Upland Brewing is Asking For Your Input on an IU Athletics Branded Beer

Upland Brewing is Asking For Your Input on an IU Athletics Branded Beer

by Mark E. Lasbury for Indiana On Tap

Every craft beer fan thinks at some level that they would be great at inventing new beers or designing gorgeous or intriguing logos and labels. At the very least, most craft beer fans have lists of phrases and words they just KNOW would be killer beer names. In my own warped beer brain, I’m sure that every potential band name would also be a great beer name.

In addition, many craft beer fans are also sports fans – beer and sports….almost as good as beer and sports and pizza (or BBQ). Both sports and beer are social activities, even if you’re just watching sports – ten gazillion sports bars can’t be wrong. And the intersection of the sets of beer fans who think they could design beer brands and sports fans who think they could coach brilliantly is very large.

Well, now we all have a chance to have some input on both subjects. Upland Brewing in Bloomington, in partnership with Indiana University Athletics, will bring out an IU athletics branded beer in 2023, and they want your help. Really, they do… they’re not just saying that. Upland is the official craft beer sponsor of Indiana University Athletics and therefore has a responsibility to highlight the history of IU sports. To accomplish this goal, they have put out a link to a survey asking fans of IU and beer for what they would like to see in an IU sports beer – look, flavors, and name.

Would you include “The Shot” on your IU athletics beer can? image credit: USA Today

As soon as I saw that there was a survey, I started thinking about the things I’d like to see in an IU sports beer, and of course I wanted to think of something obscure yet identifying, something that IU fans would recognize and appreciate. The color scheme is kind of a no brainer, unless you want to argue the pros and cons of the red and white versus the true cream and crimson. As for the names and styles of beer that could go together, as well as can designs – the possibilities are endless.

I graduated from IU several times, and I have followed IU sports all my life since both my parents and my uncles were IU grads. That means that I definitely have some ideas about important things, people, and images in IU sports history. But first I wanted to decide on what style of beer would fit IU. There certainly is a lot of mega-beer sold in Indiana, so perhaps a pilsner or light lager would be appropriate, especially since it would appeal to a broader swath of fans. Heck, if it were just me, I’d want the beer to be an imperial saison with a good amount of funk (“Perfect Saison” as an homage to the basketball team- not bad, huh?), but I’m pretty sure Upland actually wants to sell lots of this beer, and imperial saisons are kind of a niche product.

Breweries make a lot of IPAs because they sell a lot of IPAs, so that might be a good style….. but there are those people that just won’t drink an IPA. This kind of decision needs to balance the desires of the many with the needs of the beer geeks. Upland has excellent experience with IPAs, I would certainly trust them to make an IU-IPA based on the hundreds of Dragonfly IPAs I have consumed. Upland also makes outstanding lambic-style beers, but I’m not sure that enough other people would like to pound six lambics during a hot afternoon football game.

As far as IU athletics tie-ins for the beer, there are names of people, historical events, and imagery that is worth noting. Branch McCracken, George Taliaferro, Lilly King, Doc Councilman, Jerry Yeagley, Bob Kennedy, Tara VanDerveer, Mark Spitz, Scott May, Hobie Billingsley – these are all names that represent the best of athletics, not just IU athletics. Could you really pick out just one name or team to memorialize with the IU beer?

IU won its 28th swimming and diving conference title just this past February, and their 4th in the last six years. Can worthy? (photo: Jack Spitser)

The 1975-1976 basketball teams would have had back-to-back undefeated seasons except for a Scott May broken arm, but compare that to the 1970 men’s swimming team that simultaneously held 9 of the 12 individual world records – WORLD, not collegiate. Or perhaps you should choose the IU soccer team, who has won more games and has a better winning percentage than any other program in the country and the 2nd most national championships even though the program is more than 15 years younger than other good programs. You’re going to have to think about this for a while.

How about label images/designs for the can? The block IU is iconic, but what about the candy stripes, the hanging banners, the Rock, etc. I think the successful suggestions will run the gamut, and Upland is going to have to find a way to meld them into a cohesive message. I’ll be transparent – my suggestion was a 4.8-5.0% IPA with Australian/New Zealand hops, not a hint of haze, that isn’t too hop-bitter, but has a fair amount of bitterness that goes with some tropical fruit and floral notes. I’d call it the All For You Ale, and the can would feature red and white (not cream and crimson), with semi-transparent candy stripes over the images of Memorial Stadium, the Aquatics Center, Assembly Hall, and the old soccer stadium.

Take the survey at this url to give your input, and let’s see what Upland does to merge the best of the suggestions. It’s a great way to reminisce about days of yore (and not so yore – they played for the Big Ten championship on Sunday). If you’re a Purdue, Ball State, Indiana State, or Butler fan, then go ahead and take the survey as a protest. I’m sure you can come up with some tongue-in-cheek or insulting suggestions. You’ll get to feel better and they won’t affect the outcome, so no harm done. I personally can’t wait to order the first round and watch the Hoosiers play.



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