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Thursday, May 2,2013

A column about beer

At Upslope, we learn the value of plain names

By Steve Weishampel
Photo by Elizabeth Miller

Savor, dear readers, the rare industry that doesn’t require constant branding and marketing.

There are tons of opportunity for branding in the craft beer industry, of course, but there isn’t a pathological need for it like with cars or cookies or coffee or most everything you can think of.

This principle is best illustrated at Upslope Brewing, which shuns labeling altogether. Need an example? Name an Upslope beer. You can probably name several, but the point is you’re not thinking of names like Gangbusters Gold or Axe Grinder Amber or Lightning Lager. That’s not the style at Upslope. What’s their brown ale called? Brown Ale. The India pale ale is India Pale Ale. That amazing seasonal in the winter? Christmas Ale. The brewery’s lager gets way fancy: Craft Lager. Watch out now.

Can you imagine a car company calling their sedan Sedan and their truck Big Truck?

Upslope still has a brand, yes, but the whole design is clean and simple, and the beer names reflect that.

Even the beer itself is straightforward and unfussy. We start with samples of the Dunkelweizen, a lager-y brew with strong banana flavors, and the Belgian Wit, a light, easy drinker. But soon enough, Joel and I turn to our favorite, the brown. The malty, roasty beer has long been the standard in my mind against which all other brown ales are judged. Jeff, meanwhile, drains a Pale Ale and chimes in with a searing insight.

“I dunno,” he says. “It was good.”

On a Thursday afternoon in the North Boulder taproom — which we can now call Upslope’s original taproom, since Upslope recently joined the expansion trend and opened a second taproom in East Boulder — there’s a family feeling in the air, no doubt aided by the employee who calls out, “Honey! I’m home!” as he steps through the door.

In the rapidly growing craft beer world, Upslope is a grizzled veteran at five years old. The brewery’s dual-tone cans are everywhere, yet it still steadily cranks out limited releases like the aforementioned Christmas Ale, one of the best on the market, as well as a special stout (Foreign Style Stout) and a pumpkin ale (Pumpkin Ale).

We find Upslope’s style — and pale ale — refreshing. We hope they keep turning out porters called Porter and trippels called Trippel forever — with the exception of Boulder Weekly Brown, of course, which we’re still holding out hope for.

Respond: letters@boulderweekly.com

Next stops: Walnut Brewery, 1123 Walnut St., Boulder, 4 p.m., May 2. Very Nice, 20 Lakeview Drive #112, Nederland, 5 p.m., May 9. Members of the public are welcome.

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