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Bar X’s beer-loving sibling opens Monday in SLC

Published: 03/27/2014
By Kathy Stephenson, The Salt Lake Tribune -- Don’t be fooled by Beer Bar’s simple name.

Working behind the scenes to create this German-inspired watering hole — which opens Monday, March 31, in Salt Lake City — has been an eclectic mix of hard-working Utahns including a television star, a celebrity chef, a certified beer expert, a butcher, a baker and a few cocktail makers.

Beer Bar, at 161 E. 200 South next to its well-known sibling the Bar X, offers more than 140 beers including 30 on tap, as well as a rotating roster of beer cocktails. A menu of gourmet sausages and Belgian fries that can be enjoyed at long communal tables completes the German beer garden atmosphere.

With about 4,000 square feet of space, Beer Bar is significantly bigger than the 1,600-square-foot Bar X, but both are operated by the same group of extended family members, the most famous of whom is actor Ty Burrell — best known as the goofy dad on "Modern Family."

The rest of the team includes brother Duncan Burrell and his two brothers-in-law, Jeff Barnard and Richard Noel. (Duncan Burrell and Barnard are married to Noel’s sisters.)

Ty Burrell said it sounds like the makings of a television comedy.

"When I was home last summer, we did a lot of planning and during Christmas break we worked on ideas, but the rest of the ownership team has done all the work," he said in a recent telephone interview from California. He won’t be there on opening day, but does plan to make a grand opening in April.

A doorway allows customers to walk between the two bars, which share one Utah state liquor license, but "we are making it feel like two different experiences," said Barnard.

After years of focusing on artisan cocktails at the Bar X, Beer Bar brings the group full circle, said Duncan Burrell.

They settled on craft cocktails at the Bar X, but beer and brats remained on their mind.

"We’re incredibly excited to have the beer cocktails," said Barnard, noting that it’s becoming a national trend. Creative mixologists, trying to offer something different, are mixing individual beer styles and flavors as well as combining beer with alcohol and spirits.

Providing the expertise at Beer Bar is Kyle Trammell, who previously brewed for Bohemian and Red Rock breweries and is Utah’s only certified cicerone.

"Basically, a sommelier for beer," he said. Trammell is training the staff on proper serving techniques as well as appropriate glassware and beer temperatures.

For the menu, the team brought in Viet Pham, co-owner with Bowman Brown of Salt Lake City’s vaunted Forage, as a consulting chef.

"We’ve never had a kitchen or operated one, so it was important to get help from someone with experience," said Barnard.

And Pham, a fan of the Bar X, was the right person to elevate traditional bar food.

"These guys are some of the finest cocktail craftsmen. They set the bar," Pham said. "And that translates into what I like to do."

Salt Lake City chef Frody Volgger is contributing his butchering skills, making 13 gourmet sausages, from traditional German bratwurst and Polish kielbasa to Mediterranean turkey and buffalo with chipotle.

The sausages will be served on fresh-made buns made by Salt Lake City’s Eva’s Bakery and topped with house-made mustards that Pham creates.

Pham also has come up with a variety of dipping sauces for the fries.
While doing their research for the Bar X, they came across several beer bars that served gourmet food, he said. "Our original focus years ago was to open a brew pub or tap house."

The food will be available in both Beer Bar and Bar X.

Johnny’s on Second is east of Beer Bar, creating a triple threat on 200 South between State Street and 200 East.

"I don’t think three bars in a row has existed in Salt Lake in my lifetime," said Barnard. "I’d love to see other people open bars and create a bar district with a cool vibe, something most big cities have. It would be great if our neighborhood turned into that."