By Kathy Stephenson - The Salt Lake Tribune
Utah is known for its scenic byways that encourage adventurous folks to get off the beaten path and enjoy alpine lakes, mountain meadows and redrock wonders.
In recent years, a different kind of byway — one featuring beer brewers — has emerged in the Beehive state. Today, there are nine brewers within a 6-mile stretch between 200 South and 2100 South in and around Salt Lake City.
The concentration of beer producers in this industrial area — mostly between 300 West and State Street — is the result of city ordinances that welcome breweries and state laws that make it easier for them to sell their products, said Rio Connelly, co-owner and head brewer at Proper Brewing Co.
“Salt Lake City is a catalyst,” he said. “It sees what brewers can bring to a community.”
Utah brewers got a break in 2008 when the Legislature revamped Utah liquor laws, allowing breweries to sell high-point beer on their production sites, thus making breweries more profitable.
Since then, the number of breweries in Utah has doubled from about a dozen to more than 30, with at least four more in the works, said Connelly.
It also helps that across the country — and in Utah — there is a growing interest in craft beer, said Trent Fargher, owner of Shades of Pale Brewery, where we suggest you start your Brewers Byway tour. (See list and map.)
“People can’t get enough of craft beer or craft beer knowledge,” he said.
In honor of Craft Beer Week, the nationwide celebration of U.S. small and independent craft brewers that runs through Sunday, May 21, here’s a snapshot of what you’ll find on Salt Lake City’s Brewers Byway.
Shades of Pale Brewing
A brewery and tap room with an industrial feel, thanks to its warehouse location and quirky entrance near the loading dock. Inside, the bar offers a view of the brewery and a rotating menu of beers on tap and high-alcohol brews in bottles. Drink the Double Trouble IPA, an unfiltered beer with juicy orange flavor. It’s 10 percent alcohol by volume, but refreshing on a warm day.
RoHa Brewing Project
Sleek and small, the tap room has a U-shaped bar with just a dozen seats. A cold case tucked in the corner has 12-ounce cans and 22-ounce bottles to buy. The production facility is hidden in the back. While only 1 month old, one of the favorites already is the Three-Deep American Ale, a nod to the three founding partners. At 4 percent ABV, it’s light with malt flavors and a slight hop finish.
West Side Tavern
This small 30-seat tavern and store offers a twofer — beers from the Utah Brewers Cooperative, which produces for Squatters and Wasatch. There are 24 brews on tap as well as higher-alcohol beers in bottles. The large glass window at the end of the bar allows guests to watch the bottling and canning line for the Utah Brewers Cooperative in action. The Wasatch Apricot Hefeweizen is a popular pick, with a crisp, refreshing light fruit flavor.
Proper Brewing Co.
Nearly two dozen beers— produced at this on-site brewery — are available. But that’s just part of the allure of this casual urban bar, with retro games like Skee-Ball, a beer store and burger joint next door, with patio seating. If you have to choose just one brew, make it the Lake Effect Gose Ale. Made with coriander and salt, this unfiltered German-style beer is tangy and full-bodied.
There’s no bar atmosphere inside this super-tiny tasting room with just six seats. Beer lovers usually sample — with food — the new offerings made in the accompanying brewery and buy favorites at the on-site beer store, which is open daily and is one of the rare places in Utah to buy high-point beer on Sunday. New to the lineup is the crisp and refreshing Los Locos Lager, a Mexican-style lager with lime and sea salt.
After a 50-year absence, the great-great-grandson — along with three partners — has resurrected Utah’s famed Fisher Brewing Co. in a renovated auto body and paint shop. The building’s open layout allows customers to enjoy a beer while getting a front-row seat to the brewing process. There’s no kitchen, but a rotating cast of food trucks serves hungry customers. A good beer bet is the hoppy, fruity Fisher Red ale.
Squatters Pub Brewery
Salt Lake City’s original brew pub opened in 1989, and its owners helped kick off Utah’s craft beer scene. The company has grown exponentially since 2012, when it was purchased by a Boston-based private equity firm, which expanded distribution, marketing and its brew pub businesses. Hop Rising is the iconic beer here, a smooth, dry-hopped imperial IPA that is 9 percent ABV and features master brewer Jason Stock on the label.
Red Rock Brewing
Once a dairy warehouse, this brewery in the heart of downtown has been a staple for nearly a quarter-century. It offers beers on tap and high-alcohol bottled brews made in its nearby production facility. Head brewer Chris Harlin has mastered the Brett — short for Brettanomyces — beers, which are fermented with wild yeast. His golden Gypsy Scratch, offered on draft, is tropical, juicy and funky.
Desert Edge Pub and Brewery
When “The Pub,” as it’s lovingly called, opened in 1972 in Trolley Square, its main focus was serving Coors to college students. But just like its patrons, Desert Edge has grown up and in 1995, it expanded into the craft beer business. The Utah Pale Ale is a longtime favorite, said new head brewer Chad Krussel. It has a great balance of toasty malt and bright citrus hops.
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