Beer Me: Utah and Beer 101, Class now in session!

RL Policar-Mr. Justin Beerit decided to give us a brief class on Utah and its lovely relationship with Beer. Plus you’ll learn something about what they call, “Sin Tax.”

This column of Mr. Beerit’s Beer Reviews will be a little different. I’ve mentioned a few times in the past that I currently live in Utah. This is great for mountain biking, but not always great for beer. This column will introduce you to Utah microbrews (of which there are many wonderful examples) and maybe even dispel some of the misconceptions about Utah.

Drinking alcohol is legal in Utah. The purchasing of alcohol is also legal in Utah. We are not a dry state. That said, there are still some peculiarities in the laws. One such peculiarity you might’ve heard of is the purchasing of “memberships” in order to enter a bar, or “private club” as they were called. This was the case up until July of 2009, when memberships were no longer necessary and private clubs could charge a cover or not.

Another peculiarity not isolated to Utah is the existence of State Liquor Stores. Beer, and only beer, can be purchased in grocery stores or 7-11s but this beer cannot be of an alcohol content above 4% (by volume). Any beer above 4%, or liquor or wine, can only be purchased in one of the 44 state run liquor stores. And they only carry certain brands and varieties. What they carry is all you can buy. That’s it. Only when you are trying to find a specific wine or beer is it ever an issue, and even then rarely. The state does a good job of stocking the stores with quality products.

Another way to purchase beer is through a local brewery. There are many in Utah, and most are of a very high quality. Uinta Brewery of Salt Lake currently brews 10 beers of the 4% variety (Cutthroat Pale Ale being a local favorite) and six with an alcohol content higher than 4%. The brewing of beer higher than 4% is a recent phenomenon for Utah breweries, for some reason, but their experience with brewing under the 4% constraints have sharpened their skills and they are putting out some wonderful varieties of late.

Wasatch Brew Pub and Brewery, out of Park City, currently offers seven 4% varieties (try Polygamy Porter, it’s a fantastic beer) and 3 above 4% with Devastator (aptly named) being the marquee in that category. The food at their brew pub (at the top of historic Main Street in Park City) is also quite good and worth the wait.

Red Rock Brewing Company is another brew pub with locations in both downtown Salt Lake and Park City. Their food is phenomenal (try the French Onion Steak Sandwich) and their beers are award winning. I recommend the oatmeal stout if you’re into dark beers. If not, their Hefeweizen is delicious as well.

Squatters is yet another brew pub (in downtown Salt Lake, in Park City, and in the Salt Lake airport) offering great food and 11 varieties of beer. Captain Bastard’s Oatmeal Stout is off the hook as is Hop Rising (a big, bold 9% double IPA).

Last, Bohemian Brewery is a brew pub specializing in German food and beer. Their food is spectacular and their beer is better than most. My favorite Utah beer, Cherny Bock, is brewed by them and I stop off ever now and again to fill up a growler. They offer four other varieties if you’re not into the darker stuff.

The latest and greatest in Utah breweries is Epic Brewing Company, who brew only beers greater than 4% (and is run by the former brewmaster of Bohemian). They are located in a small building downtown and sell their beer at the store in their brewery (allegedly, one can purchase their beer in State Liquor Stores, but the demand is so great they are rarely if ever in stock). Epic also has named one of their beers the Cross Fever Amber Ale after cyclocross. It’s quite good, too. Their 825 State Stout (named after the address of Epic) is phenomenal with flavors of chocolate and coffee. And their Intermountain Wheat is one of the best wheat beers I’ve ever had. Epic is definitely a worthy destination if you are staying in Salt Lake for any extended time and want to stock your hotel fridge with the good stuff.

Moab has two brew pubs, which I’ll hit in a later column, that offer some very good beer as well. Ogden, a half hour north of Salt Lake, also has one called Roosters, but I’ve never tried it and can’t really speak to it. I’ve heard it’s decent, so if you’re in northern Utah it’s certainly a place to think about. Their Junction City Chocolate Stout sounds delicious. I might just have to make a trip north some day soon.

So, if you ever make it out to Utah (and you will make it out here, right? I mean the mountain biking is out of this world. Plus, I’m here!), consider stopping into one of the brew pubs for a bite to eat and a cold pint. Or, experience the State Liquor Store to see what we Utahns have to deal with in our limited selection and outrageous prices (did I mention the 64.5% sin tax on all beer above 4% alcohol content and 86% on all liquor and wine? No? Well, it’s true.). And, if you’re here for any length of time, a stop at Epic is in order.

Also, don’t forget to let me know. I’ll buy you a pint at a brew pub of your choice.

One Reply to “Beer Me: Utah and Beer 101, Class now in session!”

  1. oddly enough, i’ve never actually biked in Utah (although i really want to), but i’ve been there many times. my mom actually lives in Ogden and subsequently, i’ve bought beer many times in Ogden. it’s true that most people do get their brew from the local 7-11 or corner store. honestly, most “average” beer (ie, “shit you’ll drink if that’s all they have…but you’ll never turn it down cos, well, it’s beer”, like Bud, Coors, Miller, Pabst, Busch etc) is either at or just barely above 4% ABV in reality anyway, so you’ll never notice much of a difference as far as “buzz quality”. most of your mainstream brews are of the lager or pilsner variety, and therefore pretty “light” as far as beer goes. (although coming from Colorado, it’s kind of a weird situation: we’ve got liquor stores on every damn corner, open every day of the week as of last year, but grocery stores and corner stores and 7-11’s can only sell 3.2% beer. it’s weird.)

    anyway….

    what a lot of people in Utah do is make a run to either Idaho or Wendover (the Nevada part) once or twice a month and stock up. my mom and her boyfriend usually take a trip to Idaho once a month to get whatever liquor they can’t get in Utah, and maybe get a couple Powerball tickets just for the hell of it, since the lottery is illegal in Utah. sometimes they’ll go to Wendover, part of which is in Utah and part of which is in Nevada. i went with them to Wendover once, and it was downright hilarious to see that almost ALL of the license plates on the Nevada side (ie, casinos) were Utah plates! at any rate, there are plenty of options to get good stuff in Utah, if you’re willing to put in the time.

    also, i found some Polygamy Porter in Denver once a few years ago (and bought it based on name and origin alone.) i’m not usually a porter person, but i actually really liked it, and i’d buy it again if i ever see it on the shelves of my local LQ. my opinion on Rooster is that it’s not terrible, but i’d just as soon save some money and buy PBR or something (i only drank it once. not bad, but nothing special.)

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