Dave is a quality dude. One of the guys that helped make Colorado craft beer such a cultural flashpoint in the mid 90s. He’s one of those guys with the scrappy start-up story, who ground his way through the shakeout and survived, and he’s one of the guys that still finding his way 20 years later in a hyper competitive market. When I started drinking craft beer, Ska Brewing was one of the most exciting brands in the game. Hoppy styles, exciting branding, funny beer names and inside jokes, elements that are indicative of his brewing generation. But what’s been amazing to see is that Dave and his team keep finding new things to do. They might not get the mainstream buzz they used to when anything in a can from Colorado was sought-after, but for me, their subtle counter-market plays have kept me coming back year after year.
Dave is also one of those brewers that has a big decision to make. He’s regional, mid-sized, and he’s watching as so many of his peers are going for broke, trying to grow as fast as they can before another shakeout comes along. We didn’t know this at the time, but in the two weeks following this conversation, Saint Archer would sell a majority stake to MillerCoors, Virtue Cider would Sell to AB, and of course, Lagunitas sold half their operation to Heineken. These are all now-or-never moves for people who either want to shoot the moon, play with the big boys, or cash out.
Dave isn’t exactly interested in any of those. He’s gone through his growth phase, more than one. He’s been through the grind and he knows how much of a grind another major phase would be. And he’s part of a growing number of brewers that I’ve been spending time with that are starting to wonder if the terms "craft beer" and “growth" have been too synonymous for too long. Maybe, just maybe, it’s okay to find a comfort zone, and actually enjoy the thing you’ve built instead of constantly adding gasoline to a fire you can’t hope to control.