On the way up Parley’s Canyon on a sunny May day, the sky really is the limit, especially for Trent Fargher and Alexandra Ortiz de Fargher, owners of Shades of Pale Brewing Company in Park City. Just a year after opening the doors of their brewery, they will join Dale Harris, owner of Zion Canyon Brewing Company in Springdale, Utah, in circulating their brews throughout Salt Lake County. Whether it’s Ortiz and Fargher’s subtle infusion of juniper to their Belgian wits or Harris’ wholesome use of the mineral-rich groundwater of the Virgin River, these burgeoning breweries seek to literally employ Utah to command craft brewing. Fargher and Ortiz aim for world domination. “We’re going to expand as fast as we can in a controlled manner,” says Fargher. Coincidentally, four hours south, Harris has the same idea: “To be honest with you, my long-term plan is planetary domination, that’s for damn sure.”
Of course, with such spirited game faces but insane schedules, these brewmasters need a conduit to infiltrate the valley. That’s where Sam Jackson from General Distributing Co. comes in. Jackson and General, a beverage wholesaler, ensure breweries’ presence and presentation in grocery stores, mini marts, restaurants and bars. “We provide the infrastructure for them,” Jackson says. “They make great beer locally, but they need a way to legally get it to market, so that’s what we provide.” Due to the growth of craft brewing volume and an increased demand for the product, General Distributing has indicated handcrafted brews’ presence with schemes like the “build your own six pack” deal at Smith’s. “When a company comes out and comes into the market like Shades of Pale and Zion Canyon, [customers] start coming in, they want to try it, they want to see what’s going on. Then once they taste it … they want to start consuming that product,” says Jackson. “[It’s] more personable. It’s local.” Jackson holds no reservations regarding the success of SOP and ZCB in Salt Lake County: “I’m pretty confident it’s going to work because I’ve actually tasted the brews, and they’re good.”
There’s really no reason why it wouldn’t work—the quality of both breweries shines through as more people taste their brews and bespeak savory flavors. Harris says, “[It] has been just straight up grass roots marketing. My face and my two employees’ faces and good beer.” Climbers, cyclists and campers escape to Springdale’s liberal atmosphere and enjoy Harris’ brews. Springdale’s annual Earth Day and music festivals have lured Southern Utah’s outdoor types to ZCB’s booths where they have taken the word of Virgin River craft around the state, which has led to Harris’ busiest season yet. The regional success of ZCB’s four staple brews has pushed them to the great salty north. “People are asking for it, so I’m going to go and build it,” says Harris. Not only does Harris look to expand his market, he also intends on continually entertaining his existing customer base: He will push drafts, bottles and cans in order to simplify his outdoorsy clientele’s earth-friendly experience of his brews.
Fargher, Ortiz and their indispensable team have experienced similar recognition. Word of mouth and networking has gotten Utahns and visitors excited about their beer: “The support has been amazing,” Ortiz says. In merely one year, SOP has enjoyed invitations to festivals, sponsorships for racing teams and partnerships. Wasatch Distributing even presented them with a positive conundrum: Consumers have asked for Shades of Pale before their brews reached their market. Although they initially intended to push their beers in just draft lines, the demand for bottles led them to acquire the necessary equipment to meet their consumers’ needs. Ortiz says, “One of the things that we want to do is be very responsive to our customers. Those would be the restaurants and the people who are actually drinking the beer.” Their receptivity fell right in line with Jackson’s vision.