After 10 years of leading Upland Brewing through a period of evolution and growth, Doug Dayhoff is stepping down as president. Reached by GBH, Dayhoff says there isn’t any one reason for the move. Rather, he cited a confluence of personal and professional reasons as his primary motivation for stepping away.
“On the Upland side, we really worked hard over the last few years to put in place a strategy that combines our specialty beers and, kind of on a broader basis, our volume beers here in the Midwest, and our retail pub operations,” he says. “All those parts of the business are operating well. It’s kind of a moment as an entrepreneur to be able to take a step back and be able to watch everything move forward without you. From a personal perspective, I just sent my oldest son off to college and our youngest son is about to follow him. It was just a good moment for me personally to take a step back.”
Dayhoff—who recently wrote a GBH op-ed detailing his thoughts on true independence—bought into the now 20-year-old company in 2006 as part of a group of angel investors and entrepreneurs. At the time, he says, the company was a 1,400-BBL per year operation staffed by 17 people working out of a single location. Today, the company employs more than 200 people, is on track to produce upwards of 17,000 BBLs out of two breweries and serves across three pubs. Perhaps more noteworthy than this growth, however, it wasn’t until ownership changed hands that the company began to devote a significant portion of its focus to creating its now celebrated sour program.
“The day that I arrived I asked the brewers to come up with projects that they wanted to explore but weren’t able to under the prior regime,” Dayhoff says. “And this was on the list. We funded the project just to demonstrate to the team here that we were in it for exploring the craft. We had no idea that that would actually turn out to be the keystone to our brewing program 10 years later.”
Dayhoff says he’ll remain on with the company likely through the end of the year—and beyond in a consultant capacity—while the board searches for his replacement. Further, he says he hopes who ever takes his place is a cultural fit that understands the company’s position in the higher end niche of sour beer production. Until then, though, he’s confident in the current team in place to keep the ship afloat.
“I really have been more of the conductor of the orchestra rather than any of the players in it and that’s allowed,” he says before changing course. “Those people are really the all-stars in our story and our growth and they’re still gonna continue on.”
Regarding his own stake in the business, Dayhoff says the current group of owners will slowly buy out his equity over time. And as for Dayhoff himself, he says he’s now off to pursue his “next adventure.” Pressed, he wouldn’t reveal exactly what he’s thinking, but did concede he has “two or three ideas,” a “couple” of which are related to the beer industry, while one is not.
When he thinks about his time at Upland, though, he says he struggles to conjure words that do justice to what it’s all meant.
“When I’m working and that involves sharing beers and trying beers and working on things with a great group of people around us it doesn’t feel like working at all,” he says. “It’s almost silly that they pay us to do this sometimes.”