Though Colorado-based Ska Brewing started in 1995, the brewery’s name echoes the late 1950s, when the music genre of ska first started in Jamaica, an intoxicating mix of Caribbean mento and calypso with layers of jazz and R&B. Ska Brewing’s graphics, however, also reach back to the time when ska the music genre broke in the United Kingdom, especially the Two Tone-era pioneered by The Specials.
Think lots of black and white plaid.
Only Ska Brewing took that aesthetic and infused it with 1950s pulp vibe—as if Dick Tracy flirted with R. Crumb. Then the brewery wrote out the whole thing into a noir-style comic book—The Legion of Ska—that tells the story of indie brewers fighting against the big, bad corporations, complete with heroes (the brewers and staff) and a cast of villains like Pinstripe, a skeleton who operates as the President and Chief of Conglomeration. This mythology—and art—naturally carries over into the art that graces Ska Brewing’s bottles and cans. Here’s a handful of some of the best.
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Rudie Session IPA
"Rude boy, Rudie," and "Rudy" are all slang terms that started in '60s Jamaican street culture, and were later used in England to describe fans of the ska genre—as (arguably) perfected by The Special's seminal tune "A Message to You Rudy." Like UK ska music, this session can be enjoyed all damn day, with a humble 4.5% ABV, a bold hop aroma, and lower overall bitterness.
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Pink Vapor Stew
This bold use of ska-inspired typography as well as the iconic checkerboard boarder is used on a number of their experimental beers, including Pink Vapor Stew, Sour Apple Gose, and the Tart Mexican Lager. These beers are crafted in Ska's "Mod Facility" in seven-barrel batches, most using local fruits, fermented in the brewery's sister distillery, Peach Street.
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Rue B. Soho
Its name references the chart-topper "Ruby Soho" from California's punk/ska heroes Rancid, though the beer is decidedly more low-key. More of a head-nodder, the grapefruit Helles-style lager uses Cascade hops for a modest 20 IBUs, with a bright, tart finish perfect for summer.
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Autumnal Mole Stout
One of the first graphics created by artist Dorn Roberts, who worked with brewery in Durango when it opened in 1995, the image brings the skeletal President of Conglomeration to the foreground, referencing the comic that illustrates the brewery's origins and struggles against the machine.
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True Blonde Ale
Named after another character from the comic book—the hero True Blonde (also known as the "Secretary of Suds"), the beer uses local honey to add a touch of sweetness to quench thirst and compliment spicy food.
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Steel Toe Stout
This is how Ska describes this beer: "It's as though a cow stared into the face of God and as God told it the meaning of life we grabbed its udders and squeezed out a bucket." Not sure how steel toes—another element of the ska uniform of yore, especially as it related to the iconic Doc Martin oxblood boots—relates to all that, necessarily, but this English cream stout is brewed with actual milk sugar, and pours a dark black with a latte-like head.
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Decadent Imperial IPA
Another one featuring the skeletal master of Conglomeration, this 10% ABV would be downright sinister if it didn't taste so damn good, thanks to profusion of fresh hops and caramel malt. Originally brewed in honor of Ska's 10th anniversary, it embodies the brewery's love of creating liquid versions of celebrating huge, momentous occasions.