Upslope head brewer Alex Violette leaving Boulder to start craft brewery in Vietnam

Categories: Beer Man

Upslope Facebook page
Sam Scruby (left) will take over when Alex Violette (right) leaves for Saigon.
Upslope head brewer Alex Violette, who has been making beer for the Boulder brewery since early 2009, is leaving his post there to start his own place in Vietnam.

It's an unusual career choice to leave the center of this nation's brewing universe for a country where craft beer is virtually unheard of, but one Violette says he couldn't turn down. "They don't do craft beer in literally can't find an IPA there," he explains. "Which is why I am going over there. It sound like a great challenge."

See also: Upslope Brewing introduces Thai Style White IPA

Alex Violette
Violette started his Colorado brewing career in April 2009 when he got a job with Upslope, which had just opened about six months earlier. He became head brewer in 2011 and has helped oversee the company's growth into an award-winning brewery with two locations in Boulder that will crank out 15,000 barrels of beer this year.

Some of his best-known successes include Pumpkin Ale, which won gold at the Great American Beer Festival in 2011 and became the brewery's first seasonal release in a can; Brown Ale, another award-winner; and Thai Style White IPA, made with at least six Thai spices, which is just hitting the market now for the first time in cans.

Earlier this year, however, Violette met John Reid, who has worked in the hospitality industry in Vietnam for the past six years and was in Colorado looking for advice on how to start a craft brewery in Saigon (officially called Ho Chi Minh City). Reid asked Violette to be a consultant and to help him find a brewer, but after getting the details of the position, Violette decided he wanted to do the job himself.

He'll leave for Saigon in August and plans to get a feel for the country and the local ingredients by running a small pilot system. Violette and Reid will then commission a production-sized brewhouse for their tasting room, Pasteur Street Brewing, which will be located along one of the city's busiest strips for shops and restaurants.

While Reid will navigate the business issues, Violette will focus on finding ingredients, especially herbs and spices at local markets, as well as coffee and chocolate. But he also wants to make sour beers using the wide variety of fruits -- including some like mangosteen that he has never even tasted before -- that are available in Vietnam.

"Vietnam is one of the fastest growing beer markets in the world. There are multiple large brewhouses going up," he says. But it's all "macro-beer," which is why Violette thinks Saigon, a city of seven million people, will be ready for something different.

"We want to resonate with both the local Vietnamese and ex-pats," he adds.

Eventually, Reid and Violette hope to make enough beer to package and export to countries like Japan and Australia -- and the United States. In fact, Violette says the Denver/Boulder area may be one of the first markets to see Pasteur Street's brews.

Violette will be replaced at Upslope by Sam Scruby, who started there in 2010 on the canning line and has worked his way up doing a variety of jobs. In 2013, when Upslope opened its large production facility in Flatiron Park, Scruby took over as the head brewer at the original Lee Hill location, overseeing the small-batch and barrel-aged program.

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My Voice Nation Help

Cheers to this guy! I left the police state of Colorado and started my own brewery in Argentina. Vietnam was my second choice. It's not easy here and I'm sure it won't be easy there. Good luck! Everyone deserves a good beer and 333 in Vietnam is just as awful as Quilmes is in Argentina!

Nick Browning
Nick Browning

Meh. Cool idea, but honestly nobody cares about craft beer in Southeast Asia.

TheFabulousMarkT topcommenter

Mr Violette,

If you would like to have a little taste before you go, you can sometimes find mangosteens here in town, at places like H-Mart in Aurora, or Little Saigon Supermarket on South Federal.

Oh, and best wishes to you :)

Your friend,



I fell  in love with Mangosteen when we were in Thailand last year. We ate them every morning for breakfast in Chiang Mai. There are so many unusual and exotic fruits and spices in that part of the world I can only imagine the terrific craft beer that can be created by a gifted brewer. I hope he starts a blog so that I may learn from his adventures. 

Best of luck, Alex!

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