Skagua, Ska Brewing’s sparkling lemon-flavored water has such a strong fandom in Durango that Ska Owner Dave Thibodeau often catches people sneaking into the brewhouse with containers, filling them up, and quietly leave without ordering anything. The beverage is free, but it goes to show how far people are willing to go for, well, a good glass of water.
This kind of fanaticism is no surprise to Thibodeau, though. He knows how delicious Skagua is. He and his business partners, Bill Graham and Matt Vincent, have been making it for over 10 years. And, earlier this month, canned Skagua was made available to the general public, so thirsty fans no longer have to sneak into the brewery to get it.
We chatted with Thibodeau to learn more about Skagua – including how it originated, what’s so special about these drinks, and how they came up with the name.
DGO: How did you come up with the idea to take Skagua more mainstream?
Thibodeau: We’ve actually been making it here at the brewery since we built this building in 2008. It’s been free on tap in our tasting room. It’s been nice because we don’t advertise for it, but most of our customers know it as a good non-alcoholic beverage. It’s similar to soda but doesn’t have as much sugar in it. It’s been a hit in the tasting room.
DGO: Obviously you guys are known for your mad brewing skills. What made you want to create sparkling water, too?
Thibodeau: We started the brewery in 1995 and we were suddenly so busy. It was such a big business with new products and long hours. Matt started buying sparkling water so he could have a glass with him instead of a beer all the time. Just as long as it had bubbles, it’d get us through the day. He realized how much he was spending on water and decided to make it himself. He made one keg of it at a time in 2008 just to satisfy the need to have something fizzy in our hands. Over the years, it became a family favorite. We’ve even noticed people sneaking in. We always thought, “Why don’t we come out with flavors and can this stuff?” But we never thought about it too seriously. Our sparkling water has continued to be popular. We were going through Skagua more and more. Businesses were asking if we were ever planning to can it and we decided it was time.
DGO: Tell me about the different flavors you came up with. It looks like you guys came up with three.
Thibodeau: The watermelon flavor has zero sugar. It’s just straight-up sparkling water with a little bit of watermelon. Lemon and grapefruit just have a tiny bit of cane sugar in them. There are 25 calories for a whole can. It’s all non-GMO as far as the fruit we put in there. It’s great for a healthy lifestyle, being family-friendly, and good for designated drivers.
DGO: Skagua kind of sounds like a ska band. I love how catchy it is. How did you guys come up with the name?
Thibodeau: I think we just naturally started calling it that. We’ve had so many funny puns with naming things. With agua being Spanish for water, someone just said it right out of the gate. Everything new we come up with is some kind of a pun with the word ska in it. Usually, everyone gets sick of it but Skagua stuck. I can’t remember it being called anything else.
DGO: How did you guys come up with the flavors you wanted to release?
Thibodeau: Originally, we had cranberry and lemon and it seems like we’ve evolved to just having lemon on tap. We wanted to come up with new flavors. We wanted to use all-natural ingredients and as few ingredients as possible. We tried to mix up flavors and those three came out to be the best flavors. Watermelon being so full of water already, it didn’t need sweetener. We knew we wanted one to be without sugar and it was obvious watermelon was going to be it. It took over half the year to get it out. Making it was almost more difficult than making beer. We’ve gotten good at making beer but this thing was challenging. But we got down to the nuts and bolts of it.
DGO: What does the future of Skagua look like?
Thibodeau: We’re planning on releasing more flavors in the future and we hope we can eventually go for statewide distribution. It’s a pretty competitive market, but you can tell we know what we’re doing with the water and the water chemistry.