Upslope Brewing: Beer, People & Planet

Upslope Brewing - Craft Lager
When other breweries were competing in hops races, Upslope Brewing developed Craft Lager. The popular brew won a silver medal at the 2019 Great American Beer Festival. Even more, 1% of sales from Craft Lager benefit Trout Unlimited.

A recession and a hops shortage didn’t dissuade a trio of beer-loving visionaries from opening a brewery in the heart of craft beer country. Upslope Brewing Company sold its first beers in 2008 in Boulder, Colo. It’s now Colorado’s fourth-largest independent craft brewery in a state that boasts more than 400.

Upslope distributes to a handful of markets where it strives to be the après everything beer. One of those markets is Utah. In fact, in 2016, Upslope developed a beer brewed specifically for the Beehive State — a Belgian Style Blonde Ale brewed with guava that catered to the state’s then-4% ABV limitations for beer sold in grocery stores.

Since then — the brewery that seems to zig when others zag — has staked its claim to being, as it says, a business for good that makes even better beer.

“People over profits,” says Katie Hill, Upslope’s marketing director. “It’s about being a business for good.”

Craft beer, of course, is Upslope’s business. But it’s clear there’s a lot more to the story.

  • It’s a brewery that brazenly opened amid crazy competition in Colorado
  • It’s a craft brewer that shunned the then-standard glass bottles for more portable, environmentally friendly cans
  • And it’s a brewery that developed a Craft Lager when others were racing to out-hop everyone else

Even more, Upslope’s a brand that’s laser-focused on sustainability, conservation, and overall environmental stewardship.

“There is no Planet B,” says Hill, channeling Upslope co-founder Matt Cutter. “You’ve got to take care of your mother. Matt said, ‘I knew when I created a brewery I was creating a thing that could potentially have a negative impact on the environment.’ He knew he had to be responsible about it.”

And so, Upslope strives to uphold the mantra: Leave a mark with our beer, not our footprint.

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Purpose, people, and the planet are at the heart of Upslope Brewing. It first began distributing its beers in Utah in 2016 — even going so far as to brew a beer specifically for the Beehive State. Photo Credit: Alan Stenback

🎙 Listen: Upslope Brewing

BONUS: Subscribe to the Utah Beer News Podcast and listen to our interview with a trio of Upslope Brewing representatives. We visit with Katie Hill, marketing director; Katie Flanagan, Utah market manager; and Antal Maurer, regional market manager. During our conversation, we learn why Upslope is invested in and excited about the Utah market, what craft beer drinkers can expect from the Boulder-based brewery in the Beehive State, the reason behind its no-frills, straightforward marketing approach, and more!

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Upslope Brewing Finds its Place in Utah

From left, Upslope Brewing’s Katie Hill, marketing director; Katie Flanagan, Utah market manager; and Antal Maurer, regional market manager.

Utah entered Upslope’s purview about five years ago. The aforementioned Belgian Style Blonde Ale opened the door in 2016, and in March 2020 the brewery gave Utah its own “feet on the street.”

Katie Flanagan, who boasts extensive experience in Utah’s alcohol-beverage industry (she’s worked for High West Distillery and Level Crossing Brewing), is now Upslope’s Utah market manager.

“Historically, this has been a territory covered by a (Colorado mountain) rep,” says Antal Maurer, a regional market manager for Upslope, who’s based in New Mexico. “We had someone driving down once a quarter. Upslope’s always been well-received here, but it’s become clear that we needed someone full-time to represent us in this market.”

Flanagan, who last year joined Upslope right as bars and restaurants were forced to shut down to help slow the spread of COVID-19, worked to bolster Upslope’s presence in Utah liquor and grocery stores.

“Katie’s done an incredible job rooting us into the community,” Hill says.

Read on to learn which Upslope beers are available in Utah, and which seasonal releases might be making an appearance down the road.

Upslope Brewing: The Beers (and Hard Seltzers)

Upslope’s portfolio includes five year-round brews. India Pale Ale (Upslope doesn’t get fancy with beer names) helped to launch the company more than a dozen years ago.

Its Craft Lager, the brand’s No. 1-selling beer for a time and still the best-selling beer in the Utah market, joined not long after.

Citra Pale Ale replaced the brewery’s original Pale in 2017, Rocky Mountain Kölsch hit the scene next, and — finally! Hazy IPA entered the fray in late 2020.

“We’re laughing because of this Hazy IPA, we were like, yo!” Hill says. “Sales would be a lot tighter if you would let us sell a hazy. We’re like, we don’t just jump on a trend, that’s not who we are.”

And then it arrived.

“I’m so proud to have this hazy,” Hill continues. “We were so late to the party. Has this ship sailed? And it hasn’t because, ultimately, if it’s good, it stays around.”

That said, Upslope appears to be right on time with its Spiked Snowmelt Craft Hard Seltzer.

“I think there are a lot of people who feel pressure right now to produce seltzer,” Maurer says. “We were proactive, we were right on top of this. It wasn’t a reactionary thing for us. This is something we pursued with the utmost respect and recognition of where the industry is going.”

To that point, Upslope then partnered with Boulder-based sports nutrition company Skratch Labs to create a series of hard seltzers infused with electrolytes. It became one of the first craft breweries to market an electrolyte spiked seltzer, Upslope says.

Upslope Brewing India Pale Ale on an adventure. Photo Credit: Thomas Woodson

The Core Beer Lineup

Here are additional details on Upslope’s core beers. Descriptions courtesy of Upslope. Many of the beers are available in Utah liquor stores (above 5% ABV) and in grocery/convenience stores (5% ABV and below):

  • Citra Pale Ale (5.8% ABV): Citra hops are prominently featured, delivering grapefruit and tropical fruit notes with a light caramel maltiness (available at Utah liquor stores)
  • India Pale Ale (7.2%): Traditional copper color, complex malt character, and well-balanced
  • Craft Lager (4.8%): A premium American lager brewed entirely of malted barley. It earned Silver in the 2019 Great American Beer Festival and 1% of sales goes to local chapters of Trout Unlimited (if purchased in Utah, proceeds benefit Utah’s chapter) (available at Utah grocery stores)
  • Hazy IPA (6.6%): Notes of ripe peach, fresh pine, and pink guava are supported by a pillowy mouthfeel and low bitterness (available at Utah liquor stores)
  • Rocky Mountain Kölsch (5%): Colorado honey, sage, and Mosaic and Lemondrop hops create a bright, lemon citrus character in an easy-drinking Kölsch (available at Utah grocery stores)

Seasonal Releases

And here are a few to keep an eye out for down the road (expected availability, though not necessarily in Utah):

  • Blackberry Lemon Sour (March): Ruby in color, it features tart lemon aromas, sweet bramble, and an underlying earthiness. Crisp, clean tartness with blackberry and citrus finish (4.5% ABV) (available at Utah grocery stores)
  • Mexican-Style Dark Lager (May): A tribute to German-inspired lagers brewed in Mexico (5%) (scheduled to be available at Utah grocery stores)
  • German-Style Pilsner (July): Clean and crisp with an impeccably balanced hop profile (4.9%)
  • Pumpkin Ale (Fall): A custom blend of six spices and organic baby bear pumpkins (7.7%)
  • Spruce Tip IPA (Winter): Brewed with premium American malt, Cascade and Simcoe hops, and hand-picked Colorado spruce tips (7.5%)
  • Oatmeal Stout (Winter): Smooth, roasty, and sessionable (5%)

The Hard Seltzer Lineup

In terms of hard seltzers (Tangerine & Hops and Grapefruit & Hops are available in Utah grocery stores):

  • The original flavors include: Pomegranate & Acai; Tangerine & Hops; and Juniper & Lime
  • The electrolyte series flavors include: Passionfruit & Mango; Grapefruit & Hops; and Peach Lemonade
  • And the new tropical flavors include: Pineapple & Coconut; Key Lime & Hibiscus; and Passionfruit Orange Guava

“We are a beer that people in Utah will love. We’re all like-minded in the respect that we’re good people trying to have a good time in the great outdoors with even better beer.”

KATIE HILL, marketing director

Certified B Corporation: A Business for Good

Infographic courtesy of Upslope Brewing

Upslope Brewing is one of only a handful of breweries designated to be a Certified B Corporation. It earned the designation in April 2018.

To qualify, businesses must commit to measuring their entire social and environmental performance. An assessment analyzes how operations impact a variety of stakeholders — from employees to customers to the community at large.

In an effort to limit its footprint, Upslope identifies ways it can give back. One organization it wholeheartedly supports is Leave No Trace. Each year, Upslope organizes a “Backcountry Tap Room” event in which proceeds are donated directly to Leave No Trace to help mitigate the event’s environmental impact.

And for each can of Craft Lager it sells, Upslope donates 1% of the sale to the local Trout Unlimited chapter.

“The charitable giving doesn’t stop,” Hill says. “Sometimes I think, what’s my purpose? I’m just giving people a nice buzz and helping them cap off their adventure. The reality is it’s a lot deeper. We are agents of change through the simple can of beer.”

Maurer echos the sentiment.

“These were things that were already very important to us and to be in a like-minded group of other companies that felt the same way is unique,” he says. “It’s for-profit businesses that are taking a serious look at how they’re participating in the community and what their role is.”

Upslope, which employs a full-time sustainability manager, says it’s willing to do its part to get involved in Utah service projects.

“For the Utah market, that’s what’s great about having feet on the street,” Hill says. “We can feel like we’re making a difference locally. We want to get involved in your river cleanups, in your whatever. We’ll support you.”

About Upslope Brewing

Matt Cutter (Cleveland), Dany Page (Argentina), and Henry Wood (Atlanta) came from disparate backgrounds but shared key commonalities. The three started Upslope Brewing in Boulder, Colo., in 2008.

Their passion for enjoying the outdoors and brewing beer helped to unfold a roadmap for one of Colorado’s most successful craft breweries.

Upslope opened with a Pale Ale and an IPA, and in light of an American hops shortage at the time, the brewery utilized Page’s connections to source Patagonia hops from Argentina for the early brews. Even more, it packaged its beers in recyclable cans from Day 1.

Colorado’s fourth-largest independent craft brewery now features two facilities, produces more than 50,000 barrels of beer annually, and contributes to more than 175 nonprofits each year.