What draws thousands of Coloradans to the backcountry where there isn’t a hot spring, skiing or one of the most photographed vistas in the state? Craft beer, of course.
For three years, Boulder-based Upslope Brewing Company’s Backcountry Tap Room has lured thirsty hikers to a remote location in the woods with the prospect of a pop-up bar among nature, fellow outdoors enthusiasts and little else.
The result is like a very large group hike to a low-key party with cold beer that nobody had to carry in their backpack.
The fourth annual Backcountry Taproom will be from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Oct. 6. at the end of a 2 1/2-mile trail at the top of Grand Park, a piece of private property at 9,000 feet in Fraser. Tickets are $15 and include up to four cans of Upslope beers, including an early release of the new winter seasonal, Spruce Tip IPA.
Check-in begins at 10 a.m. All ticket-holders will need to show their ticket and ID. (Non-drinkers and children with a legal guardian are free.)
The Backcountry Tap Room started in 2015 as a marketing event to pair Upslope with its mission of “getting people outside and into the beautiful places of our great state,” said Henry Wood, director of sales and marketing for Upslope Brewing Company.
Katie Hill, Upslope’s marketing manager, said the Backcountry Tap Room has evolved since the first year when it was little more than an open invite to anyone who wanted to hike for free beer.
“We had about 300 attendees at that, and that was a slam-dunk as far as we were concerned for a first-year event,” Hill said.
Then, the following year, word got out and an estimated 2,000 people — with a lot of dogs — showed up.
“It just mushroomed out of control at that point,” she said of the 2016 pop-up at Vance’s Cabin at Ski Cooper, “which we were very excited about but very clearly didn’t have nearly the infrastructure to accommodate.”
Everyone had a good time, Hill said, but they spent most of it waiting in a very long beer line. Upslope staff also cleaned up a fair amount of trash — like a lot of dog waste bags — at the end of the day.
That prompted the Backcountry Tap Room to become a ticketed event so organizers know how many people to expect. There will be more bars, water stations and volunteers collecting trash along the trail.
Upslope also forged a partnership with the nonprofit Leave No Trace For Outdoor Ethics, which gets all of the proceeds from ticket sales to put toward targeted projects at its 2019 Colorado Hot Spots, places in the state that have been impacted by overuse or misuse.
They will be taking advantage of the captured audience to promote their message, said Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics’ executive director, Dana Watts.
“You have to work to get there a little bit, nothing crazy, but it’s an interesting setup with lots of people just enjoying themselves in the backcountry,” Watts said. “Just a perfect place to integrate Leave No Trace.”
Hill said the 2 1/2-mile hike is relatively easy, but attendees should still prepare for the backcountry: Bring gear for any weather, water and snacks if you need them — and that goes for everyone joining the hike, dogs and kids included.
“Plan for your whole crew,” Hill said.
If you go
What: Upslope Backcountry Tap Room
When: 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Oct. 6 (check-in starts at 10 a.m., last call is at 4:30 p.m.)
Where: Grand Park, 46 Market St., Fraser
Tickets: $15 on eventbrite.com.