Raise a Glass to Local Makers of Potent Potables
There’s no denying it: Throughout much of its history, Utah hasn’t been the friendliest place for people who enjoy unwinding with a glass of something stronger than root beer. But in the last couple of decades, looser laws and a more relaxed social environment have made the state a growing mecca for fans of locally produced beers, wines, and even harder stuff. With both industry veterans and newcomer offerings on tap, there’s bound to be a drink to suit your taste.
Cap off your next outdoor adventure with a stop at one of these hot spots, or, to sample a wide range of tastes in a single stop, check out one of the beer bars that proudly pours Utah-made libations.
Though pre-Prohibition Utah was home to some of the biggest breweries in the West, the industry virtually vanished from the state in the 1930s. The drought lasted until 1986 when Greg Schirf launched Wasatch Brew in Park City and opened the door for entrepreneurial beer lovers. Now, Utah boasts 18 breweries from Ogden to Moab, serving up everything from light session-style lagers to seriously intense oatmeal stouts. The ready availability of high-quality, locally-produced beer doesn’t go unappreciated: Nearly 20% of all the beer sold in Salt Lake City is craft beer, rather than the pale yellow fizzy stuff produced by corporate mega breweries.
A few of Utah’s microbreweries are highlighted below, but you can find a full list and more information at craftbeer.com.
Uinta Brewing Company
1722 Fremont Drive, SLC
This pioneering brewery, launched in 1993, is now Utah’s largest, crafting 60,000 barrels in 2013. Uinta has deep roots in the active outdoor lifestyle: “I knew I wanted to open a brewery, and I knew I wanted to work 20 minutes from the ski lifts,” says owner Will Hamill. The brewery is justly proud of its environmental commitment as well. Since 2001, the entire operation has run on 100% renewable electricity.
Worth Tasting: Heading out for a bike ride or rafting trip? Pick up a few cans of Sum’r Organic Ale. Lightweight, easy-to-tote packaging combines with a refreshing, session brew that’s perfect for sipping in the sunshine.
Roosters Brewing Company
253 Historic 25th Street, Ogden / 748 W. Heritage View Boulevard, Layton
Bring a healthy appetite when you visit this popular brewpub. Menu offerings go beyond typical burgers and fries, including grilled steak, fresh Atlantic salmon, and creative pasta combinations. Start a weekend adventure off right with Roosters’ hearty brunch fare: A chile verde omelet or a plate of huevos rancheros are ideal fuel for a day on the trail.
Worth Tasting: Perk up your palate with the lightly herbal sweetness of Bee’s Knees Honey Wheat. This light-bodied, crisp-flavored hefeweizen started as a special one-time offering, but proved so popular it’s been added to Roosters’ regular lineup of brews.
825 South State Street, SLC
Looking for a little more intense beer-drinking experience? Epic specializes in big, bold-flavored beers with a higher-than-average alcohol content. In addition to their newbie-friendly Classic Series, they offer limited-release brews in the Elevated and Exponential Series targeted at the experienced, discriminating beer drinker. Enjoy tastes in the Tap-less Tap Room or pick up a 22-ounce bottle to enjoy at your leisure.
Worth Tasting: The “deceivingly drinkable” Brainless Belgian-Style Ale includes ingredients like candy sugar, European hops, and carefully selected yeast strains for a traditional Belgian brew that packs a 9.5% ABV wallop. Cool down post-ride with a bottle paired with rich or spicy foods.
Utah winemakers capitalize on the short growing season, dry weather, and cool nights to produce a wide range of varietal wines. Grapes aren’t the only fruit going into bottles in the state, though. Ideal growing conditions for peaches, apricots, and cherries mean there’s a booming business in fruit wines as well.
Milepost 14, Hwy 128, Moab
Turn your next trip to Moab into a wine country adventure. Castle Creek, Utah’s largest winery, offers complimentary tastings of its award-winning vintages in a gorgeous red-rock setting. Watch the winemaking process in action, then check out the world-class whitewater rapids right next to the winery grounds. Stretch your stay to an overnight at the Red Cliffs Adventure Lodge, where you can dine overlooking the Colorado River while enjoying a bottle of red.
Worth Tasting: A rough-and-tumble Outlaw Red is a perfect pairing for grilled steak, BBQ ribs, or other classic Western fare.
4710 Zimmerman Lane, Moab
Specializing in white and German-style wines, this charming family-run winery is a great stop on a Canyonlands tour. The Stripeika family grows their own grapes, crafts their own wine, and pours samples in their cozy tasting room.
Worth Tasting: Cool down after a long bike, hike, or climb with a crisp, refreshing Riesling. (We won’t even tell if you sneak in an ice cube.)
1220 W Jack D Road #2, Layton
Raspberries, strawberries, currants, and honey–they’re not just ingredients for a fruit salad, they’re the base of the more than 30 types of fruit and honey wine crafted at this unique Utah winery. New seasonal wines are released regularly, each a celebration of locally sourced ingredients and traditional techniques.
Worth Tasting: Tasting like the essence of Cache Valley wildflower honey, The Hive’s Summer Mead has taken honors at the nation’s top honey wine competitions. Enjoy it chilled and paired with a soft cheese or slices of ripe melon.
Utah’s distilleries–there are just two currently operating–are a breed apart. They’re not allowed to offer on-site tastings, but they’ll happily sell you a bottle and even offer you a tour. They’ve tangled with regulators both in- and out-of-state (in fact, Ogden’s Own’s Five Wives Vodka was banned in Idaho for having a label “offensive to Mormons and women”). None of these challenges, though, dissuade them from creating innovative spirits that are perfect for stirring up a cocktail or enjoying straight.
High West Distillery
703 Park Avenue, Park City
The world’s only “ski-in gastro-distillery,” High West offers a high-toned blend of gourmet contemporary cuisine and innovative blended spirits perfect for enjoying après-ski (or après-just about anything else). Flavor-filled small plates invite sharing and sampling, and craft cocktails go down butter-smooth.
Worth Tasting: A spicy, smoky blend of bourbon, rye whiskey, and peated Scotch, High West Whiskey Campfire is ideal for enjoying with buddies around your own campfire (bring marshmallows!).
3075 Grant Avenue, Ogden
Launched five years ago, Ogden’s Own first came to notice with its Underground herbal spirit, a complex, barely-sweet liqueur that managing partner Steve Conlin describes as “like Jägermeister for adults.” Underground has earned kudos from reviewers nationwide, and its success spurred the launch of Ogden’s Own’s evolving line of straight and flavored spirits.
Worth Tasting: Five Wives Sinful Vodka blends cinnamon and vanilla for a sweet-hot result that’s perfectly paired with hard cider or citrusy mixers.
Looking for a place that has plenty of homegrown offerings on tap?
Check out one of these local watering holes.
The Bayou (645 S. State Street, SLC) is a perennial favorite with 300+ beers to choose from. Buffer your belly with something from its modern comfort food menu.
The Beerhive (128 S. Main Street, SLC) has 200+ beer choices and spotlights locally made brews.
Beer Bar (161 E. 200 South, SLC) boasts 30 beers on tap and over 100 more in the bottle. Utah-made and other Western beers abound.