Beehive Distilling: Creating a Community Space with High-Quality Gin

Beer & Spirits

In August of 2013, the efforts of friends Matt Aller, Chris Barlow and Erik Ostling paid off when Beehive Distilling became Utah’s first gin distillery since 1870, made possible by changes in the state’s legislation. The three co-owners saw an opportunity to give the community a high-quality spirit that wasn’t very popular locally at the time but was gaining tractions on an international level with the resurgence of craft cocktail culture. The best part of gin, the owners believe, is the flexibility in creating gins with different flavors compared to bourbons and whiskeys, which are expected to taste a specific way. Gin also doesn’t have to age, so Beehive was able to hit the market fairly quick.

After trying out dozens of recipes, the three landed on a winner they call Jack Rabbit Gin, made from seven botanicals that they believe embody the essence of Utah and the desert landscape—juniper, grains of paradise, horse root, lemon zest, coriander, sage and rose petals.

Making use of a small, 80-gallon still, Beehive Distilling’s gin is also created through a unique process. “At most places, it’s either vapor infusion or maceration,” Ostling says. “Chris kind of developed [a] hybrid because he felt like we took too much out of the sage, rose petals and lemon if it was actually in the pot. This is a little more nuanced flavor and it creates a better balance.”

 

Vincent Draper and the Culls perform at Beehive Distilling.
Photo: John Barkiple

“We weren’t that familiar with South Salt Lake when we got into this building, and since we’ve been working with them, it’s a great community around us.”

Aller believes people are attracted to Beehive Distilling for not only the high-quality gin but for the addition of the bar and patio area, which opened in September of 2019 and serves as a flagship for the brand and brings the community together. “People come here and are excited to find something a little bit off the beaten path, and it’s kind of a find that they are able to tell their friends about,” says Aller.

On the weekends, Beehive Distilling hosts food trucks that feature different cuisine options, and twice a month they hold small concerts featuring local artists such as Vincent Draper and the Culls. They also have used their space for blood drives and have let charities host events and mixers. On Wednesdays, there is a “break-even bottle” event where they’ll take a $150 bottle of whiskey or tequila and offer $7–8 shots out of a $150 bottle as a way for people to experience high-end liquors at a fraction of the cost or to give people a taste of a bottle they might want to give as a Christmas or birthday gift.

“We weren’t that familiar with South Salt Lake when we got into this building, and since we’ve been working with them, it’s a great community around us,” Ostling says. He notes how with improvements happening in town—making it more walkable and being so close to UTA stops—people can more readily experience breweries and distilleries outside of the downtown Salt Lake City scene.


“People come here and are excited to find something a little bit off the beaten path.”

While the people behind Beehive Distilling weren't familiar with South Salt Lake before opening, they've been delighted by the vibrant community.
Photo: John Barkiple

A favorite drink among customers is Beehive’s house gimlet, which uses an Asian pear simple syrup along with lime and garnished with a sage leaf, which Aller believes brings out the inherent sage flavor in their gin. Alongside their own spirits, the owners also carry products from other distilleries and breweries who do not have a bar, aiding other businesses in reaching a wider audience.

Beehive Distilling was recently a part of South Salt Lake’s Craftober Fest, an event highlighting the businesses and artists in the area. Looking ahead, the distillery is also thinking of potentially doing gallery nights to showcase local artists in the future. Stay in the loop with Beehive Distilling on Instagram @beehivedistilling and on Twitter @BeehiveDistill.