Brewstomper Golden Ale is a new beer with a backstory. It’s a collaboration between punk band Rancid of California and Ska Brewing of Colorado, but it’s set to debut here. And here means Phoenix’s Margaret T. Hance Park during The Bash Music & Craft Beer Festival this Saturday, May 11.
“The tour kicks off in Phoenix, so we thought it most appropriate to try and actually release the beer at that first show of the Bash Festival,” says Dave Thibodeau, president and co-founder of Ska Brewing. “We really think of ourselves as a Four Corners brewery, so we always think about Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah as our backyard … so I’m really excited that it’s kicking off in Phoenix.”
That’s not the only thing Thibodeau has been excited about during this project.
The fact that he and the Ska Brewing team got to collaborate with Rancid was a big deal. In the early 1990s, when Ska Brewing was first forming in Durango, Colorado, Thibodeau remembers signing paperwork while listening to '80s punk band Operation Ivy. Two members of Rancid, Tim Armstrong and Matt Freeman, were in Operation Ivy.
“When we filled out the plans, the honest-to-God truth is the soundtrack was Op Ivy,” he says. “It was pretty surreal having Matt Freeman in the brewery brewing beer with me.”
And then there’s the DIY aspect.
“We started the brewery with no money in the early '90s, opened up in ‘95, and we worked our butts off just because we loved it and did everything ourselves,” Thibodeau says, “and I feel like Rancid has held true to that whole DIY ethic.” As a result, Thibodeau says coming together to create Brewstomper was pretty seamless.
Ska made the first batch, Rancid gave a note or two, Ska tweaked it, and that was it. No overhead weigh- ins or rounds of approval. “You just do it the fucking way you want to do it,” Thibodeau says.
It’s no secret beer and punk shows have gone together for decades, but Thibodeau and Ska Brewing wanted to give the shitty punk show beer somewhat of an upgrade — a craft, Ska Brewing spin.
Brewstomper is a golden ale as opposed to a light American lager. “I will say it is really easy drinking, but it's clearly a craft beer,” he says. “We put a little more hops in there and a somewhat interesting and fun hop called manderina bavera. And it’s got a little bit of a tangerine nose to it.”
The beer is 5 percent alcohol per volume, and Thibodeau describes it as well-balanced, not bitter despite the hops. It’s a lighter beer, but there’s flavor. Even the packaging has a backstory.
“The can was actually designed by Tim Armstrong, which is pretty cool,” says Thibodeau, which is no surprise, since it displays the clenched fist from the cover of Rancid’s 1994 album, Let’s Go.
“It's an old-school looking can,” says Thibodeau, which is the whole point. Armstrong shot for elements of nostalgia in the design, while the Ska Brewing team wanted something that would take them back to earlier days of building a brewery and going to punk rock shows. But there’s still a hint of maturation.
“Think of those smaller, sweaty shows: You really didn’t care what your beer was, you just wanted to have beer you could drink and throw around,” he says. “But I wouldn’t waste any of this beer; I’d make sure I’d drink every last drop of it.”
That came with some advice.
“Buy a PBR and toss it at someone; drink this one,” he says, chuckling.
Back to The Bash.
The funny thing here is, Armstrong doesn’t drink at all, and the rest of Rancid’s members aren’t really beer guys. And though Thibodeau certainly still wanted to collaborate, that fact had him wonder: Why do they even want a beer?
“I think a lot of it has to do with festivals like The Bash and Sabroso and Ye Scallywag. The guy, Cameron Collins, who puts on the festivals, has added a craft beer component,” Thibodeau explains, referring to Collins, the co-founder of Brew Ha Ha Productions.
“The first half of the day is a beer festival.”
And that certainly tracks. The Bash kicks off with two Arizona dates — May 11 in Phoenix and May 12 in Tucson. (It will then trek up through the Northwest in June.) Local breweries like The Shop, Helio Basin Brewing, and Helton Brewing will be there with beers ready. And of course, there will be plenty of Brewstomper.
Beer aside, this lineup is no joke for fans of the compilation punk of yesteryear. There will be Rancid, of course, plus The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Suicidal Tendencies, L7, and H2O.
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As for Brewstomper, “It’ll be for sale in all our markets indefinitely,” Thibodeau says of the big project beer after its debut at The Bash.
If you don’t have tickets, general admission prices start at $39.50 and VIP tickets begin at $99.50. General admission begins at 1 p.m. for 21-and-over, and 4 p.m. to all ages. VIP tickets give access to beer tastings starting at noon and to the VIP Lounge with a bar and food for purchase.
For more information and tickets, see The Bash Music and Craft Beer Festival website.
Editor's note: This article was updated from its original version.