Ska Brewing Ditches Bottles

Although it won’t be coming out with a full-scale marketing blitz, Ska Brewing has ditched 12-ounce bottles and begun to serve up its flagships in 12 oz. cans, only.

The 21-year-old brewery in Durango, Colorado, which gained some of its fame for canning shortly after fellow Colorado brewery Oskar Blues became the first craft brewery to can in 2003, will continue to put out some products in bombers, Ska founder Dave Thibodeau said regular bottles just had gone to the wayside in the brewery’s culture.

Durango, a southwest town in Colorado that is surrounded by mountains, is a big outdoors city known for backpacking and biking. Many of the employees that work at Ska are into the outdoors and cans were just more natural for them to take on hikes.

“We at the brewery just slowly started to gravitate toward the can beers and every year we put a little less attention into the 12 oz. bottles,” Thibodeau said. “We finally asked why are we even doing this and not putting any effort into bottles and we keep coming up with new ideas for cans. That started the discussion.”

Thibodeau also noted that the city of Durango doesn’t even take glass bottles for recycling anymore. “Our own neighborhood,” he exclaimed. “It’s kind of a drag.”

ska brewing Crunching the numbers, Thibodeau finally said the brewery would cease 12 oz. bottle production. He noted that a pallet of bottles could hold 72 cases. With cans, Ska can put the same weight on a pallet and hit 100 cases. With no six-pack bottle boxes, a mother carton and a label on battles, waste can be reduced to just the cans and whatever carrying package for the six-pack or four-pack.

“Even the way a cooler is set up, it’s not set up for bottles, it’s set for cans,” Thibodeau said. “When you couple that with the environmental factor and shipping for us being in the isolated rural area with big mountain passes, we want to make it as efficient as possible. When you add it all up, it just makes the most sense for us.”

Ska runs a 220 can per minute line made in Italty from SBC Bottling & Canning. The two-story unit has pack-on and pack-off upstairs with filling and sealing on the lower floor.

Ska increased its portfolio with the addition of its first four-pack of 12 oz. cans in March with its 10 percent ABV “Decadent Imperial IPA,” one of its flagship beers. Thibodeau noted that Ska will also bottle Decadent in bombers as well for release in the 10 states they are available in. It will also continue to offer “Nefarious Ten Pin Imperial Porter” and “True Blonde Dubbel” in bombers. Ska also ships beer to Sweden and the United Kingdom.

The SBC canner is capable of doing more than 12 ouncers and Ska may release 16 or 19.2 oz. beers in the future.

“There’s no plan in place but there is a possibility,” Thibodeau said.

He expects the brewery to have a slight bump in production, moving up to 36,500 barrels in 2016, up from 32,000 in 2015.

Although not a true blown-out marketing push to advertise the can-only mentality, Thibodeau feels that places like Texas and Chicago will see a marked increase in point of sales pushes for styles that had not been shipped there before, yet are award winning beers like “Buster Nut Brown” and “Steel Toe Milk Stout.”

He also noted that new sales reps in Southern California and Chicago will focus on better product placement for Ska beers. “This gets some of the beers that won some bigger awards out there and we get to re-release those beers even though they never have been carried,” he said. “We want people to know ‘You may have known about us, but now we’re in cans.'”


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