04/28/2013 08:00 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Upslope Brewing Co. Expands With Second Location

There was only so much patching Upslope Brewing Co. could do at its north Boulder brewery.

Since Upslope opened its doors in a 2,200-square-foot unit at 1501 Lee Hill Drive in the winter of 2008, demand for the canned craft beers quickly resulted in a fortunate problem for the upstart brewer: Production needed to grow.

More equipment was added and the brewing system's capabilities were bolstered with hand-crafted fixes and welded scrap metal. Two years after Upslope opened, the brewer expanded into the adjacent warehouse space, doubling its footprint to 4,400 square feet.

By the end of last year, Upslope somehow squeezed 5,600 barrels of beer from its 7-barrel brewhouse.

Upslope hit capacity.

"A year ago last August, we're sitting at Lee Hill and realized that the existing space was not going to be adequate for our future plans," said Matt Cutter, an Upslope co-founder.

Nearly 21 months later, Upslope has its solution.

Upslope Brewing last week opened its second brewery, a 17,000-square-foot facility with a 30-barrel brewhouse at 1898 S. Flatiron Court in east Boulder.

The new operation signals the culmination of an arduous process for Upslope and also serves as another example of the local effects from the craft beer industry's boom.

In Boulder County, not only are new

breweries popping up, but established brewers also are looking for ways to salve surges in demand by expanding their operations or opening new breweries.

Longmont-based Oskar Blues recently opened a brewery in North Carolina, Avery Brewing Co. has plans to build a $27 million brewery and restaurant in Gunbarrel and Upslope opted to complement its original Lee Hill brewhouse with a second facility in town.

"Some are definitely taking advantage of the opportunity to grow right now," said Steve Kurowski, marketing manager for the Colorado Brewers Guild. "You see places like Avery and Breckenridge opening new breweries to significantly expand their capacity. You see breweries who are continually adding tanks and getting almost to

the point where they're going to be hitting their capacity soon."

In 2012, the craft beer industry notched $10.2 billion in sales, up from $8.7 billion in 2011, according to the Brewers Association, a Boulder-based trade association representing the industry that's classified as small and independent brewers.

The sector's sales share of the overall beer industry climbed to 6.5 percent by volume and 10.2 percent by dollars.

Complex beginnings

Upslope's second brewery has been a year and nine months in the making. Finding a suitable space, planning the layout, financing the effort, securing equipment and building the brewery were "incredibly laborious," Cutter said.

"It's the most complex

thing I've ever done in my entire life," he said.

That's not to say Upslope's beginnings were free of challenges.

The bootstrapped operation consisted of 18-hour days and co-founder Dany Pages hand-crafting "just about everything" that served as the guts of the brewing facility, said Henry Wood, Upslope's director of sales and marketing.

Months away from opening, Upslope's owners hit a huge snag: They couldn't get hops.

As the industry dealt with a hop shortage, the new brewer on the block did not have the leverage or contracts to secure the lifeblood for its recipes.

Fortunately, Pages' former brewery in Argentina emerged as a savior. After months of phone calls, five boxes of Patagonian Cascade hops arrived in Boulder.

The Southern Hemisphere hops carried spicier and earthier undertones than the sharp citrus and piney North American Cascades.

"What bailed us out in the beginning has become kind of a unique signature for our Pale Ale and India Pale Ale today," Cutter said.

Eye on the future

The $1.5 million build-out of the new facility included plenty of planning for the future. The infrastructure and equipment is there to support 50,000 barrels, Upslope would just need to add fermenters and brite tanks, Cutter said.

"We've been patching and patching at Lee Hill for four years now and we don't want to outgrow any facet of this facility too quickly," he said.

Upslope's east Boulder brewery, as currently outfitted, is capable of producing 12,000 barrels -- roughly 165,000 cases -- of beer a year.

Upslope is targeting between 9,000 and 10,000 barrels this year, Cutter said. The increase in scale could allow the brewer to fill out its distribution in Colorado and perhaps consider expanding out of state, Cutter added.

The new facility also includes an upgrade to the canning process. Upslope got its hands on a former canning machine used by Longmont's Oskar Blues Brewery.

Now, Upslope is able to fill 100 cans per minute, more than double the 40-cans-per-minute rate it was operating at before.

If the new machine's really humming, Cutter estimated Upslope could fill 160 cans per minute.

The new taproom was modeled off the Lee Hill space, a TV-free taproom with a "laid-back pub atmosphere" and 24 taps dedicated to Upslope's beers, Cutter said.

Upslope's brewery and taproom in north Boulder will remain operational, but the plans are to downscale the brewhouse and focus solely on specialty beers and innovation.

"We've always wanted to do that more than we had in the past, but production always trumped experimentation," Cutter said.

Contact Camera Business Writer Alicia Wallace at 303-473-1332 or

Upslope Brewing Co.

Locations: 1501 Lee Hill Drive, Boulder; 1898 Flatiron Court, Boulder

Founded: 2008

Core beers: Pale Ale, India Pale Ale, Brown Ale, Craft Lager

Brewhouses: 7-barrel system at Lee Hill and 30-barrel system at Flatiron Court

Production in 2012: 5,600 barrels

Expected production in 2013: 9,000 to 10,000 barrels

New brewery cost: $1.5 million

New brewery square-footage: 17,000 square feet ___



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