Ska's Brew Minions: My Interview with Dave Thibodeau

Last week, Ska Brewing released Brew Minions.  It's a parody of Dogfish Head's Brew Masters.  If you haven't seen it already, you should watch it.  The full video is embedded at the bottom of this post.  It's hilarious!  To truly appreciate the humor, it helps to have seen an episode or two of Brew Masters. However, even if you've never seen Brew Masters, Ska's parody holds up well on its own.

I wanted to learn more about the story behind Brew Minions, so I contacted Dave Thibodeau, co-founder of Ska and creative force behind Brew Minions.  He was kind enough to tell me more about their parody as well recent happenings at the brewery.

How did you get the idea to do a Brew Masters parody?

Dave Thibodeau:  It begged us to make it.

How long did it take to make it?  Was it fully scripted or impromptu based on a rough storyline?

DT:  In actual hours, I couldn’t tell you, but let’s just say that we were coincidentally talking about a 30th Anniversary Toasters beer when Sam’s first episode, Bitches Brew, came out. We started working on it then, and in the time it took to finish, Sam and Discovery had already pretty much wrapped up the season! We started with a rough story line, it was then scripted by our friend Dave Welz, and a fair amount of it morphed as we filmed.

The origins of the brewery (not being able to buy beer, so you made your own) are true.  So how much of Brew Minions is a parody and how much reflects you guys and your style?

DT:  Some have said we’re successful despite ourselves.

Sam Calagione's cameo is hilarious.  Will we see a Ska / Dogfish brew in the future?

DT:  I don’t know how he does it! Brew Masters works because of Dogfish Head and Sam. There’s 1000 craft brewers out there wishing that show had been them, but if it had been Ska, they would have shelved it before the first camera began to roll. Which would have been fine because there’s always tanks full of beer to drown our sorrows in. As for working with Sam elsewhere?  No, just having the occasional beer—no DFH/Ska brews in the works.

As the credits rolled, I noticed your mad skills as you danced onstage with The Toasters. 

DT:  I like the part where the security guard drags me off the stage.

How do you guys distinguish Ska beer from others in this growing market?  How are your brews unique?

DT:  We’re not known for huge or outrageous beers (although we do brew quite a few that can only be found in Durango), but we do brew great beers. We put a lot of resources into quality control, keep a fairly small geographical distribution footprint that we can monitor well, and really focus on the caliber of our beers. We brew the types of beers we really like to drink, and because we drink a fair amount of them, they tend to be closer to 6% ABV than 10%. We’ve been around for 16 years and we’re fortunate to have that base—people know that our beers are solid.

Do you have any new or seasonal releases in the works?

DT:  We do. We just brewed an Imperial Orange Blossom Pilsner that we’ll release only on draft in Colorado for American Craft Beer Week. We are also releasing our seasonal Mexican Logger to other markets for the first time in 10 years, and in cans! It’s a lighter Mexican-style lager that goes down well in the summer, and it just reeks of the mountain/river/bike lifestyle we live in Durango. I like it with a lime.

Your new fermenters will increase Ska’s volume to 20,000 barrels this year (from 15,000 in 2010).  Where do you distribute?  Do you plan to expand soon?

DT:  Yeah—exciting! We just got 2 of 4 new 240 barrel outdoor tanks in this week! We’re currently available in 8 states other than Colorado; NM, AZ, MO, KS, NE, TX, and 2 weird ones that require an explanation another time—IL and NC. We’ve been at capacity for a long time, and we just hope to take care of our existing markets—no plans to expand to any others just yet.

I've been homebrewing for six months (extract only).  Do you have any advice for novice brewers who want to improve their skills?

DT:  Switch to all grain, don’t use dehydrated yeast, and listen to loud music—but be careful here; our Head Brewer, Thomas, says that yeast hate jam bands.

While I wish we had Ska's beer in Oregon, I'm thrilled they're distributed across a few of the mid-western states where some of my friends and readers live.  If you live in one of the nine states where Ska is available, give it a try!

What did you think of Brew Minions?  Have you tasted any of Ska's beers?

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