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Two Durango breweries receive medals at Great American Beer Festival

Steamworks, Ska Brewing take prizes for chile beer and English ale, respectively
Steamworks Brewing Co., one of two Durango breweries to win awards in the 2021 Great American Beer Festival competition, received a silver medal for its chile beer called “Prescribed Burn.” Ska Brewing Co. also won a silver medal for its “True Blonde” English ale. (Christian Burney/Durango Herald)

Two Durango-based breweries, Steamworks Brewing Co. and Ska Brewing Co., received silver medals last weekend at the 2021 Great American Beer Festival.

Both breweries entered multiple craft beers into the competition. Steamworks received a silver medal for its chile beer “Prescribed Burn,” and Ska was awarded a silver medal for its English ale called “True Blonde Ale.”

In addition to receiving one silver medal each, both brewing companies are celebrating their 25th (Steamworks) and 26th (Ska) anniversaries this week.

Prescribed Burn

The silver medal for Prescribed Burn is the 18th award Steamworks has received through the Great American Beer Festival competition, said Manager Ken Martin.

“We’ve been making it for a very long time, as well,” Martin said. “It’s kind of unique to the area. Green chiles are a thing around here. So the clientele here enjoy the spicy chile beer – and it’s not just spicy. We got good chile flavors and aroma.”

Steamworks Brewing Co. uses a blend of Hatch green chiles, roasted poblanos and habanero, Martin said.

“We roast those ourselves here at the pub, just right over the broiler, same place your cheeseburger gets cooked,” he said. “Chop ’em up, put them in the beer and fuse the flavors in that way.”

Martin said having Steamworks’ Prescribed Burn recognized at the national level as one of the top three chile beers out of about 10,000 entries in all categories is an honor.

True Blonde Ale
Megan Seale pours a True Blonde Ale at the Ska Brewing World Headquarters in 2011. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald file)

Ska Brewing co-founder David Thibodeau said the brewery’s anniversary normally coincides with the Telluride Blues & Brews Festival, typically held the second weekend of September. The True Blonde Ale silver medal also marks Ska’s 17th award received from the Great American Beer Festival.

Thibodeau just celebrated Ska’s 26th anniversary, and coincidentally, the True Blonde Ale brew that earned a silver medal in this year’s brew fest was the first beer brewed at Ska.

“That was 26 years ago,” Thibodeau said. “We poured our very first two kegs of beer that we ever brewed at the Telluride Blues & Brews Festival, and those were True Blonde, and that’s what we won the medal with. It was the very, very first beer we ever made when we opened the brewery 26 years ago. It was really cool to get it basically on the anniversary of our 26th year in business.”

Thibodeau said it always feels special to receive an award during the Great American Beer Festival, but lately even more so because of how much competition is out there.

“With 8,800 breweries in the country it’s gotten so much more difficult to win a medal,” Thibodeau said. “So whenever you win one it’s always been really special, but with the amount of competition and great beer that’s out there, it just feels really special to win an award and to also have Steamworks win an award.

“I think there were only 20 breweries to win medals from Colorado – and there’s hundreds of breweries in Colorado. But for us to represent Durango, it just really helps mark Durango as a real craft beer town with quality craft beer being made throughout our little corner of the state. It’s just really validating. ... It just really makes you appreciate everything you have and all of the work that goes into it. Once again, it shows how much effort our brewers put into what they do every single day.”

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2021 in-person festival was canceled, but a livestream of the Great American Beer Festival aired at 5 p.m. Friday and can be viewed on The Brewing Network’s official YouTube page. Two hundred ninety medals were awarded to 265 U.S. breweries from across the country.

The Great American Beer Festival plans to return to an in-person event for its 40th anniversary Oct. 6-8, 2022, according to the festival’s official website. The 2021 awards ceremony was presented by the Brewers Association and took place during the Craft Brewers Conference.


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