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Drink beer, support LGBTQ community with ‘House of Sultana’

Doug Gonzalez, a board member of the Four Corners Alliance for Diversity, adds hops to House of Sultana, a beer Ska Brewing Co. will release for the Pride kick-off on July 14. (Courtesy of Ska Brewing Co.)
Collaboration between Ska Brewing Co., Four Corners Alliance for Diversity to kick off Durango Pride

Durango’s 2021 Pride fesival kicks off from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. July 14, and this time, it’s getting its own beer.

Ska Brewing Co. began brewing House of Sultana, a pale ale, on June 24 and will release it on tap at its headquarters during the first event of the festival.

The idea behind the beer came from siblings Nicole Gonzalez, a manager at Ska, and Doug Gonzalez, a board member of the Four Corners Alliance for Diversity. A dollar of each pint sold will be donated to the Alliance.

The name, “House of Sultana” references both one of its ingredients and an LGBTQ subculture.

Sultana refers to the variety of hop that will be featured in the beer. This will be the first time Ska has used that particular hop, Nicole said.

“It’s known for its pronounced tropical fruit flavors, like pineapple,” she said.

She said the pale ale should be more balanced and less bitter than average, coming in at 40 to 50 IBUs and about a 5% ABV.

The result will be “a super nice summertime pale ale,” she said.

Doug Gonzalez with Four Corners Alliance for Diversity and Nicole Gonzales with Ska Brewing teamed up to bring House of Sultana to life. (Courtesy of Ska Brewing Co.)

The other half of the beer’s moniker refers to the houses found within ball culture, an underground LGBTQ subculture that originated in New York City. Within the community, people – particularly Back and Latinx members of the community – form houses that compete in performances including dance, lip-syncing, modeling and drag.

“Whenever people come out to their families with their genders or their sexualities, there can be a good response or a negative one,” Doug said. “And unfortunately, when you’re a person of color, you’re oftentimes subjected to worse things than your white counterpart.

“As queer people, there’s always these found families that we sort of establish once we’re adults,” he said. “(Ball culture) created a system for the found families that queer folks create in their adult lives.”

He said the culture also created safe spaces in the ballrooms in which people “were able to express themselves in any way they felt, and they can express their sexuality, their gender, themselves, as freely as they wanted and be respected for it and admired.”

House of Sultana is only available at the taproom this year, Nicole said, but Ska Brewing hopes to make it into a series that ties into and benefits LGBTQ culture. Future “House of ...” beers will be packaged, and Sultana can be taken to-go in the form of growlers and crowlers.

Ska’s Nicole Gonzalez said Sultana hops give beer a pronounced tropical flavor. (Courtesy of Ska Brewing Co.)

Doug said the collaboration between Ska and the alliance grew out of a desire to see Durango’s business community work with the LGBTQ community beyond providing spaces for events.

“Even though there are spaces, business that held our events, I hadn’t yet seen a collaboration in the seven years I’ve been here between a business and the queermunity,” he said.

He said he hopes the beer helps show businesses that openly advocating on behalf of the LGBTQ community doesn’t have to be controversial.

“I think it can feel intimidating for businesses to be advocates and supporters of the queer community because it feels political – but there isn’t anything political about supporting your community.” he said. “We’re really excited that this opportunity is happening with Ska because I think it’s going to help show that nothing bad comes from supporting your community and creating a place that feels inclusive.”

Doug said the collaboration is also important because it comes at a time when some businesses’ involvement in Pride feels like its just for show.

“This is not performative,” he said. “This is real work and a real stride toward becoming a more inclusive business community.”

Doug also emphasized that House of Sultana can be enjoyed by everyone.

“I feel like some people might have some trepidation,” he said. “You don’t have to be LGBTQ to be an ally. You can just have a beer and that beer donates back to a cause that’s important, and you’re passively being an advocate.“