Ear to the ground

“(Pr)icy conditions may exist.”

– A cleverly doctored sign just outside the nearby burg of Telluride

Barley big time

It’s a classic tale of suds to riches.

Ska Brewing held the first annual Osiris Homebrew Competition during last winter’s Snowdown Festival, and homebrewers from around the country entered their beers. When the tasting and judging was finally finished, Chris Vest, of Cortez, earned “Best in Show” honors for his Merlot Stout. But that was just the beginning.

For Vest, a member of the Mesa Verde Mashers Homebrew Club, this win would be different. In the Osiris Homebrew Competition, Ska Brewing agreed to brew the winning beer by the hundreds of gallons. Vest’s Merlot Stout was bottled, labeled and released this week to stores around the region as part of Ska’s popular “Local Series.”

The “Pro-Am” Merlo Stout hit stores last Tuesday and, yes, that’s “Merlo.” Vest originally included Merlot wine in his recipe, but commercial beer brewers are prohibited from mixing other alcoholic beverages into their brews. So, the boys at Ska aged the beer in oak to provide a similar taste, and coined the name “Merlo” to reassure Uncle Sam. The final product tips the scales at a hefty 9.6 percent alcohol by volume. The tasting notes from Ska’s Head Brewer Thomas Larsen include the following observations: “Aromas of coffee, earthy hops, alcohol and a hint of smoke jump from the smooth blackness of this complex stout. For such a strong stout, the light body makes for a surprisingly quaffable brew.”

The Merlo Stout has also been entered in the annual Great American Beer Festival in Denver, where it will compete against other “Pro-Am” beers from around the nation in late September.

Rigged to flip

Ladies and gentlemen start your cardboard. The first annual Great Durango Homemade Boat Race is just a couple weeks away. Rubber, wood and cardboard creations will hit the Animas River on Sept. 12 in a fund-raiser for the new Breast Care Center at Mercy Regional Medical Center.

The Irish Embassy Pub and Mild to Wild Rafting are partnering on the first-ever event. The goal is to rally the community to raise more than $40,000. Teams will create their own boats, and they’re allowed to use anything except inflatable devices. “We used to do this in Ireland and teams would create boats out of buckets, barrels, whatever they had laying around. It was quite successful,” said John Fingleton, owner of the Irish Embassy.

The “boats” will race approximately five city blocks down the Animas River; Mild to Wild will supervise the race; and awards will be handed out afterwards at the pub. Proceeds from the day’s take at the Irish Embassy along with the team entry fees will all be donated to Mercy.

For more information or to register, call 247-4789.