When it comes to beer labels, we adore the perfectly tuned images on Odell brews, the modern edge of Upslope’s cans, and the transformation of Left Hand’s labels. But, we give the quirkiness award to Ska Brewing Company. For nearly 20 years, the brewery has turned its comic-book obsession into a brewing empire. We talked to their long-time artist, Dorn Roberts, about the design process and how he got started.

5280: How did you start designing for Ska?

I was living in Durango around the time that the brewery started. I was doing the artwork for the local Snowdown [a winter festival] and they happened to be brewing a special brew. They wanted to put the poster on the label and that’s how I met them. They were getting big enough that they need to pay someone for the artwork. I told them I would be interested. [Co-founder] Dave [Thibodeau] told me what his vision was. I tossed together a couple of sketches for it. We’ve worked together since.

5280:  What appealed to you about working on these labels?

First and foremost, I’m an illustrator. This was as close as I was going to get to do a comic book.

5280: What’s the creative process like?

The thing about doing work for Ska and Dave is that they’ll come up with these crazy ideas. He’ll say, “I’ve got it all figured out. This is what I want to do.” I say, “OK.” But I know I’m not seeing in my head what he’s seeing. I never really arrive at what he thought. We’re almost like an old married couple. It probably sounds pretty sappy, but I just am glad that I can be a little part of them taking off and doing well.

—Images courtesy of Ska Brewing Company

Natasha Gardner
Natasha Gardner
Natasha Gardner is a Denver-based writer and the former Articles Editor for 5280.