From local pioneers to cutting-edge newbies, the breweries of Utah’s capital city are serving up creative and unmatched handcrafted beers — no matter the limits.
Salt Lake City is well-known as a center of deep faith and for its proximity to ski paradises and the natural wonders of the American West. But Utah’s capital city is not historically known for high-octane craft beer. That started to change in 2009 when the state revised its alcoholic beverage regulations. Breweries were at last permitted to serve this “strong beer” — brews that exceed 4 percent alcohol by volume — directly to consumers. While grocery stores don’t allow it, and while it can also be tricky for taprooms that offer samples, these drawbacks have not hindered brewers’ creativity. Salt Lake City offers a jaw-dropping, wondrous selection of these lively, potent potables. It’s a vibrant, creative, and welcoming scene to which we raise our glasses. Here’s a handful of our favorites.
First Public Pour: 2017
Specialty Suds: Session ales
Beer to Cheer: Amber ale
One of the youngest breweries in Salt Lake City (opened last October), Kiitos is also one of the most ambitious and downright grateful. The brewery’s name translates from the Finnish word for “thank you” and the label art is Nordic in inspiration, all a nod to co-owner Andrew Dasenbrock’s family, who emigrated from Finland. Kiitos shows its innovation in the region with a whiz-bang contraption called a high-efficiency brewing system. The rig allows the brewers to control every step of the process while reducing use of resources (e.g., water). “We can move things up 0.1 or 0.2 degrees,” Dasenbrock says. “The system uses 40 percent less water than traditional brewing systems.” What does it do for the beer? Kiitos can produce higher-quality beer consistently, Dasenbrock explains. A favorite is the Amber Ale, a medium-bodied, caramel-flavored thirst-quencher coming in at 4 percent ABV. It’s an ideal high-desert session beer perfect for sharing with friends. kiitosbrewing.com
Fisher Brewing Co.
First Public Pours: 1884, 2017
Specialty Suds: Ales & lagers
Beer to Cheer: Wasatch Community Gardens Beet Saison
It makes sense that the retro fish-and-hops-cone logo resembles something that could’ve been on the label of your grandpa’s favorite lager. Fisher’s lager likely floats in the memory pool of many who grew up in the West. The original A. Fisher Brewing Company was established in 1884 by Albert Fisher. It weathered Prohibition to become one of the largest breweries in the West but shuttered in 1967. More than 50 years later, Albert’s great-great-grandson Tom Fisher Riemondy and his partners reestablished Fisher as an employee-owned, community-focused suds operation. The manifestation of that mission is savored in the popular Wasatch Community Gardens Beet Saison, an invigorating pour that sips like you’re licking a wet gardening spade — but in a good way. fisherbeer.com
Proper Brewing Co.
First Public Pour: 2013
Specialty Suds: Classic British and Belgian Ales
Beer to Cheer: Proper Beer Golden Ale
Proper Brewing Co. serves British-inspired and Belgian-style “proper pints” alongside quirky beers like La Belle Pêche, a saison packed with peach purée but restrained in sweetness, and Chai-Hulud, a murky, dry saison flowing with spice. The brewery bolsters these already compelling attractions with arcade games and a sister burger joint next door. Its Main Street bar and bottle shop, opened in 2016, is actually the operation’s second location. Proper began life in 2013 as Avenues Proper Restaurant & Publick House with a bantam barrel house. First out of the tap — and the first to your lips — was their flagship Proper Beer, a classic ale that balances bready flavors with bitterness. If you’re going for a second pint, try the crowd-pleasing Patersbier. Translating to “father’s beer,” Patersbier is a tried-and-true Belgian ale, the kind made famous in monasteries. It’s an effervescent and refreshing 4 percent staple. properbrewingco.com
Squatters Pub Brewery
First Public Pour: 1989
Specialty Suds: American ales
Beer to cheer: Hop Rising Double IPA
This mammoth locals hangout is family-friendly and is perhaps the most recognizable craft beer company outside of Utah — aside from Wasatch, with which Squatters merged operations in 2002. Squatters beer is palate-friendly without dispensing with quality, the American West’s affinity for hoppiness, or the at-times silly names craft brewers are fond of giving their products. From the 4 percent Full Suspension pale ale to the 10.5 percent Outer Darkness Russian imperial stout, there’s really no way to go wrong. squatters.com
Epic Brewing Company
First Public Pour: 2010
Specialty Suds: The Exponential Series
Beer to Cheer: Brainless on Peaches
Established by David Cole and Peter Erikson in Salt Lake City after the state legislature loosened its “strong beer” regulations, Epic came out swinging, releasing one small-batch handcrafted award winner after another. Alcoholic beverage laws might have comfortably relaxed for Cole and Erikson — California transplants accustomed to beer across the spectra of ABV levels and styles — but that wasn’t enough. In 2013, an Epic outpost was established in Denver. There, the team was able to open a “proper” taproom serving a few dozen beers, and they soon earned a reputation for tongue-rolling sour ales and taste bud-tingling high-proof humdingers. Among the brewery’s releases is the 11 percent ABV Brainless on Peaches Belgian-style ale. Brewed with peach purée and rested in Chardonnay casks, it’s a floral, unabashedly boozy pour. epicbrewing.com
Red Rock Brewery
First Public Pour: 1994
Specialty Suds: Draft classics, session beers
Beer to Cheer: Elephino Double IPA
Red Rock Brewery is big, as are its food and beer options. The size and scope allow the brewpub to run its Draft Classics line of beer with tasty efficiency while giving brewers room to play. Take the tropical fruit wallop of high-proof pine-resin delectability that is the Elephino Double IPA. Better yet, for a taste of the summer to come, belly up for a Lime Gose. Red Rock Brewery’s variation on the traditional German-style wheat ale brewed with coriander and salt gets a sunny lift from lime peel to the effect of county-fair saltwater taffy in a glass. redrockbrewing.com
From the April 2018 issue.