us advice on our beers, because he loves them all.


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