Originally posted on https://www.sandiegobeer.news/blog/beertouring/travel-saltlakecity-utah
February 2, 2022
By Brandon Hernández
Of all the brewing communities throughout the country, none is likely as mysterious or misunderstood as Utah’s. For decades, the state’s brewers and retailers were only allowed to serve beers that were 4% alcohol-by-volume (ABV) or less. Despite that stringent government mandate, Beehive State brewers were able to produce outstanding beers, a number of which medaled at some of the highest-profile brewing competitions around, including the largest and most prestigious in the country, the Great American Beer Festival (GABF).
In 2019, the ABV limit for “low-point beer” was raised to 5%. On top of that, breweries can now serve “high-point beer” that exceeds 5%. Still, most out-of-staters mistakenly believe Utah is a no-man’s land for quality craft beer. That couldn’t be further from the truth, especially in Salt Lake City, where more than half of the state’s breweries are housed, many of which have come online in the past four years. There’s a lot brewing in SLC. To soak in the best of the city’s suds, one just needs to know where to go and the basics of this unique beer region.
As stated above, low-point beer comes in at 5% or below. These are the only beers a brewery may package or sell in kegs. It is also the only type of beer a brewery may sell in cans or bottles at grocery stores. High-point beer (above 5%) must be canned or bottled and can be sold to-go in those containers or poured into a glass and served at a tasting room, bar or restaurant. Packaged high-point beer can also be sold to-go from government-operated liquor stores. The biggest difference to keep in mind is that, if you are looing to taste a variety of beers, you can typically purchase sample-sized pours of any low-point beer, but if you want to try a high-point beer, you must commit to buying the entire can or bottle. It’s different, yes, but nowhere near as limited as it once was.
254 S 200 W (Downtown Brewpub) | 443 N 400 West (Beer Store) | 6227 State St. #10, Murray (Fashion Place Brewpub)
This institution’s original downtown location was Utah’s fourth brewery and winner of Large Brewpub of the Year at the 2007 GABF. Since then, it’s spawned additional restaurants and a larger production-scale brewery. All the while, RedRock has continued to rack up hundreds of high-profile accolades for its beers. The specialty ales and lagers run the gamut, stylistically, perpetuating the always-changing tap list spirit on which the company was founded and earned its stellar reputation.
The red-bricked OG pub has the broadest selection of RedRock’s venues, including a plethora of year-round beers ranging from the minerally Fröhlich Pils and extra-dry double IPA Elephīno with its pronounced notes of pine and orange rind. Pub-borne creations like the pineapple-tinged Mosaic Saison, and soft-textured, cola-like Black Bier Lager also share space with bottled offerings like the honey, clove and white-flower Marvella tripel, and Furlong, a bourbon barrel-aged imperial stout that’s part of RedRock’s Back Door Series of beers sold out of the downtown pub’s bottle store.
Pro Tip: Visit RedRock’s locations during $3 Pint Day, when a rotating selection of house beers can be had at a discount.
Standout Suds: Elephīno, Double IPA
445 400 West
In 2011, a pair of lifelong friends opened Salt City Brew Supply, a homebrew shop that sold ingredients to customers that went on to become pro brewers. In 2020, the duo followed suit, converting the former home of Western Electric Co. into a 10-barrel operation and gathering place for fans of Old World-inspired beers, communalism, darts and art. The latter comes in the form of colorful murals on an exterior wall, the fully visible coldbox, and soon, the tasting room’s back wall.
The brewers’ art is also celebrated care of largely sessionable English- and German-style ales. A Kölsch made with 100% Cologne malt is both grain- and hop-forward, an Italian-style pilsner brewed with French hops (Mistral, Barbe Rouge) has lily-like aromas, and a Cold IPA’s neutrality allows the fruitiness of Centennial, Motueka and Enigma hops to prevail. On the malty end of the equation, a nutty, biscuity ESB is a thing of beauty, the second-runnings of a wee heavy make for a clean, highly quaffable Scottish ale, and the cinnamon, chipotle and cacao nibs spicing a mole porter are perfectly balanced.
Pro Tip: Salt City Brew Supply is still in operation and, on top of brewing supplies, it sells local beers (including Bewilder’s) to go.
Standout Suds: Bewilder ESB, Extra Special Bitter
154 W Utopia Ave. (South Salt Lake City Brewery, currently closed) | 366 S State St. (Downtown Pub)
After drawing crowds to its South SLC brewery for over a decade, this operation moved downtown, taking over a sprawling second-story perch and outfitting it with a living-room motif, full-service bar and kitchen serving an eclectic menu including dishes from a Venezuelan restaurant featured on Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. Shades produces a wide array of beers, but its kettle sours have earned them the most recognition in the form of GABF medals and dropped jaws from awed beer-drinkers marveling at some of their downright outlandish flavor profiles.
Shades’ medal winners include Kviek 1, a golden sour hopped with Nelson Sauvin and fermented with its namesake yeast strain, and Thai Tom Kha, a variation of Kviek 1 brewed to mimic Thai soup with coconut, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves and spicy galangal root. Other dishes Shades liquidizes include jalapeño poppers and spaghetti. The latter is effectively realized through use of basil, oregano and tomatoes. Lagers, Belgians, stouts and hoppy ales like Slick City Citrus IPA round out the more traditional offerings along with Shades’ Livli line of hard seltzers.
Pro Tip: Shades also offers beer cocktails blending tequila with a plum Berliner weisse and a hazy IPA with bourbon and bitters.
Standout Suds: Thai Tom Kha Sour Ale, Kettle Sour with Coconut, Lemongrass, Kaffir Lime Leaf, Galangal & Lactose
1763 S 300 West (Squatters & Wasatch West Side Tavern) | 147 W Broadway (Squatters Downtown Pub) | 2110 Highland Dr. (Wasatch Sugar House) | 5725 Amelia Earhart Dr. (Craft Café by Squatters & Wasatch) | 776 N Terminal Dr., Terminal A (Squatters SLC Airport Pub) | 776 N Terminal Dr., Concourse B (Wasatch SLC Airport Pub)
When Wasatch Brewery opened in 1986, it was SLC’s first post-Prohibition brewery, and when Squatters Pub opened in 1989, it was the city’s first brewpub. Both operations have gone on to accomplish a great deal and win many an award for their beers. In 2012, Wasatch and Squatters teamed up and are now distributed in 20 states as linchpins within the CANarchy portfolio. As big as that sounds, Squatters’ downtown brewpub (which also sells Wasatch beers) still conveys a quaint hometown atmosphere with specialty beers produced on-site.
936 S 300 West
When SLC brewers are asked where they like to drink, nearly every answer begins with raves about this passion project from the longtime award-winning head of RedRock, who stepped down to erect an operation paying homage to German brewing in 2018. From a converted triple-unit auto shop featuring a pristine taproom furnished with elongated bier-hall tables giving way to a fire-fixtured patio, his team crafts proper (i.e., slow) lagers as well as a variety of to-spec American and Belgian ales, all of which are served in proper glassware for the individual style.
A rauchbier brewed with beechwood-smoked malt and a crackery crisp keller bier (unfiltered lager) with hay-like character from Hallertau Mittelfrüh and German Tettnang hops have both garnered GABF medals, but don’t stop there. A pair of pilsners—a snappy Czech model and an assertive Adriatic Pils hopped with Slovenian varietals Aurora and Bobek—are excellent and incredibly drinkable. To put it simply, “TF Brewing” is the place to go in SLC for lagers. That said, hoppy IPAs, pales, fruited sours and even funky numbers like a white wine-barrel-aged grisette are every bit as impressive. This is a must-visit brewery.
Pro Tip: On Sundays, TF Brewing wheels out a DJ and goes whole-hog, literally, with the help of local butcher, Beltex Meats.
Standout Suds: Granary Keller Bier, German-style Zwickelbier
320 W 800 South
Fisher originally opened in 1884 as one of Utah’s first breweries, and operated for nearly a century before closing in the ‘60s. The brand was revived in 2017 and now thrives behind an assortment of English, German and American beers served along with a nostalgic breweriana design concept. The humble yet lively tasting room is a throwback to Midwest neighborhood bars of yesteryear and features a clear view of a cellar where more than 100 different beers are produced annually. Translation: There’s always something new hitting the taps.
Modeled to be beer in the most vintage sense, Fisher Beer’s American-style lager is clean and perfectly suited for slaking the thirst of lawnmower pilots in warm-weather months. An amber lager dubbed Falling Leaves is crisp, slightly caramely and equally impressive, but those wanting something bolder will find it in hoppy pale ales like the tropical Maximum Mosaic, and a Hefeweizen with nicely balanced flavors of banana, lemon and clove. Hazies and fruited kettle sours bring modernity to a list that largely takes cues from yesteryear, upping Fisher’s cross-generational appeal.
Pro Tip: Meal-plan by consulting Fisher’s website for a calendar of area food trucks that post up outside their tasting room.
Standout Suds: Hefeweizen, German-style Wheat Beer
608 W 700 South
This three-years-young Finnish-rooted brewery is dedicated to giving back to the community. Each month, a different local non-profit receives a portion of proceeds from sales of a designated charity beer at Kiitos’ tasting room. With hanging bulbs, a collection of vintage pinball games and banners honoring local sports teams, that space comes across as a finished (Finnished?) basement. Affordable Mexican snacks add to the coziness factor and match up well with an impressive and extensive variety of low-point options (and high-point beer to-go).
That list includes Kiitos’ GABF gold-medal winning Coffee Cream Ale, a low-roast offering where the java builds with each sip. A session-strength West Coast IPA is big on hop-borne lemon-verbena flavors and aromas, while a triple-dry-hopped hazy exudes grapefruit and orange with almost zero bitterness. An assertively tart Blackberry Sour is the most popular of the brewery’s many quick sours, including Salt and Pickle, a fun anomaly for adventurous palates that tastes exactly as advertised.
Pro Tip: Kiitos brings beer buffs and pinheads together for high-energy pinball tournaments the first Tuesday of each month.
Standout Suds: Coffee Cream Ale, Cream Ale with Coffee
825 S State St.
Epic Brewing opened in 2010 making strong beers far exceeding Utah’s alcohol-level cap. It’s not that they didn’t get the memo, they just wanted to brew something different and in tune with their sensibilities. The company went on to distribute all of its (often very) high-point beer out-of-state, eventually opening a brewery and tasting room in Denver. Back at home, Epic continues to operate its “tapless taproom”, pouring directly from bottles. Of the 200 or so beers Epic has produced, only a few have ever been under 5% ABV.
No trip to Epic is complete without tasting through an assortment of the “Big Bad Baptist” series of bourbon barrel-aged stouts. Smooth, rich and chocolaty, four-to-six variants of the beer are released annually, including the blackberry- and raspberry-infused Double Jam. Other beer families include Oak and Orchard barrel-aged sour ales, Tart N’ Juicy sour IPAs and the “Brainless” series of fruited Belgian-style golden strong ales, which rotates from peaches to passionfruit, cherries and raspberries. Just looking for a regular-strength (or imperial) IPA? No problem. Plenty of those await, too.
Pro Tip: When drinking at Epic’s tasting room, be sure to ask about Epic’s new Utah-only series of small-batch creations.
Standout Suds: Big Bad Baptist, Bourbon Barrel-aged Imperial Stout with Coffee & Cacao Nibs
857 S Main St (Bar & Beer Store) | 865 S Main St (Proper Burger Co.) | 376 8th Ave. (Avenues Restaurant & Publick House) | 1053 E 2100 South (Craft Taproom) | 1588 E Stratford Ave (Stratford Café & Bistro)
Having but a single brewhouse hasn’t stopped this operation from evolving into an empire with company-owned venues dotting SLC. Each has its own thematic and culinary program. A stop at Proper’s Main Street location will turn up a bevy of beer options and assorted arcade games, pool tables and shuffleboard. Next door, a bustling kitchen pumps out an imaginative menu of hearty burgers and various forms of loaded fries. It’s a decadent one-two punch.
South Salt Lake
333 2100 South
Despite opening in the dour shadow of a pandemic, this tribute to drinkable beers, proper glassware and foam in all forms has flourished. When building out Grid City (named for SLC’s grided street system, which is represented in a colorful mural on the tasting-room wall), nth-level attention was paid to three things: a pricey and precise brewhouse, an RO system for changing up water profiles, and a bar setup allowing staffers to serve each of the brewery’s beers three ways: standard CO2, nitro and cask.
The product of a head brewer who plied his trade at nearby Bohemia Brewery, a pair of pilsners wow, with the easy-to-love house Pilsner registering as soft and smooth, while its hoppy counterpart comes on stronger with citrus from Lemon Drop hops and a spicy finish. The rest of the beer list veers English with a British-style Brown Ale that's savory versus caramely and super-quaffable. Additional brown ales, pales, a cream ale and a seasonal oatmeal stout are also on tap along with Bubble Works hard seltzers, a number of which are grape-infused wine-hybrids.
Pro Tip: Start your visit with a “milk shot”, a stein filled with creamy beer foam dispensed by state-of-the-art beer faucets.
Standout Suds: Hoppy Pilsner, German-style Pilsner with Lemon Drop Hops
2496 S W Temple
Designed to be an inviting social hub for rapidly growing Southern Salt Lake, this brewery’s spacious tasting room has a flat-bed truck in the corner that serves as a stage for live music (Fridays and Saturdays), a wood-fired pizza oven and a bar running nearly the length of the former heating-duct warehouse. The latter is flush with beers from a head brewer plucked from the recreational ranks, many of which are recipes from his amateur days, given new life by way of pro skills.
A pair of Level Crossing’s GABF medal-winners seem simple but convey complex profiles. The simply titled Vienna Style Lager is toasty with a nip of peppery spice on the back end, while bright Mosaic, Simcoe and Citra hops (all of the Cryo variety) combine with rye in an IPA called Suss It Out to create an exotic hop tea of sorts. Even more exotic is a delightful Kentucky common brewed with corn and local coffee, and Crypto-Porticus, a “Philly Sour” double IPA with an acidic bite that dovetails nicely with pineapple, mango and guava notes from modern hops.
Pro Tip: Ask about limited Red Feather Series beers, including a hazy DIPA, imperial coffee stout and Belgian dark strong ale.
Standout Suds: Coffee Uncommon, Kentucky Common with Coffee
2199 S W Temple
A dim-lit lair for the offbeat, this is the place for the alternatively inclined; drinkers looking for experimental beers of the high-point variety. That’s the name of the game here, where a sizeable barrel-aging program is used to produce sour and spirit-tinged ales going beyond the norm and above the low-point cap. On the hoppy side of things, rotating New England IPAs and West Coasters veering into imperial territory are available and augmented by refreshment-geared creations.
A WCIPA called Ten Ton Truck has pine-and-citrus appeal while a triple IPA going by the handle Punk as F*ck assaults the palate with flavors of melon, butternut squash, orange taffy and fusel alcohol. A Scotch ale aged in apple-brandy barrels is similarly domineering, combining gingerbread and apple butter with boozy overtones. Other wood-aged offerings include a Brett saison, golden sour aged in Chardonnay-soaked oak receptacles, and strong ales aged in bourbon and rum barrels.
Pro Tip: Don’t bother inquiring as to what SaltFire means. By the owner’s own admission, it doesn’t mean anything.
Standout Suds: Ten Ton Truck, West Coast IPA
30 Kensington Ave.
Nestled just south of downtown on the northerly side of South SLC, RoHa operates a colorful tasting room ruled with whimsy by the pair of owners whose names form the business’ portmanteau handle. Draft beers range from English pub ales to hoppier American styles and kettle sours. RoHa also manufactures a line of hard seltzers under the brand name Gemini, which come in black cherry and white grapefruit varieties.
OTHER AREA BREWERIES
6856 S 300 West, Midvale
A cult-favorite for high-quality American, English- and Belgian-style beers, this brewery does not have a tasting room, but 2 Row’s beers can be purchased at the brewery. They also dot numerous tap-lists around town.
94 7200 South, Midvale
As its name suggests, this brewpub specializes in Czech- and German-style beers, serving them up with items from a lengthy, eclectic menu including Eastern European staples like brats, goulash, pierogies and potato pancakes.
273 Trolley Sq., Salt Lake City
This venerable brewpub brought home Utah’s first-ever GABF medal, a gold for its Happy Valentine’s Hefeweizen, and remains a reliable place to quaff Old World styles over a quarter-century later.
1048 E 2100 South, Salt Lake City
This Sugar House brewpub supplements its house brews—which include food-friendly offerings, Strawberry Sorghum, Coffee and Cream Milk Stout and Strawberry Zinfandel Sour—with adult beverages from other local artisans.
After 25 years in business in Midvale, this long-running operation closed its doors last November but has vowed to reopen in a new location later this year.
2020 Industrial Cir., Salt Lake City
There's plenty of refreshment at this three-year-old combination brewery and distillery crafting a wide variety of ales and lagers along with award-winning spirits (vodka, gin, rum, bourbon) and a line of canned cocktails.
3661 Outlet Pkwy, Lehi
At just over two years old, this bar-and-eatery-equipped brewery (pictured above) has made a quick name for itself behind a vast array of low-point beers spanning multiple brewing cultures.
412 W 600 North, Ste B, Salt Lake City
SLC’s northernmost brewery specializes in IPAs, wild ales, and sours of the kettle and, as its name implies, barrel-aged ilk. The brewery’s hours of operation are rather limited, so be sure to check their website before visiting.
1722 South, Fremont Dr., Salt Lake City
One of Utah’s better-known breweries, Uinta has distributed out-of-state for years. Nowadays, they are focused on IPAs and sunny-weather beers, and their Baba remains a benchmark for black lagers.
Artspace City Center, 230 S 500 West, Salt Lake City
Scores of local beer and spirit producers convene to show off their liquid wares, bringing along food trucks to help attendees soak up those artisan adult beverages.
Pie & Beer Day (July 24)
Beer Bar, 161 E 200 South, Salt Lake City
Local breweries, bakeries and eateries get together to offer beer-and-pie pairings in the back of a popular watering hole as an alt celebration on Utah holiday Pioneer Day.
Utah Beer Festival (August)
The Gateway, 12 S Rio Grande St., Salt Lake City
It takes two days to contain Salt Lake City’s most prestigious suds celebration, an annual fete from local publication City Weekly stocked with more than 200 beers.
Snowbird Oktoberfest (August-October)
Snowbird Ski Resort, 9385 S Snowbird Center Dr., Snowbird
German garb and grub, lagers and oompah music make for lively Bavarian vibes that make this mountainous multi-weekend affair something to raise a stein to.
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