Upland Brewing Co., in many ways, is the epitome of a rapidly burgeoning business in the Hoosier state. In the past ten years, the company has grown from 20 employees to 160, expanded to two breweries, two brewpubs, and two tasting rooms in three different Indiana cities, and widened distribution extensively.
But even as it has expanded, Upland has stayed true to its core values: “From the very beginning, I’ve always felt – and the Upland family has always felt – that people should be treated with full respect,” said Doug Dayhoff, president of Upland Brewing Co. “Every single one.”
“Our customer base runs the gamut from 20somethings to 60-somethings, and it covers the Birkenstocks crowd as well as the steel-toed boots crowd,” he continued. “That Big Tent philosophy and the diversity of our customer base have always made the company a special place to work.”
Dayhoff also celebrated his staff, explaining that, “The things we most identify in potential staff are talent, commitment, and passion for the work – and as we build our community, that has always been paramount.”
Those values are vital to Upland, which opened in Indiana in 1998 – but Dayhoff has seen that in the past year, conversations with prospective employees have had to include asterisks explaining the open, welcoming work environment at the company.
“Because we’ve grown so much in the past few years, we hired a tremendous amount of people from outside of the state into our team,” he said. “It’s difficult, but it’s become really important to us to explain that the state isn’t all what you see in the headlines – that the average Hoosier is welcoming and inclusive and respectful and not trying to marginalize the LGBT community.”
Dayhoff is referencing the national conversation that surrounded Indiana’s so-called “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” in the spring of 2015. During that time period, Dayhoff saw firsthand the very tangible ways that Indiana’s reputation suffers because the state lacks the comprehensive, LGBT-inclusive non-discrimination protections that have been secured in 17 other states. During an out-of-state tasting event last spring, customers would make comments like, “Oh, you’re based in Indiana – should we be drinking your beer?”
“I was totally shocked,” Dayhoff said. “That was the first time I saw how much of a handicap anti-LGBT laws could be to our business. It wasn’t just an internal Indiana political struggle: It was damaging the brand of any Indiana company. I was also shocked, of course, because Upland and many of the craft breweries in Indaina have generally been on the side of diversity and inclusion – but we were being lumped in with the state legislature because people outside of the state didn’t know us that well – they just knew the headlines, and the headlines weren’t flattering.”
Dayhoff knows that it’s well past time – and makes smart business sense – for Indiana to at last extend non-discrimination protections to all LGBT Hoosiers. That’s why Upland Brewing Company is proud to stand with dozens of other Indiana businesses as a member of Indiana Competes, the coalition of businesses calling for passage of these protections in 2016.
“The situation at the beer-tasting event definitely sparked an opportunity for us at Upland to talk about our values as a company,” Dayhoff said, nodding to discussion about the diversity of Upland employees and support for the LGBT community. “But it’s way more fun to talk about our beer than it is to defend our values as a company.”