Cerveza Zólupez Beer Company
205 W. 29th St. Unit #2, Ogden, UT
801.917.2319 || zolupez.com
Ask most Utahns about Mexican beer, and you’ll get an answer about slices of lime and white-sandy beaches. But brewing in Mexico isn’t just a single fizzy, yellow note. Mexico is in tune with the craft beer phenomenon that has swept the globe, and brewers are using innovative ingredients and techniques local to their areas in a movement called cerveza artesanal. Javier Chávez Jr. is a Wasatch Front native who opened Utah’s smallest brewery in 2018, and he offers his unique approach at Cerveza Zólupez Beer Company in Ogden.
SLUG: Give us a little background on yourself. Where did you grow up and go to school?
Javier Chávez Jr.: I’m an Ogden-made, proud-to-be-born-and-raised Mexican-American. My folks are from Mexico, and I’m proud of that—I keep my heritage close to my heart. I went to the University of Utah then went to law school in Boston. I’m still an active lawyer and still have an active license.
SLUG: What made you want to transition to making beer?
Chávez: I practiced law in California, New York and St. Louis, and got a taste of the beer scenes in those places. I struggled to find a craft beer that paired well with Mexican food. My folks are in the restaurant industry, and I tried to make beer that would pair with those flavors. I always wanted to go into business, and I thought I could combine my passion for food, beer, my culture and my law background.
SLUG: How did coming from the family behind Javier’s Mexican Restaurants influence you?
Chávez: That’s a very important formative experience, being around food and beverage. Seeing people interact with food and beer led me to believe there was a huge space in craft beer for beers that are inspired by the same experiences as the food. Having grown up in the restaurant business, I knew what people like and don’t like for flavor combinations—I have a sense for people’s palates. We’re separate businesses, but there is a relationship there. I would love to sell these beers to other Mexican restaurants. Ever since I was little, I was bussing; I was a waiter; I put myself through college at the U as a waiter. People say, “Don’t get into the restaurant business—it’s hard,” and say, “Don’t get into the craft business—it’s hard.” But I felt prepared for that experience.
SLUG: What is the concept for Cerveza Zólupez Beer Company?
Chávez: We do what I call “authentically crafted cerveza artesanal” that’s inspired by my family’s Mexican traditions. Every one of our beers has a story to tell, and they’re written on the back of each bottle. It’s inspired by those experiences and the culture and the craft beers in Mexico.
SLUG: What does the name Zólupez and your branding mean to you?
Chávez: I wanted to create a name that had something personal to me, so I sat down one afternoon with a nice beer. It’s a combination of of my dad’s hometown in Mexico, Zóquite; my mom’s hometown, Guadalupe; and my last name, Chávez. So I combined those, and it’s special—it speaks about what I’m doing, my heritage, my family. My cousin is a graphic designer and a local artist. The logo encompasses different things from my childhood. My dad and brother played guitar, the charro hat (I would do the hat dance on Cinco de Mayo), the chiles, the cactus, the flowers. We sat down and figured out how to put it together—the artwork and the colors come from the heritage.
SLUG: Do you you see yourself as participating in a brewing tradition, either new or old, from Mexico?
Chávez: That’s one of our founding points, being inspired by cerveza artesanal, which is centered in Baja California and Monterrey, where Dos Equis is brewed right now. The Czech, German and Austrian immigrants from Europe started brewing in Mexico, and they brought their lager styles. But now you have people who want new options. People would go up to the States, going to San Diego and interacting with the local brewers there, working there, and bringing some of the knowhow and palate experiences back and pairing it with new stuff in Mexico, making it their own, using local ingredients and adjuncts.
SLUG: How has the response to your beers been since opening in 2018?
Chávez: I got a lot of advice on what I should brew, but I know what I like. The big fear was that it would be “Thanks, but no thanks.” But the high point has been the overwhelmingly positive response. Marketing and branding can only go so far, but the liquid has to be good. I’m humbled and honored that people have really liked what we’re doing. Not just locally in Ogden—people have driven from all over the Wasatch Front. I have not had to compromise my flavor. We yield five-gallon batches, giving 50 to 55 12-oz. bottles per batch. So it’s paradoxical—we constantly run out of beer, and I’m disappointed not being able to sell more! We have lines outside, but I have to limit it to one bottle a person.
SLUG: Where does Cerveza Zólupez go from here?
Chávez: Our next step is to jump up to a one-barrel brewhouse with some jacketed fermenting tanks. We can fill our sales room and have more beer at festivals. We want to go beyond the starter phase and brew more beer. We need to increase our immediate production now, but the vision is to have a larger brewhouse to produce as much beer as we can for people. We are actively looking at how to restructure this property, or to look at a new space from scratch. The beautiful thing of how I started is I get to learn from other brewers around me, learning best practices.
SLUG: What is your favorite beer you make and why?
Chávez: The Amber Ale brewed with piloncillo sugar and cinnamon sticks. It’s a multipurpose beer—it can go with everything. We have some serving suggestions on every bottle, but it’s got a nice balance of malt and hops, and you can pair it with any food. The other beers pair well, too, but I can have this beer anytime with any food, and it will always be awesome.
SLUG: Do you have any major projects/collaborations/expansions on the horizon?
Chávez: We’re trying to do a cross-border collaboration Mexican lager. So it’s a Zólupez recipe Mexican-style lager brewed by a Mexican craft brewery. I went to Mexico a couple months ago and pitched this idea, so we’re actively planning to brew a beer. I put on my lawyer hat and talked to the federal Tax and Trade Bureau and got my importer license, and talked to the Utah DABC. They said, “Make sure you have licenses, and we’re good with it.” To do a beer brewed in Mexico has been my dream.
If you can’t find the perfect beer to pair with enchiladas, mole or your favorite tacos, make sure to visit Ogden to taste all these unique craft beers, including the amber ale, an IPA with agave nectar and lime peel, a stout with Mexican chocolate and three kinds of chiles, and a brand-new mango-and-coconut wheat beer. With Chávez’s batch size being so small, currently, you’ll want to follow Zólupez on social media @Zolupez on Instagram and Facebook, and @Zolupez_Cerveza on Twitter for notifications about when they are open to sell their extremely limited brews to the public. New beers are always in the works with ingredients like hibiscus, pineapple, lactose and more, so expect exciting ideas that continue to draw from Mexican heritage, and with enough support, you may be able to get cerveza artesanal all over Utah.
Pins & Ales
12101 S. State Street, Draper | 801.572.1122
Su–M: 11 a.m.–12 a.m.
Tu–Sa: 11 a.m.–1 a.m.
When I get invited out to an evening of bowling with friends, I’ve never been able to look forward to a craft beer at the lanes. For a craft beer fanatic like myself, that can be a bit frustrating, as in almost every other context or scenario, I have access to unique and amazing craft beers. Indeed, with all the new breweries opening in Utah, I’m often spoiled for czhoice at my favorite bars, grocery stores or even the State Liquor Stores. But during a night of tossing a 14-pound ball as hard as I can at some wooden pins in a vain attempt to get a decent score, I can’t even seek relief in something better than a mass-market lager? All Star Bowling and Bonneville Brewery are seeking to change this situation with a new concept called Pins & Ales, a more adult-oriented bowling experience.
Bonneville Brewery was founded in 2012 when Brad Shepherd, Owner and proprietor of the All Star Bowling & Entertainment locations in Tooele and the Salt Lake Valley, purchased the building that had been Tracks Brewing Company in Tooele, Utah. Fast-forward to 2019, and Bonneville’s beers like Pilot Peak Pilsner and Redline Irish Red are available in bottles in some stores, of course at their Tooele brewpub and also at all the All Star Bowling locations.
Being able to get craft beer at a bowling alley is a good start, but Shepherd wanted this partnership to go further. The Pins & Ales concept was developed to provide a completely unique experience, unlike anything else in Utah. This starts with a separation from the rest of the diverse attractions present at the Draper and Tooele All Star Bowling locations. Upon entering, there is an arcade, event spaces, laser tag, an escape room and—of course—lanes upon lanes of bowling. But Pins & Ales is something different. Separated into a different room by a threshold where patrons get ID’d, the vibe in there is totally different; the seating is comfortable and luxurious, the house lights are dimmed—almost like a club—the music is a bit more adult, and the bar is prominent.
I ventured with a handful of friends to visit this promised land of adult bowling on a Monday night, so it wasn’t overly populated. I asked the staff about how they handle the busy weekend nights. One of the great things about Pins & Ales is that there is ample waiting area near the centrally located bar, including an ample patio and VIP area as well. While my comrades donned their shoes and found their weapons of choice, I checked out the drinks menu and was excited to see a wide selection of interesting cocktails, wine, spirits and the main event: craft beer from Bonneville Brewery. I started with Sir Malcolm’s stout, a full-bodied and roasty Irish stout served on nitrogen, with notes of chocolate and coffee. It must have been a good first choice, as I was rolling boulders in the first game. A handful of strikes and a few spares later, and I had my best score of the night (a respectable 176). I was ready for my next beer.
We ordered some tasty appetizers from the extensive house-made menu to go with the next round. The deep-fried Mac & Cheese Balls ($7.99) came with cilantro ranch that was a perfect pairing for a cold glass of a balanced and malty Vienna Lager. The Classic Nachos ($8.99) were a heaping pile of real ingredients, not the plastic-looking sauce and stale chips that I choke down at most bowling alleys. My friends recommend them with the refreshing Pilot Peak Pilsner. The second game saw my scores and consistency start to decline, but I wasn’t distraught. It was hard to be upset while sitting on the comfortable couches with a quality beer in hand. I rounded out the third game with an acceptable score, despite having my hands a little greasy from the delicious P&A Reuben sandwich ($10.99), with crispy marble-rye bread. I washed this down with an Antelope Amber Ale. My friends felt the same way, and we finished the night not overly concerned about how we bowled.
With a brand-new All Star Bowling location opening at the Valley Fair Mall in late 2019, the Pins & Ales experience will be coming to West Valley and be that much more accessible to beer and bowling enthusiasts all over the Salt Lake Valley.
Salt Lake City is an amazing place to live in an amazing state—despite its issues with alcohol. It’s so awesome that over five years ago, I started a restaurant and brewery business, which now operates in three different locations and is looking into expansion. One of our central tenets since the inception of the company has been making buying local products a priority, but “local” can seem like a slippery concept, especially when it comes to craft brewing. Using the ingredients that are abundant around you can create a connection to the beer that would be otherwise impossible, and it’s increasingly important to me to use as source as much as I can locally.
A History Erased: How Local Ended
Beer is an inherently agricultural product, but its production has been industrialized and separated from the farms that used to be integral to its creation. Up until the late 19th century, it was common for American breweries to use only locally grown grain and hops, largely because of the difficulty and expense of getting imported products. Due to the effects of the Industrial Revolution—and, eventually, the prohibition of alcohol in 1919—agriculture and brewing were consolidated into ever larger conglomerate companies taking advantage of large-scale operations. By the middle of the 20th century, this trend had continued to the point where a few large breweries were responsible for almost all the beer brewed in America, and smaller, regional operations like Utah’s original A. Fisher Brewing (closed in 1960) were disappearing in favor of homogenized, mass-market products like Miller or Budweiser.
We all now know how this story continues: Adventurous homebrewers started opening the country’s first “microbreweries,” brewing flavorful, interesting beer to contrast with the watery yellow stuff that came in large cases from the supermarket and all tasted the same. Many of these new businesses started in industrial parts of town and served to revitalize decrepit neighborhoods, like Squatters Brewing’s first pub in Downtown Salt Lake City’s in the early ’90s, just as my company, Proper Brewing, is attempting to do in the Central Ninth area now. Being produced locally is good, but what’s more, artisans are increasingly trying to use products with local origins as well. The vast majority of hops grown in United States comes from Oregon and Washington in the Pacific Northwest, which poses the question of whether a brewer not in the Pacific Northwest can’t make local beer if it has those hops in it. As far as it concerns Utah, because of its climate, location and agricultural heritage, our state has some amazing ingredients that can help a beer cross that line from just being made locally to really being unique to this state.
From the Ground Up: Mountain Malt
The first time I stepped inside a malthouse was near Idaho Falls, Idaho, in June of 2016. The aroma of steeping barley malt being worked inside was unlike anything I had smelled before, yet comfortingly familiar. While it used to be common for breweries also to have malting operations onsite, most modern companies only handle the finished product, and many brewers may never visit the source of where their grain is grown or malted. What I was being offered by Mountain Malt owner Jake Burtenshaw was the opportunity to trace the beer I made from the glass it was served in back to the ground where it was grown.
I had first met Burtenshaw the year before while attending a get-together for brewers at Idaho Falls Brewing Company. His family has been growing barley in Eastern Idaho for generations and selling it to the large malting operations run by Anheuser-Busch and Modelo based in Idaho Falls. Even though it’s from Idaho, this barley is truly local, as most of the fields are less than three hours from Salt Lake City—much closer than the traditional Utah landmarks of Zion, or Grand Escalante. In true entrepreneurial spirit, Burtenshaw saw the opportunity to work with smaller craft brewers and began developing his own malting equipment. He refined his process until he could make barley malt of a similar quality to anything being produced in North America, and I was happy to be one of his first craft customers. Now he is continuing to expand his capacity to keep up with demand from brewers all over Utah and Idaho. I personally use over a ton of his malt every month, and that could double by the end of this year. Every time I brew with his malt, my mind goes back to stepping into that malthouse. I think of walking from there into the adjacent fields and handling some of the raw, green grain, fresh from the ground. The sense of connection to the beer I make—which this direct relationship with the raw materials creates—is indescribable.
Busy Bees: Slide Ridge Honey
While malted grain is often called the “soul” of beer, there are plenty of other opportunities to use local ingredients in beer making, and there is no more iconic Utah product than honey. The Mormon pioneers adopted the beehive and the honeybee in their iconography, and it has come to influence everything around us here. Their name for this territory, “Deseret,” means honeybee, and our state motto, “Industry,” directly references bees working in a hive. Local industry is what craft brewing is all about. Martin James started Slide Ridge Honey in Logan, Utah, in 2004 after a lifelong fascination with bees. His business has grown to include most of his family members as owners and employees, and they produce not only world-class honey but honey vinegar and other culinary products as well. During a time when honeybee populations are declining around the world, James’ hives are strong due to his commitment to traditional beekeeping practices. Honey was one of the earliest natural foods fermented into alcohol by humans, so it only makes sense to continue this tradition in modern craft brewing. I use James’ honey in several beers, but most prominently in my Stumblebee Vienna Lager, an amber-colored beer that’s smooth and balances rich honey flavors with delicate malt notes. James’ bees harvest pollen and nectar from all over Northern Utah, and those sources have a direct effect on the quality of their honey, which, in turn, directly affects the flavor of the beer in your pint glass. I can pour that beer and taste the industry of this Utah family.
Fruits of Their Labor: Woodyatt Cherry Farm
Another family-farm operation I’m proud to connect with is Woodyatt Cherry Farm in Willard, Utah. You may know them as the folks selling sour montmorency cherries and cherry concentrate at the Northwest corner of the Downtown Farmers Market every Summer. As a frequent market patron, I had seen their stand often, but not being the biggest cherry fan, I had glossed over their products. That was until I was looking to produce a small-batch sour beer, closest in style to a traditional kriek lambic beer from Belgium, and when I found out that Belgian brewers prize montmorency cherries, I jumped at the opportunity to source them locally. Dan and Lisa Woodyatt run the farm, which started in 1998, and I’ve been able to work closer with them on each batch. Originally, I was just buying frozen juice from them at the market, due to me making the beer out of cherry season. But with each iteration, I’ve needed more juice, and they’ve been happy to supply me directly. Next year’s batch of Proper Brett Kriek will contain over 30 gallons of fresh juice direct from pressing, and is looking to be the best version yet, all because of my relationship with these farmers. And Woodyatt isn’t the only fruit farm in Utah. All I have to do is look around to find opportunities to collaborate with Utahns who take pride in growing amazing products.
Spice of Life: Redmond Real Salt
One of the joys of using local products is that you might discover something you hadn’t thought of before. When I brewed my first batch of a traditional German style called a “gose” (pronounced “GO-zuh”) in 2014, I had only read about it in books. A style that had gone extinct but was being revitalized by experimental brewers, gose isn’t what most people think of when it comes to beer. A sour wheat ale seasoned with coriander and salt? My business partners were skeptical—and, admittedly, so was I—but my curiosity was piqued. In sourcing ingredients, I had an epiphany that, as the first gose brewed in Salt Lake City, it should use local salt. I did some research and was most intrigued by Redmond Real Salt, a mineral salt mined from an ancient seabed in what is now central Utah. Real salt is raw, undergoes no refining process and, as such, is tinged a light “pink” color by over 60 trace minerals still present. The first brew was a surprising success, and now my Lake Effect Gose is one of Proper Brewing’s best-selling beers. I’ve tasted gose brewed with traditional kosher salt, and something is not quite the same—the source of even something as commonplace and taken for granted as salt can make a big difference. I’m now using over 300 pounds of real salt every year to keep up with my customers’ taste for this sour, tangy brew that owes its flavor to the literal ground of the state of Utah.
Regaining History: Just Down the Street
At the end of a long brew day, using locally sourced ingredients is about peace of mind. We’ve all heard that buying local keeps your money in your community, but it’s become easy to take that as a cliché and lose the real human impact there. If you buy a beer with local ingredients, those dollars are being passed from the brewers directly on to local suppliers, whether it’s farmers or other local artisans like coffee roasters or chocolate makers. I feel better when I can establish relationships that improve where I live, and I’m happier when I can buy products that represent the place where they were made and the people who made them. I believe It’s about reversing the trend of the 20th century toward homogenized standard products, and instead finding unique elements from each place that can make products special.
2400 Zion – Mount Carmel Hwy,
Springdale, UT 84767
Zion Brewery has gone through more than a few changes over the years. But with a fresh start, the gloves are off for Utah’s southernmost brewery. Located in Springdale, the gateway to one of our state’s most famous and scenic national parks, the brewery has ample opportunity to capitalize on the booming tourism business of the area. Zion Canyon Brewing Company, as the brewery was originally called, was founded and owned by Dale Harris, who oversaw its inception and operated as Head Brewer. Harris expanded, opening a brew pub and even bottling several core brands like Virgin Stout and Jamaican Lager for distribution as far north as Salt Lake City. With expansion came additional cost, and Harris sought some investors, most of whom left the company within a year. One who didn’t was Brooks Pace, owner of the Majestic View Lodge in Springdale, the basement of which currently houses the brewery. By 2013, Harris was gone, and Pace had purchased the entire brewery, bringing in new staff to help with quality and sales. Jeremy Baxter started in late 2013 and assumed full Head Brewer responsibilities in 2014, while Brooks’ son, Cris Pace, began managing the brewery.
The brewery lost some ground before the current team took over. A change was needed in the way the brewery operated, and sacrifices had to be made. “We had to cut down to bare bones, [so] we dropped our distributor and scrapped the bottling line,” Pace says. “We wanted to get our keg line solid and pretty much started from scratch.” That meant reorganizing the brewery from the floor up: cleaning tanks and other equipment, reformulating recipes and improving practices across the board. “It was exciting and very stressful and very demanding, but I was up for the challenge,” Baxter says of the long hours and difficult work required. “It took a long time with me down here hustling and fine-tuning for the reputation to start to build.” And slowly but surely, the ground that had been lost was starting to be earned back.
Some breweries have a hard time emerging from a setback like the newly rebranded Zion Brewery experienced, but having the right people in the right places can make all the difference. With the return of quality and exciting beers, it was becoming tough for Baxter to keep up. After a few candidates came and went, Baxter hired Jay Mecham as his Assistant Brewer, and the impact was immediate. “He came in when we were so far behind the eight ball and learned so fast,” Baxter says. “The quality and attention to detail was so good that I know for a fact [that] everything is being done correctly.” Both Baxter and Pace agree that a key element to their progress has been Sales and Distribution Manager Frank Giammalva, who came on in late 2016 to help handle the increased demand for Zion Brewery’s beer. “He’s been a great pickup for us,” Pace says, “getting new keg accounts left and right.” The passion that each of these team members brings with them to work is palpable, and they have good reason to be excited.
With excellent staff and the right leadership, Zion Brewery shifted the focus back to the beer, and Baxter’s continued devotion to improvement shows in the draft list available at the Zion Canyon Brew Pub right at the mouth of Zion Canyon National Park in Springdale, less than three miles from the brewery. There are many to highlight, but something that jumps out immediately is Foray, a kettle-soured ale flavored with pomegranate. This adventurous ale is technically difficult to brew, but Baxter wasn’t daunted. “It’s so great to have something beyond what people expect, especially from a small, little brewery,” he says. Early batches of this beer earned them recognition and interest at last year’s SLUG Mag on Tap beer festival in Salt Lake City, the first event that the brewery had been able to participate in for several years. In addition, there are some reborn classics like Baxter’s newer take on the Jamaican Lager and new additions like the Echo Canyon Session IPA, a favorite of Pace’s.
The brewery produced just over 1,100 barrels of beer last year and sold all of it to regional accounts, many located in Springdale itself, but also as far afield as St. George, Cedar City and Kanab. This year, Baxter hopes to do closer to 1,500 barrels, and thoughts of expansion and the future are definitely on everyone’s mind. “We have one more bright tank coming in June, and that will give us another 30 barrels a month, maybe more,” he says of 2018. The team is also beginning to talk about bottling and canning again, distribution and even doing some high-point beers for sale at the brewery or in liquor stores. “We’re taking things a step at a time,” says Pace. “We’ve learned from past mistakes: If you reach too far, it can bite you.” But with the patience, energy and love for the craft that this small brewery exhibits, don’t count on them losing ground anytime soon. Look for Zion Brewery beers the next time you’re down exploring the area’s amazing natural heritage, and raise a pint for the hardworking Utahns who make it happen.
With the bevy of new distilleries opening in Utah and more of their products hitting the shelves all the time, there’s a lot to sort through. Here’s a handy set of reviews to save you time on your next trip to the state stores. Imbibe safely!
Beehive Organic Vodka
Description: This straightforward-looking liter bottle is exactly what I like to see when looking for vodka. No gimmicks, frills or attitude. Besides notifying us that its contents are certified organic, it’s somewhat unassuming. Clear spirits are best shown off like that. The nose is slightly sweet and mineral, with a hint of complementary grass. The flavor is similar with a rich mouthfeel, which is round but not sticky. The finish is clean, with a bit of grass and not quite dry.
Overview: Vodka is divisive; many use it specifically for its “lack” of flavor. But a really good vodka is a thing of beauty: clean, smooth and pure tasting. Ice cold, few things are more refreshing. It’s nice to see a local company doing a great job of distilling this unappreciated spirit. Many companies merely filter or even just repackage neutral spirits distilled elsewhere as vodka, but this is from scratch, the real deal.
Brigham Spice Rum
Description: This handsome amber rum emits an aroma of marshmallow and clove right off the bat, with some vanilla sweetness. The flavor is dry by contrast, while still showing off the spices. Clove and a bit of nutmeg are dominant with the aforementioned vanilla being a constant through-note. It’s not as creamy as it might sound, with a rich, fruity element running as another layer; subtly tropical, without being bright.
Overview: Distillery 36’s normal Brigham rum is one of my favorites, with its grassy sugarcane notes and clean finish, but I was skeptical of the spiced rum. It’s just not usually my favorite spirit to drink or mix, often too sweet or fake-tasting. I was pleasantly surprised, and with the underlying quality here, I shouldn’t have been. Their clear use of top quality spices and the excellent base rum make this imminently drinkable, though I’ll still prefer to mix it.
Uncharted Series Barrel-Rested Gin
New World Distillery
Description: This refreshing take on gin is golden or just amber from its brief time in a barrel, but interestingly, drinks more like a London dry than most aged gins. The aroma is strong pine and juniper up front with hints of mint and cardamom. The flavor is clean and dry with some light hints of oaky vanilla, but it’s not mellow. Lemongrass, grapefruit pith and some spruce round out the snappy finish.
Overview: Barrel gins are tricky, with many examples failing to balance the refreshing sharpness of the herbs with the mellowing process of the barrel. The quality of the 100-percent-corn-base spirit shows through on this one, helping bridge the gap. Being especially clean and crisp, the botanicals are barely suppressed at all by the tannins and caramels from the oak. The result is that it’s immediately ready to be sipped, and it’s mostly a shame this will get put into a mixed drink more than it should. This is a small-batch offering available only at New World Distilling in Eden, Utah.
Wasatch Blossom Utah Tart Cherry Liqeur
New World Distillery
Description: This elegant, etched-glass bottle is worth picking up on its own, even without the remarkable liqueur inside. The deep-ruby liquid pours just a little viscous, but not syrupy, with hints of garnet at its lightest. The aroma is deep cherrywood, some gradd, chokecherries and bark, really allowing the earthiness of the cherries to mix well with the agave elements. Sweet, but not cloying, almost tickling your tongue with its depth.
Overview: Being stronger than your average liqeur (64 proof as apposed to 40 proof), allows Wasatch Blossom to hold its own in a mixed context better than most. That being said, it’s delightful to just sip, neat or on the rocks. New World has again chosen wisely by pairing the local Montmorency cherries with agave spirit base and agave nectar to sweeten. The naturally earthy flavors blend together well and create something unique. The tartness of the fruit is lost, so make sure to add some acidity when mixing.
Call me selfish, but I want the city I live in to be the coolest. I’ve traveled all over the country, usually enjoying healthy portions of local beer and food, and I greedily covet any given ethnic cuisine, restaurant concept or beer style that I can’t find an equivalent for back home in Utah. One such trend that I’ve envied and craved over all others was the pairing of small-brewery taprooms with a rotating cast of food trucks to create casual but exciting social experiences. The brewery handles the location and the beer while the trucks satisfy patrons’ hunger with an ever-changing lineup of foods. This model has sprung up everywhere, from Washington, D.C., to Portland, Oregon, to Austin, Texas, and people are embracing the diversity of options it provides. A. Fisher Brewing Company opened its doors to a ravenously thirsty public in February and is the first to attempt this model in Salt Lake.
One reason for this direction, says co-owner Tim Dwyer, is a lower overhead cost. “The food truck is our kitchen,” he says over the bustling noises of the crowded taproom. It’s a Thursday evening, the after-work crowd has the bartenders busy pouring beer, and a line has formed at the the Chow Truck parked out front. “We had no restaurant experience and no desire to do that,” says co-owner Tommy Fisher Riemondy. “Plus, more brewpubs end up failing than ever succeed.” The team of four friends responsible for Fisher travelled when they were planning their brewery and have seen this model succeed. Examples like Renegade Brewing Co. in Denver, Colorado, and Marble Brewery in Albuquerque, New Mexico, helped to make it clear that “there was some other way of doing this than being a brewpub,” says co-owner and Head Brewer Colby Frazier. Another reason is the freedom: “We wanted to focus on one thing and do it as well as we can,” says co-owner Steve Brown, “and none of us have kitchen experience.”
But just because it had succeeded elsewhere doesn’t mean that it was easy. Aside from the unique alcohol laws in Utah, there were and still are plenty of challenges. “Trying to explain it to bankers and investors was hard,” says Frazier. “‘Can I buy it at Smith’s?’ or ‘So you’ll have a restaurant?’ were questions we got a lot. It was hard to convey to people who hadn’t seen it out of state.” Frazier also handles booking the food-truck schedule, and in the beginning, it was unclear how it would work. “[Food trucks asked us], ‘How many people do you expect?’ and we really didn’t know,” he says, “but they’ve all been super reliable, and when they weren’t sure about us yet, they still came. They didn’t make us guarantee anything.” Now that Fisher is open, the learning curve continues. “The waste, the styrofoam and plastic really bummed me out,” says Brown. The taproom has started providing washable service items to the food trucks to attempt to minimize the waste. “We’re still figuring out what works—plastic baskets, trays, silverware,” Brown says.
The evident hard work and attention to detail at Fisher is paying off as well. Over several visits, I spoke to many customers, and for most, it was not their first visit. Waiting in line at the Chow Truck to order tacos, Fisher guest Erin Bertram says, “Coming straight from work, having the option of food that’s local is great.” Paul Vatterott and Lauren Gedlinske were on their fourth visit, and the diversity of food options provided by the trucks is a big incentive. “We look up who’ll be here,” says Gedlinske. “It’s always a different, rotating menu.” And that variety seems to be a large part of the charm. “We get on Instagram and check,” says Vatterott. “It’s a cool model, two small local businesses working together for mutual benefit.” Local electronic-music-producing duo Mondaine & DComplex live a few blocks away and make it in frequently. “They’re right in our ‘hood—we walked over,” says Mondaine before taking a swig of her pale ale to wash down some of the Chow Truck’s excellent calamari. DComplex says, “We’ve been here a few nights in a row. It’s a different menu every night.”
A. Fisher Brewing Company has been a runaway success so far, admittedly having trouble keeping up with the consumption of their beer, having added at least one new fermenter just two months after opening, with plans for more already. A big part of that success is the loyalty that they’ve earned by providing their customers with something that can’t be found anywhere else in Salt Lake. This model may not be tried and true here yet, but the benefits like keeping it local and keeping costs low are numerous, and perhaps the greatest is sheer variety. “It reflects the brewery, the diversity of food for a diversity of beer,” says Dwyer, and I couldn’t agree more. No longer will I covet this type of setup in other cities—now we have it here in Utah. The only question is: Where will the next one be?