Commemorative sample mugs at the Utah Beer Fest. Photo: Amanda Rock
A cloudy Salt Lake summer afternoon was the perfect setting for the fourth annual Utah Beer Festival, sponsored by City Weekly. On Saturday, August 17 from 3–8 p.m., over 100 local and national breweries gathered at Gallivan Plaza to share samples of beer for a great cause, Best Friends Animal Sanctuary. There was live music, food trucks, a bike valet and other hipster comforts. Designated drivers were admitted for $5 and Trax was running, so there was no worry about how to get home. Chilling downtown, drinking beer and helping animals is exactly how I would like to spend every weekend.
Upon entry, each guest was gifted a darling 4 oz. mug to taste samples, a handy booklet explaining each beer, and five beer tickets. Most samples cost one ticket, but the stronger, more alcoholic beers were two. Extra tickets were available throughout the venue for $1 a piece. There was a relaxed, fun vibe while Gallivan Plaza turned into a village of breweries. Each brewery had their own tent, taking tickets and serving beer on tap as well as bottles. Lines moved quickly with plenty of volunteers on hand to serve beer, answer questions and share their knowledge.
Bill Frost, beer drinker and Associate Editor of City Weekly had as much fun as I did. “It's weird to have such a huge downtown event that local TV news barely mentions––they're either afraid of alcohol, or they're busy gearing up for around-the-clock Undie Run coverage. Myself, I sampled at least a dozen great beers I'd never tried before––Hoppers' Hoppy Valley Pale Ale was one of my favorites––and finally saw The Weekenders, easily the best band happening in SLC right now. Despite a few whiners who probably should have just stayed home and pounded PBR, the Utah Beer Festival was a damned good time,” he said.
I was determined to spend my precious tickets on beer I haven’t tried, but there was a certain favorite I couldn’t stay away from, the Baba Organic Black Lager from Uintah Brewing Company. It’s the Danzig of beer: pitch black, smooth and melodious. It’s my very favorite, but there were many more to try ….
For the first time, the Beer Festival hosted international brewers represented by their distributors. I like my beer local, but how could I resist something from Italy, my homeland? The Peroni, represented by Miller Coors, is imported from Rome and made from natural ingredients from Italy. It was pretty light and tasty, but I’ll stick with my local, dark favorites.
One local brewer stood out that afternoon: My husband and I were impressed with Avenues Proper for different reasons. I was keen on their Proper Beer, a pretty, amber-colored beer that was mellow and easy to drink. My husband fell head over heels with Gose the Gozerian, which had the most unique flavor profile we sampled: sour, flowery and just plain weird. I’d like to try this with some greasy fries to offset the bitterness, while my husband would just like to drink it all the time. We’ll be visiting Avenues Proper sometime very soon.
"The response to our beer was great! Many people came to taste Gose the Gozerian, the first commercially brewed Gose-style beer in Utah because of its unusual taste, but many returned for the fresh hop profile of our Hopspital IPA and the easy-drinking balance of our flagship Proper Beer,” says Rio Connelly, Avenue Proper’s brewer. “We made a lot of new friends and can't wait to do it again next year!"
My husband and I tried a lot of beer. So much that I can’t really remember all of it––or how I got home––but there were a few samples that were deliciously memorable. Bonneville Brewery, a new brewery located in Tooele, was well represented by their beers. My favorite was the very drinkable, very smooth Antelope Amber Ale. One more favorite was the Seasonal Pumpkin Ale from Wasatch Brewery. It tastes and smells like pumpkin pie. Do I even need to say more?
Where there is beer, there is food. My husband gravitated towards Three Brothers Tacos for spicy pork and chicken street tacos while I was drawn to Off the Grid. This popular food truck is known for their grilled cheese sandwiches made with fresh waffles and Beehive Cheese and other local goodness. I opted for the Mt. Olympus, a flavorful Mediterranean chickpea and veggie wrap. For the healthiest, vegan item offered that day, it did a fine job of soaking up all that beer.
City Weekly did a fantastic job of organizing the fourth annual Utah Beer Festival. The afternoon was a blast and supporting Best Friends Animal Sanctuary made it even better. I had the opportunity to try many different beers and learn about new breweries while revisiting some old favorites. This was one of the best events this summer. I’m already looking forward to next year.