Message to Phillips: Bring Back the Skookum

Photo illustration by Tara Rafiq. Original photo courtesy of Phillips Brewing & Malting Co.
Photo illustration by Tara Rafiq. Original photo courtesy of Phillips Brewing & Malting Co.

For all its wonders, all this variety of craft beer can be a serious prick in the teat.

Like, y’know, when you try a random beer and it blows your mind apart?

And you want nothing more than to drink it all the time, because it, like, burrowed its way into your soul instantly, as if it had always there, but you’d only just realized it?

Except that they don’t make that beer any more, which is awful?

Yeah. You know.

I’m talking specifically about Phillips Brewing’s Skookum Cascadian Brown. I tried in the summer of 2014, at a house party in Victoria, when I was five beers deep and had reached for a random bottle in the fridge. I drank from said bottle, featuring a label I’d never even heard of before…

…and my mind reeled in much the same way as when I first heard “Helter Skelter.” What in the name of all that is holy is this delicious beer? How can I have more of it?

There were only three bottles in the house, packed inside the Phillips Hop Box, which I’d brought to the party, but others had been drinking out of. I scoured the fridge for another bottle, but alas, someone had snagged the other two. I’d sipped the last one…possibly for good.

See, months later, I used my considerable clout as an esteemed beer writer to ask the man himself, Matt Phillips, how he relegated such a delicious beverage to the lowly back corner of a mixed pack. Surely the world wanted more Skookum, no?

To which he laughed and said, “Awkwaaaard,” elongating the last vowel like teenagers like to do.

Then he explained that Skookum is one of his earliest recipes, an Indian dark ale that he, too, really enjoyed. But it never found its place in the world.

“We tried for years to find ways to sell it well. We never did,” Phillips said. “We tried changing the branding a couple times. We changed the name a couple times.”

But nothing worked and it sold poorly. They retired it to the Hop Box briefly, but have since retired it more or less completely. It’s not even listed in Phillps’ Vintage Beer Fridge.

Now it’s but a memory. It’s possible it’s a terrible beer after all, and just happened to taste good that day to my five-beer-deep palette. I may never know.

“It’s kinda too bad,” Phillips said. “I love that beer, and I’ve stubbornly been trying to find a way to make it work for 10 years.”

Well, obviously not hard enough Matt. Not hard enough.

Bring Back the Skookum

Bring Back the Skookum

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