On March 11 and 12, 2020, representatives of Lone Tree Brewing Co. and Ska Brewing Co. met at the latter’s Durango headquarters to brew a kettle-soured Berliner Weisse for the Collaboration Festival, a Denver-based event celebrating Colorado’s craft beer scene. Like most of 2020’s events, that festival was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Nevertheless, the two breweries were able to find a different way to work together, in the form of a distribution partnership.
Before the partnership formed, Lone Tree’s beer was distributed mostly in the corridors along interstates 25 and 70. The closest it got to Durango was 100 miles away in Montrose. Now, through Ska Brewing’s distribution arm, six packs of the south Denver metro area brewery’s Lone Tree IPA, Mexican Lager, Strawberry Kiwi Blonde Ale, Red Ale, Peach Pale, Double IPA and spring-seasonal Pomegranate Wit, as well as mixed 12-packs are available in Durango, Telluride, Ouray and Ridgway.
It was a natural fit, said Kristen Muraro, Ska’s sales and marketing director. Both she and Lone Tree Brewing founder John Winter served on the board of directors of the Colorado Brewers Guild. The initial collaboration came at the suggestion of one of Ska’s distribution reps who was a regular at Lone Tree’s tasting room, she said.
In terms of the beer now headed to Southwest Colorado, Dennis Stack, Lone Tree’s director of sales and marketing, said his brewery is sending some styles Durango hasn’t necessarily seen.
“Our portfolio of beers has a wide variety – we’re not just IPA-heavy or lager-heavy. We brew a lot of different things, and our product mix on the Front Range is quite different from what we’re seeing in that corner of the state,” he said.
In particular, the fruit-forward brews, such as the Strawberry Kiwi Blonde Ale and the Peach Pale, fill in some gaps in at least Ska’s portfolio. Similarly, Lone Tree IPA is a bit different in that it has a juicy flavor that isn’t as resinous or piney as many West Coast IPAs, but also isn’t hazy like a New England IPA.
On the other hand, there is at least one notable overlap between Ska and Lone Tree: Mexican lagers. Because many beer festivals lack a Mexican lager category, Mexican Logger and Lone Tree’s Mexican Lager have rarely, if ever, competed against each other directly, but they have brought home similar hardware. In 2017, both won gold medals – Ska at the Los Angeles International Beer Competition, Lone Tree at the Great American Beer Festival in Denver. Both beers also took home silver at GABF in 2015.
“Mexican lagers in general are getting a lot of press right now and growing in popularity, so we’ll continue to see that category grow,” Muraro said. “I think there’s room for both of ours. ... I think we’ve established ourselves well enough with our Mexican lager that it’s going to do its thing, and they’ve established themselves very well up in their area with fans of their Mexican lager.”
While Ska’s version is seasonal, Lone Tree’s Mexican Lager is available year round.
Lone Tree’s beer is available at 6th Street Liquors, Mac’s Liquors, Skyridge Liquors, Wagon Wheel Liquors and W.J. Doyle in Durango. Muraro said Ska will look into distributing it in draft form to bars and restaurants as those businesses pick back up in the near future.
As the pandemic comes to an end, the breweries are also looking forward to collaborating on a beer again, Stack said.
Ska also distributes beer from Bristol Brewing Co., Bosque Brewing Co., La Cumbre Brewing Co., Left Hand Brewing Co., Marble Brewery, Stone Brewing Co., Sweetwater Brewing Co. and Telluride Brewing Co., in addition to spirits from Peach Street Distillers, CBD seltzers from Oh Hi Beverages, Fenceline Ciders and Ska’s non-alcoholic Skagua.