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Ska presents new take on a wheat ale for Snowdown

Tastes of cinnamon and vanilla for its 27th annual beer
Trevor Lovato, brewer with Ska Brewing, holds the 2023 Snowdown beer Hornblower Horchata brewed in line with this year’s theme “A Shakespearean Revelry.” This is the 27th year of the brewery collaborating with the annual Snowdown celebration. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)

Ska Brewing Co. returns with another creative Snowdown beer for the celebration’s 44th anniversary.

Based on the “Shakespearean Revelry” theme, the Hornblower Horchata puts an interesting twist on a wheat ale mixing the flavors of the rice beverage with hints of cinnamon and vanilla.

Ska has provided a seasonal beer for one of Durango’s largest events for 27 years, and this year’s brew is sure to be as outrageous as the event itself. The can portrays William Shakespeare using a horn in a not so elegant manner.

The artwork is from last year’s Snowdown poster competition winner, Shan Wells. Each year, the winner of the competition has his or her design printed on the can.

“It was just too funny not to use,” said Ska co-owner Dave Thibodeau.

Ska staff members had to decide what flavor would best fit the can’s humorous artwork after seeing Wells’ design. David Noyes, a newly hired member of Ska’s sales team offered a recipe for horchata beer and using his recipe as a base, the brewing staff took over from there.

Ska brewed 20 barrels of the horchata beer, which is about 270 cases.

Thibodeau was amazed at how much the beer tasted like horchata and because staff members liked the thought of using alliteration, they found the perfect name. He also praised the beer’s “medium” to “full” mouth feel.

He said the Snowdown beer gives brewers a chance to be creative and get away from brewing the same beers that Ska offers on a consistent basis. The brewers always try to make the beer approachable and something everyone will enjoy but also strive for it to be unique.

“Our brewers consider themselves artists, and when they get to mess around and tweak these different beers, it gets them excited,” Thibodeau said.

The beer is sold in 12 oz. four-packs and is available at local liquor stores with 10% of the proceeds given back to the Snowdown festival.

It’s hard for Thibodeau to decide which Snowdown beer has been his favorite, but he is happy with how this year’s brew turned out. He’s now been through 27 different Snowdown beers since the inaugural “Hot Fun in the Wintertime” in 1996. Some of his other favorites have been the “Boogie Down Brown” ale from the 2006 Snowdown theme “Disco Do it” and the “Hyper Fierce Gnar Gnar” wheat ale for 2010’s “Surf’s Up” theme.

In 1995, the brewing company didn’t have any packaging equipment. Thibodeau, with his team, built their own bottling machine and approached the Snowdown committee about making a special Snowdown beer to celebrate the event. The committee welcomed the idea and the first Snowdown beer was bottled in 1996.

Snowdown will run from Jan. 27 through Feb. 5. Events will be posted on the Snowdown website in mid January.


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