Stranger Things Have Happened: Interest Bubbles to Create a Utah Brewers Guild

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Illustration: Manuel Aguilar

“Thirty years ago, who would believe that we’d all be here together, doing what we do … legally,” Charlie Papazian told a group of Utah brewers and brewery owners at Squatter’s Pub on April 12. Papazian, who is often considered one of the founders of the current craft beer movement, visited the brewpub to talk about the benefits (and challenges) of forming a brewers guild. In addition to founding the Great American Beer Festival, The Homebrewers Association and The Association of Brewers, Papazian is the current president of the Brewers Association. He is also the author of The Complete Joy of Homebrewing and The Homebrewer’s Companion. One of the functions of the Brewers Association is to provide the information necessary to start a state guild or association. Brewersassociation.com currently has 37 state brewer’s associations listed on their website.

“I think we have a great opportunity. It’s time to form a brewers guild. Let’s organize now,” Uinta’s president, Will Hammil told the excited group of brewers and brewery owners after Papazian’s speech. “I would second that. I’ve been wanting to do this for a long time,” said head brewer at Squatters, Jenny Talley.

Although the reality of a brewers guild forming in Utah is far in the future, the meeting was meant to get the gears moving in the heads of local beer makers. As Papazian noted, the biggest challenge of starting a state guild is the fact that all Utah breweries are in competition with one another. Although competition within the industry can be a concern, ultimately, brewers guilds can help breweries work together toward a common goal. Papazian noted that the ultimate goal of a guild should be to sell Utah beer, a goal that local beer drinkers will take pride in. 

From there, Papazian outlined all of the benefits that forming a guild in Utah could produce. One of the most obvious was that a guild creates one strong voice for the  state’s entire brewing community—something that is particularly important when the Utah Legislature attempts to change laws that could harm local breweries (like the passage of SB 314, which outlaws the sale of mini kegs like the Little Chubby).  “Legislatures want one idea,” Papazian told the crowd made up of folks from the Utah beer industry. “If there is a single idea, it is easier to protect what you have.”

Local beer makers and brewery owners seem excited about the possibility but realize that forming a guild isn’t an overnight process. Talley notes that they are in such an early stage that it is hard to say if a Utah brewers guild would even have a political agenda. “If that is something people are interested in having, then yes, we will have more of a political agenda, but right now, it’s to early to say if that will even happen,” she says.

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Illustration: Manuel Aguilar