It's Canned Craft Beer Day! Celebrate with Star Bar or by toasting Ska Brewing

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Update: The Cheeky Monk is also celebrating Canned Craft Beer Day at its Colfax and Westminster locations. Try two canned beers from Belgium, Wittekerke and Bavik Pils ($5), along with Maui Coconut Porter, Avery IPA and Ska True Blonde ($4).

The canned craft beer revolution began ten years ago in Lyons, Colorado, when Dale Katechis, the owner of Oskar Blues, decided to start canning his beers.

Today, there are more than 450 different beers being canned by 150-plus breweries (around twenty of which are in Colorado) in forty states -- which is why the the website CraftCans.com has pronounced today as the first annual Canned Craft Beer Day.

Ideas for ways to celebrate should be pretty obvious -- and don't include smashing an empty can against your forehead, a la John Belushi, or even shotgunning a Ten FIDY. But just in case you can't think of what to do, here are two ideas.

Star Bar This Larimer Street hangout and craft beer oasis is featuring most of its craft beer cans for $3 all night; this includes brews from Avery, Maui Brewing, New Belgium, Oskar Blues, Ska and Upslope. You'll also find Chris "The Gubna" Katechis of Oskar Blues on hand at 6 p.m. to talk aluminum and all that goes into it. (P.S.: Don't tell anyone, but Star Bar will also be pouring a special version of the brewery's G'Knight, which was aged in Leopold Bros. Apple Whiskey barrels just for Star Bar.)

Toast to Ska's good fortune Ska Brewing started canning beers just a year after Oskar Blues, and yesterday, the Durango brewery announced that it produced 21,257 barrels in 2011, up a whopping 28 percent over the previous year. You can find the brewery's Modus Hoperendi, ESB, True Blonde and other canned beers on numerous liquor store shelves. (For Ska's hilarious press release on its past year, scroll down to the end of this post.)

DURANGO, COLO., (Jan. 23, 2012) -- Ska Brewing has had an incredible year, full of important milestones and proud accomplishments--at least according to notes taken by the brewery's management team throughout the year. "I'm glad we wrote this stuff down. It all seems so hazy now," admitted Ska President and Co-Founder Dave Thibodeau. "I know we grew, but without our notes I'd be looking to beer bloggers to find out how much and when."

For example, one treasure trove of documentation--titled "press releases"--indicated that at the beginning of 2011 Ska Brewing was named Durango's 'Business of the Year' by the Durango Chamber of Commerce. That means for the past year Ska has been Defending Business of the Year. The title is notoriously impossible to defend, but Ska can claim many other highlights in 2011.

By the end of 2011, Ska had produced 21, 257 barrels (bbls) of beer. (A U.S. bbl is 31 gallons.) According to notes found on a recently unearthed thumb drive, Ska announced near the end of 2010 that the company had reached regional craft brewer status (as defined by the Brewer's Association), by producing more than 15,000 bbls of beer. Math experts say these numbers show an increase of 28% over the previous year, or approximately 28% more than the S&P 500 stock index returned in 2011.

"Growth in production has allowed us to meet demand in our markets," says Ska co-founder Bill Graham. "That's a fancy way of saying we've been keeping people around the country supplied with fresh beer--and they've been buying it up pretty fast."

According to pictures discovered on Ska's Facebook page, last spring saw the addition of four new 240-bbl tanks, including three fermenters and one brite tank. This expansion increased Ska's brewing capacity by 70% and opened the door for the increase in production.

The milestones haven't all been operational, either. Last spring Ska ventured into filmmaking when it produced Brew Minions -- a video parody of the Discovery Channel series Brew Masters -- with appearances by Ska's co-founders and employees, and by Dogfish Head Brewing Founder and Brew Masters star Sam Calagione. The not-so-short film poked fun at the Dogfish Head-focused television series while silently acknowledging that every brewery wishes it had its own TV show.

Dave Thibodeau, Ska President and Co-Founder, says the film was a success, even though it didn't fit any traditional mold: "It ended up being over 20 minutes, which was about three times as long as we planned. But people watched it anyway, and they loved it. It's had 13,000 online views so far."

Other Ska Brewing milestones in 2011:

* Ska cans Mexican Logger for the first time, releasing the seasonal lager in all of its markets. * Ska celebrates American Craft Beer Week with the release of Big Shikes Orange Blossom Imperial Pilsner, a beer collaboratively brewed with Westword beer blogger and homebrewer Jonathan Shikes. (In 2010 Ska initiated the first beer blogger brewing collaboration when it invited two local beer bloggers to brew on its pilot system and write about the experience.) * Seth Townsend's Organic Dubbel wins Ska's GABF Homebrew Competition and goes on to be entered in the GABF Pro-Am. The beer is also released by the brewery as Sethvleteren 8, #19 in Ska's Local Series. * Ska again participates in the Tour of BoulDurango it helped found, sending 4 riders to join 4 other breweries on a 470-mile tour of Colorado's biggest passes and best brewpubs to raise money for local charities. * Ska loses the L.A. International Beer Competition, but wins many others, including: - Steel Toe Stout: Gold Medal, Great American Beer Festival - Modus Hoperandi IPA: Silver Medals--Stockholm Beer and Whisky Festival AND Australian International Beer Awards; Bronze Medal--AmeriCan Festival; Winner, Best Canned IPA--CraftCans.com Poll - Pinstripe Red Ale: Gold Medal--North American Beer Awards; Bronze Medal--Colo. State Fair Nat'l Commercial Microbrew Comp. - Ska Special ESB: Bronze Medal--Australian International Beer Awards; Silver Medal--Colo. State Fair National Commercial Microbrew Comp., Silver Medal--AmeriCan Festival - Buster Nut Brown Ale: Silver Medal--Denver International Beer Fest - True Blonde Ale: Silver Medal--Colo. State Fair National Commercial Microbrew Comp. - True Blonde Dubbel: Bronze Medal--Colo. State Fair National Commercial Microbrew Comp. - Mexican Logger: Winner, Most Sessionable Craft Can--CraftCans.com Poll - Euphoria Pale Ale: Voted Durango's Best Local Beer by Buzztown

* Ska celebrates its 16th Anniversary with a blowout party featuring The Toasters from NYC along with two other bands, more than 20 guest breweries and over 1,000 people in attendance * Ska attracts 11,150+ Facebook followers, 5,800+ Twitter followers, and 1 creepy stalker

"13- or 14,000:1 is a pretty good fan to stalker ratio", said Thibodeau. "But with all the new breweries starting up, we're hoping that person will find another 'favorite' and lose interest in us."

Follow Westword's Beer Man on Twitter at @ColoBeerMan
and on Facebook at Colo BeerMan.

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