A woman in a Santa hat and an ugly Christmas sweater stands in front of a mic holding sheet music in one hand, a beer raised in the other.

Beer Choir Great Salt Lake: Where You’ll Never Drink (Or Sing) Alone

Beer & Spirits

In St. Louis, where Angie Keeton grew up, beer and breweries were just a part of life (“Anheuser-Busch territory,” she  reflects). One Christmas, she and all of her cousins woke up to a flock of three-foot-tall stuffed Busch eagles under the tree. Though she left St. Louis to classically train as a singer at Indiana University, beer remains a part of her life. Now, she has merged her passion for singing with her love of beer to establish the Great Salt Lake Chapter of the national organization Beer Choir.

The premise of Beer Choir is simple: people gather together at a brewery and sing from a customized hymnal, building community and making memories in the process. It’s free to join, though tips are appreciated, and anyone over 21 is welcome, whether or not they have singing experience. “They don’t even have to drink beer, “but just know that we’re gonna sing a lot about it,” Keeton laughs.

After living in Germany and Minneapolis (both with vibrant beer cultures of their own), Keeton’s husband landed a job at the University of Utah School of Music and they made the move to Salt Lake City. When public spaces began to reopen after the COVID-19 lockdown, Keeton, who had previously sung for the Minnesota and Utah operas, was eager for a way to reconnect with singing in the community.

Angie Keeton smiles holding a hymnal with beer in front of her.
Angie Keeton started Beer Choir in SLC to combine her passions for beer and singing in community. Photo: Logan Sorenson.

“They don’t even have to drink beer, but just know that we’re gonna sing a lot about it.”

She remembered hearing about Beer Choir in Minneapolis, where the flagship chapter is based, and learned it had grown to more than 40 chapters nationwide. Beer Choir’s success inspired her to start a Salt Lake chapter herself. “There’s a huge beer culture [here], there are so many breweries … and so many people who want to make music,” she says.

Through many years as a music educator, she’d noticed something she calls the Simon Cowell effect harsh criticism in the media is so commonplace that people have become nervous to sing in public. But, as she sees at her current job at the Utah Center for Vocology, there are significant health benefits to singing in community. “The research we do here [reveals] the mind, body and heart benefits … for people when they have the chance to make music with others,” she says. Beer Choir is a fun, low-stakes outlet to incorporate singing into daily life.

“There’s a huge beer culture [here], there are so many breweries … and so many people who want to make music.”

GSL Beer Choir is still in its infancy but Keeton says the first few meetups have been a great success. She credits several local figures with supporting her efforts: Rob Phillips, founder of RoHa Brewing Project, has offered his space to host meetups and Mikey and Steph from Beer Nerd Radio recently hosted Keeton on their podcast, spreading the word. Although breweries can sometimes feel like an exclusive space for young adults, GSL Beer Choir is challenging those assumptions by cultivating a space people of all ages can enjoy. A group of older women known as the “Golden Girls” attend, with a reserved sofa area in the corner of RoHa.

“For seniors who are experiencing loneliness or anxiety, singing together and making music in community has been shown in many studies … to improve their overall wellness,” Keeton says. The first time the Golden Girls came, members sang
a surprise song at the end of the night: the theme song from the show.

“The research we do here [reveals] the mind, body and heart benefits … for people when they have the chance to make music with others.”

Keeton has big plans for the future of the chapter. In May, they’ll sing at a new location, 2 Row Brewing, the first stop in their upcoming “Rotational Tap Series.” Beer Choir’s relationship with breweries is symbiotic, supporting them through patronage. “To bring in 50 people on a Monday night, that makes a difference on the bottom line for sure,” she says.

A favorite song among members is “You’ll Never Walk Alone” with the lyrics altered to “You’ll Never Drink Alone.” GSL Beer Choir ends their meetups by belting this tune. “[It’s] very good advice,” Keeton says. “Drink with a buddy and sing while you’re doing it.”

Keep up with the choir at gslbeerchoir.com and on Instagram at @gslbeerchoir; come out to sing on April 8 at RoHa or May 21 at 2 Row from 6:30–8:30 p.m.

Read more about local beer:
My Week With Epic Brewing Co.’s Big Bad Baptists
Designing a Brand With Strap Tank Brewery