Colorado Collaboration of Awesome: The Full Story

A couple of months ago I told you cats about a secret I had been keeping regarding a Colorado collaboration of epic proportions.  With the arrival of GABF it is time to share with you all of the (not so) gory details.

It all started with an invite from Mr. Moose of Peach Street Distillers fame to join him at a meeting with the boys from Ska Brewing and Freshcraft.  I was curious as all get out, so naturally, I could not turn him down.  The meeting was in mid March, there was a slight chill in the air as I walked through the doors of Freshcraft.  As per usual, I was running late but much to my relief so were Andy and Thomas from Ska.  I grabbed a beer at the bar ,and shortly after ,the boys arrived.  With everyone present, we headed to a table in the back room to discuss the project.  First, it was established that the beer to be made would be aged in Peach Street Bourbon barrels and ready for a release during GABF.  It was also agreed upon that once the beer was emptied from the barrels a cocktail would be aged in them also to be served at the beer release party.  The next step was deciding on the style of the beer.  It should be bigger especially given the barrel aging, maybe an imperial type brown, nothing as heavy as a big burly stout.  Someone then threw out the suggestion of rye as part of the grain bill and since only crazy people don’t like rye, rye definitely made the cut.  At this point, the maturity level of the group really came through.  A name for this beer was necessary.  Hmm, let’s see.  It’s big. Check.  Brown?  Check.  Rye? Check.  It was only obvious that the beer should henceforth be known as the Big Brown Rye (cue hysterical giggles and big brown rye cherry popping jokes).  By the end of the evening, a plan had been hatched and a time frame had been discussed.  Mid-April we would embark on a magical journey.  The first day would take us to Palisade to visit Peach Street and pick up barrels.  From there we would head down to Durango to visit the one and only Ska Brewing.  There a small batch of the Big Brown Rye would be made.  After that we would be on our way back to ye olde Denver.


Day 1

“Turn on Peach st. hench the name, which I never connected until just now.”-annonymous

It was a Sunday morning when my ride pulled up, the beautiful Peach Street vehicle.  It was bad ass and adorable all at the same time. I threw my bags in the back of the van, being careful to not destroy the cases upon cases of Rocky Mountain Soda that was being delivered to Peach St. With that, Moose and I were off.  We spent about four hours on the road experiencing every kind of weather on the stupid scary mountain roads (thank god for breakfast whiskey to calm my nerves). We finally arrived in Palisade with the sun shining. It was gorgeous driving through the small town with Moose pointing out little local landmarks and describing how the vineyards and orchards look throughout the different seasons.  The way he described it made me want to come back and visit over and over again to experience all of it.  We turned on to a dirt road and lo and behold there was a distillery! We arrived before the other Denver boys– Jason, Aaron and Andy.  After popping into the tasting room, saying hi to many regulars, and meeting Rory himself, we decided to head down the road to Palisade Brewing Company for a bit to eat and some much deserved refreshments.  The beers were tasty, grilled cheese was on the menu and both the staff and other patrons were super-friendly.  After our meal we headed back to the distillery.  Some drinks were had with the locals who were all quite lovely.  Rory gave me a picture tour while the sun was still up.  The facility was tiny and gorgeous, and the things the do in the space they have are simply marvelous.  After a rad homemade dinner we got word that the other boys had finally made it, so back to the distillery we went.

With the entire gang in one place, a proper tour was given.  For some of us city folk it was our first time visiting Peach Street, so there may or may not have been some geeking out going on.  Out behind the tasting room is a large building where bottles both full and empty are kept.  There was also a cat…a very friendly cat.  I really like cats.  We quickly became friends.  After poking around here and getting to see full bottles of the new TUB gin we headed over to the barrel warehouse.  Smelly and delicious here Rory pulled barrel sample as blending and cocktails were discussed.  The geek levels were high.  Next we headed to what would soon be

SkaPeachCraft boys

“We could start our own gang over that”- Rory on blending non-estate aged whiskeys

the new expanded taproom.  It was during construction when we were visiting but enough was done that one could get a feel for how the space would be.  It was big and exciting. It was also in this room that wee stumbled upon the cinnamon gummy bear infused hooch. Holy. Mother. of. God.  Delicious.  After our tour we poured back into the tap room and the drinks began flowing.  I got to experience Shasta sodas and I must say when mixed with the Peach St. family of spirits awesome things happen to your taste buds.  We were merry well into the night eventually making our way back to the hotel to sleep with visions of cocktails beer and barrels dancing in our heads.

Day one in pictures

Day 2

The next morning we awoke bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.  With our gear in tow, we headed back to the distillery. We had to pick up the barrels as well as say our good byes and thank yous.  Moose informed us that he would not be able to make the second leg of our journey.   It was sad but we knew we had to go on and make beer happen.  The barrels were loaded into the car and the farewell whiskey shots were loaded into our faces.   Before heading out onto the open road, we decided to get much needed fuel at Palisade Brewing Company.  With full happy bellies, we headed out towards Durango.  The drive was beautiful and incredibly frightening (stupid mountains).  After a few hours, we finally reached civilization, in this case Durango.  After a quick pitstop at a bottle shop, we quickly found our way to the Ska Brewing world headquarters.

“Lynyrd Skynyrd always makes me think of white power.”-one of the boys while discussing road trip music.

We were greeted by a plethora of warm friendly faces and full glasses of beer.  Sir Thomas was nice enough to give us a quick tour including the shiny pretty centrifuge room and the well hidden barrel stash.  We then settled back up to the bar where we tasted through many delicious treats.  While the beer to be made the following day was pretty much solid, there was still the matter of which hops to use.  A good sized brown box was brought to the bar and the hops started flying.  After much smelling and discussing the boys finally decided on the varietals Williamette, Columbia, and Mt. Hood.  With the work out of the way, the drinking and chatting continued.  Eventually we made our way back into town.  We stopped by the Durango Lodge to unload our baggage and then headed out on the town.  We came across Lady Falconburgh’s where we decided to stop for nourishment.  After dinner we headed over to the legendary El Rancho for drinks where the idea of a beer cocktail was brought to the bartender’s attention thanks to Aaron.  Given that we had had a long day driving and being merry with a brew day ahead of us, we headed back to the Lodge to rest our weary little heads.

Day two in pictures

Day 3

Waiting for boil

“I got drunk 3 separate times yesterday.”-pretty much everyone.

The next  morning we woke bright and early.  The need for caffeine straight to the blood stream was apparent.  After getting our fix, we headed back to Ska for the brew day of awesome.  Upon walking into the brew house, we found the pilot system set up and ready to go.  As the day got rolling, Jason and Aaron stepped up with the brewing process being incredibly hands on throughout the entire process.  Under Thomas’ guidance, the boys made their Big Brown Rye.  After a successful brew day filled with beery goodness and snorting DME, we were rewarded with Bill, Arlo and Sam taking us city kids out shooting.  Turns out shotguns and antique guns are buckets of fun.  After a while at the range, we headed back to the brewery.  Plans were made with many of the staff to head back downtown for some taco Tuesday action at Gazpacho’s. The first of us to arrive were able to get seats at the bar of this tiny mexican place.  As time went on, more and more faces from the brewery arrived slowly taking over table after table.  The tacos were tasty and the beer was flowing.  Then the beer (Mexican lager in this case) started flowing with a floater of margarita slushy.  Then the tequila started flowing.  Then the Tecate started being shotgunned.  At this point, the choice was made to move from the restaurant back on over to El Rancho to continue the merriment.  The pack grew even larger back at the ranch.  There was plenty of drinking and bonding going down.  It seemed as if everyone from Ska came out that last night to party with the kids from Denver.  It was a beautiful thing.  People started coming and going but many ended up closing the bar down stumbling through the streets of downtown Durango back to their homes and hotels.

Day 4

take home

“Cases of Steel Toe Stout make a good pillow.”-us kids in the back seat.

Everyone woke feeling the pain from the days prior.  The weekend of debauchery was catching up.  Another caffeine fix was needed and then once again back to the brewery.  We made our peace and said our farewells.  The boys loaded the car with treats from the brewery and then we were back on the road, this time heading back to Denver to recover from the epic weekend of collaborative awesomeness.

Days 3 & 4 in pictures


The beer as well as the barrel aged cocktails will make their debut this Thursday at 10pm at Freshcraft.  All parties involved in the project will be on hand to drink and be merry with.  Now is the time to get a Big Brown Rye in your face.  Details of the party can be found here.

See you cats there!

About Bess Dougherty

Bess Dougherty's life revolves around hooch. By day she has the pleasure of making beer. At night this dame can often be found sipping whiskey and beer around town. This bearcat is also an avid homebrewer. Yar.