Craft Beer of the Week

Upslope Brown Ale: Feel the Love

Beer: Brown Ale Brewery: Upslope Brewing Style: American Brown Ale ABV: 6.7 percent

This is a story about love. It's also a story about beer, which, when you think about it, is kind of redundant.

It begins years ago in a small Argentinian town called Ushaia, a picturesque hamlet made up of mountains and harbors that's known as the southernmost city in the world. Dany Pages is just finishing a day of brewing at Cerveceria Beagle -- the southernmost brewery in the world -- when he runs into a beautiful woman from Aurora, Colorado. The two get to talking. They share a few drinks. They fall for each other, and in 2007 they get married and move to Colorado.

See also: Wanderlust Shake Down Series Baltic Porter

The timing is perfect, for just a few months after Pages' arrival in Colorado, he meets Matt Cutter, a homebrewer with 15 years of experience who is just about to make his second attempt at opening a commercial brewery. This time around, Cutter has the plans and the facility (he took out a second mortgage on his house to open it. If that isn't love, you tell me what is). All he needs is a brewer. Pages is it. Together, the men open Upslope Brewing in northern Boulder in 2008. They make just two beers at first -- a pale ale and an IPA -- but the locals drink enough of them that Cutter and Pages soon add more brews to the portfolio and purchase more fermentors in order to make them. The growth continues along this path, until the locals' love of Upslope beer has outgrown the brewery's taproom. The men need to expand, so they purchase a second facility in east Boulder, which they open in April 2013.

Which brings us to today, when, through hard work, serendipity, and the love of a woman, Upslope has finally come to Arizona. You'll likely see cans of the brewery's regular releases -- simply named but exactingly crafted brews Pale Ale, India Pale Ale, Brown Ale, Craft Lager, and Imperial India Pale Ale -- on shelves and on draft beginning this week. The state also will see distribution of Upslope's more limited offerings: Belgian Style Pale Ale, Foreign Style Stout, Christmas Ale, and the GABF gold medal-winning Pumpkin Ale.

We discuss today their Brown Ale, the third beer Pages and Cutter decided to put into production, after their Pale Ale and IPA. When you pour from the can into a glass (as you should be doing), you might notice that the brew has tenuous hold on the title "brown ale" -- it's more crimson than cocoa, with surprising clarity when held to a light. The somewhat thin appearance of the liquid, however, detracts nothing from the tightly woven tan head, which grips the glass in thick, filmy sheets.

The flavor and aroma of Brown Ale are buttressed by several interesting choices made by Upslope's brewers. First, the water. Water makes up about 90 percent of a finished beer, so the quality of a brewer's aqua is extremely important. Upslope uses Colorado snowmelt, lightly filtered but otherwise unadulterated in all its beers. (Colorado has great water, which may be why so many brewers flock to the state). The beer also uses "Patagonian" hops, versions of citrusy American-style hops like Cascade grown and exported by the same Argentinian growers Pages bought from back at Cerveceria Beagle. According to Upslope, the Southern Hemisphere-grown hops have a much more spicy, earthy character than their counterparts cultivated in the Pacific Northwest.

The clean water allows these unique hops to shine in the aroma, as notes of pine, chicory and damp forest floor meld with toastier tones of bread crust, bittersweet dark chocolate, and walnut oil. The flavor offers an inclination toward caramel, with additional chocolate notes interacting with a bit of burnt sugar, gleaned from some brown sugar added during the brewing process. This sweetish front and middle eventually give way to medium roast coffee and nuts, and then to a dry, bitter finish both citrusy and earthy, swirling with fresh grass, pine needles and wet bark.

Medium-bodied with mild, roasty astringency, Upslope's Brown Ale can be thought of as an Americanized brown ale -- all the nutty, roasty goodness of English browns; all the hop character of an American pale ale or IPA. It's both accessible and flavorful, which may be why judges at the 2012 Great American Beer Festival awarded it a silver medal in the American-style Brown Ale category. Or maybe they were just feeling the love.

Zach Fowle is a Certified Cicerone. He works at World of Beer in Tempe.

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Zach Fowle
Contact: Zach Fowle