Photos courtesy City Weekly and Bianca Velasquez
Utah has many things to be proud of between its red arches down south and snowy peaks up north—Utah’s rolodex of wonders is as interesting as it is long. However, there is a growing subculture thriving throughout Utah, one that takes an unlikely place on the state’s trophy shelf: beer. For the last 30 or so years, Utah has been cultivating a strong and diverse brewing community, tapping into Utah’s potential when it comes to producing local beer and cider. What better way to celebrate and honor the work of our local brewers than to attend the annual Utah Beer Festival hosted by City Weekly and held at The Gateway in downtown Salt Lake.
How It All Started
“[The Utah Beer Festival] started in 2010 as we were just coming out of the other recession,” says Pete Saltas, City Weekly’s Publisher. “As brewery advertisers were looking for innovative ways to introduce new brands into the market, one of them said ‘We think the most important marketing we can do is if a potential customer just tries our beer.’ So we created a sampling event to help our friends achieve that goal.” Today, the Utah Beer Festival is Utah’s largest annual beer-sampling event, with over 60 breweries and cideries and over 300 different samples for tasting. “We grow that number each year by including new local breweries and new-to-market regional and national breweries,” Saltas says.
The Brew Fest Mission
Lively, engaging and a pathway to gustatory exploration, the Utah Beer Fest’s mission is to highlight the brewery community with existing and prospective beer enthusiasts in a fun and unique way. While bringing awareness of Utah’s beer selection to the masses is itself a just cause for celebration, the Utah Beer Festival also serves as City Weekly’s annual fundraiser. “...the Utah Beer Festival contributes directly to our ability to pay for award-winning journalism,” Saltas says.
2021’s Utah Beer Festival was distinct in its own right. The festival returned to downtown after taking a pandemic break in 2020 and took place at The Gateway for the first time. “We felt like moving to The Gateway would offer the opportunity for our attendees to feed into downtown area bars and restaurants before and/or after the event,” Saltas says. “And given a rough run during peak COVID-19, downtown needed a boost, frankly.” Now being placed in the center of a revitalized commercial district, Utah Beer Fest attendees can enjoy the accessibility of free transit and the activities that The Gateway location offers.
Now, let’s talk about the star of the show—beer! This year, both the festival and the breweries are drumming up new and exciting ways to pique your interest at the upcoming event. Bewilder Brewing is partnering up with the Utah Beer Festival to launch the Beer Phest Beer, a passionfruit, grapefruit-forward pale ale featuring the key ingredient phantasm. “Phantasm is a powdered grape skin product, containing compounds the yeast consumes, that produces the big bright tropical fruit notes,” says Bewilder Brewer Cody McKendrick. “The bitterness of the Beer Phest Beer is fairly low.
The beer carries huge aromas of passion fruit and grapefruit peels and sits at 7.7% ABV.” To pair with this summer-inspired pale ale, Bewilder will be offering their house-made bratwurst with sauerkraut and their German pretzels with butter and salt.
On the national end, brands like Modelo, Samuel Adams, Belching Beaver, Dos Equis and more will be slinging refreshing summer libations such as Modelo’s Michelada series. Visitors who want to branch out and experience offerings outside of the beer realm can enjoy items such as the Jiant Hard Kombucha, Mike’s Hard Lemonade, Angry Orchard Hard Cider and Mountain West Hard Cider (local).
Giving Back to the Community
Grateful for the connections and collaborations fostered by this event, City Weekly has found a way to give back to its community though the Utah Beer Fest’s partnership with Colors of Cancer, an initiative put on by the American Cancer Society to help those from the LGBTQ+ community experiencing disproportionate cancer rates, as well as barriers within healthcare. “Everybody knows somebody that battled with or is currently battling a bout with cancer. City Weekly is a longtime supporter of various local Pride-centric initiatives,” Saltas says. “When we heard about ACS's new initiative ‘Colors of Cancer’ launching this year, we wanted to help them raise awareness for the underserved and underscreened LGBTQ community.”
Through the event’s Drag Bingo, Silent Auction and community donations, City Weekly hopes to be able to contribute a sizable donation to the cause. “We know Utahns to be generous people. We feel like our attendees will be just as generous to help us hit the ACS fundraising goal!” Saltas says. “Bar bingo has become a popular activity around the valley. So imagine a lot of flash, flare, glitter and a lot of makeup from the hosts.”
Brew Crew Volunteers
Volunteer opportunities are a great way to get involved with the event. “Some of the feedback we hear from volunteers is how they made new friends by volunteering,” Saltas says.
Additional perks include receiving a “Brew Crew” t-shirt, a complimentary beer punch pass and a 5-oz sample mug. “[Volunteers] enjoy getting to know the brewers and employees at their established favorites and newly favorite breweries.”
The Beer Passport
At the 2022 Utah Beer Festival, visitors and volunteers alike can look forward to the most beer onsite in the history of the Utah Beer Festival. Tickets purchased in advance allow attendees to receive “beer passport punch cards.” “Each passport comes with 10 punches. The vast majority of the samples on-site are 1 punch,” Saltas says. “Some samples, all based on the price we pay for the beer, are 2 to 3 punches. So the best way to plan accordingly is figure out a safe ride home and grab a couple passports.”
Whether you are there for the beer, bingo or bratwurst, visitors can anticipate leaving the festival with a better understanding of what Utah really has to offer when it comes to brewing.
Join us at this year's Utah Beer Festival!
Saturday, August 20 and Sunday, August 21 - 2:00 PM - 8:00 PM
The Gateway - 15 North Rio Grande Street
Buy tickets at utahbeerfest.kostizi.com.
Sign up to volunteer at utahbeerfestival.com/volunteer.