Cara and Adam Nelson have a serious love for chicken wings. They say it began young, in Georgia, where grilling and frying are part of a culture of long summer days and nights. And when they moved west to Los Angeles while still in their twenties and couldn’t find a decent Buffalo sauce there, they had no choice but to create their own. After years of honing their craft and then moving to Colorado, they began to market their own Blonde Beard’s Buffalo Sauce line in 2017.
This year, they’ve found the perfect accomplice for a spicy new sauce. Blonde Beard has partnered with Boulder's Upslope Brewing Company to create an IPA Buffalo sauce, because “beer and wings just go together,” Cara says. But the companies also found in each other the values of simple ingredients and strong craftsmanship. The new sauce was tried and tested for months before they found that perfect proportion of beer and butter and spice.
Adam says the real beginnings of Blonde Beard’s Buffalo Sauce were the naked chicken wing competitions the couple hosted in L.A. They served wings without dressing so that friends could compete to make the best sauce. Adam’s always won. The secret, he says, was using real butter.
And in that tradition, Blonde Beard’s uses only natural ingredients that are easy to pronounce and that, the Nelsons believe, taste the best. “The simplest answer and the reason why?” asks Adam. “Real butter just tastes better...and real ingredients were what we had access to. So we never went into it by adding preservatives.”
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That natural taste and crafted blend is what caught the attention of Mark Maitland, an Upslope Brewing sales manager, at RiNo Bazaar last October. Adam says that after buying a three-pack of their sauce, Maitland came back with Upslope's Spiked Snowmelt Craft Hard Seltzer to share with them. The Nelsons were thrilled at the connection, and Adam proposed they collaborate on a hot sauce made with Upslope beer. “We’d been toying around with that idea for a long time,” Adam says.
The process for creating the sauce “was very much a partnership,” Cara explains. The Nelsons did taste tests with Maitland and Upslope marketing manager Katie Hill for about eight months before they found the right pairing. “Not only did [the] IPA taste the best, but it’s also the most popular style of beer right now.”
Upslope describes its IPA as “bold, deep and bitter,” and the Nelsons love the hoppy flavor it adds to their sauce. Additionally, IPA Buffalo includes distilled white vinegar, cayenne peppers, water, butter, garlic, salt, brown sugar and vegetable gum. It is available for purchase from Blonde Beard’s online store, in select retail stores and at Upslope’s Boulder taprooms (at 1898 South Flatiron Court and 1501 Lee Hill Drive).
“There’s just something about eating a wing and drinking a beer,” Adam says — and even better when they're together in a single bite.