Utah Brewers Guild: How Liquid Craft Influences a City

Food: Interviews & Features

After first challenging herself to try the 75 beers on tap at her college town’s local bar, Cassie Slattery, Executive Director of the Utah Brewers Guild (UBG), is jonesing to make an impact on the already awesome beer scene in Utah. The nonprofit protects and promotes Utah’s craft beer industry. As its first full-time employee, Slattery is eager to increase Utah beer’s current $450 million local-economy contribution in order to educate on the state’s liquid craft art, and liaise for the public and other organizations. She provided us behind-the-scenes craft brew details and intrigued us with details on Fluid Art, the beer-and-art pairing event at the Utah Museum of Contemporary Art taking place this fall.

SLUG: Cassie, why is the Executive Director position with UBG perfect for you?
Cassie Slattery: I come from the nonprofit world, with experience in advocacy, fundraising, event planning and nonprofit organization. I really love bringing people and groups together to focus on how we can solve a problem or make something better, and there are so many opportunities for that with the UBG, and this provides an outlet for my competitiveness.

SLUG: How does UBG grow the local beer scene in Utah?
CS: Our goal is to show the economic impact of the craft beer industry and the positive benefits we are making on the local economy. Utah’s 27 breweries (either operating or in the planning stages) employ thousands of people who receive a living wage. Brewers of all levels and experience are coming to Utah to create excellent craft beer, and there is still room for more.

SLUG: What makes the UBG and UMOCA’s Fluid Art fundraiser such a success?
CS: Craft beer and contemporary art are natural pairs, creating something bucking old traditions in favor of innovations and the pursuit of something new and great. Craft brewers tend to have a strong renegade spirit, which connects them to contemporary artists who push the boundaries of the old standbys. Innovation, creativity and the rejection of the norm are terms that can define both brewers and artists, making Fluid Art a perfect union between the two. … No [Fluid Art] event is ever the same—the art, participating brewers and beer poured at each event changes, allowing the opportunity to expand our reach to new audiences.

SLUG: As the UBG’s first paid employee, how do you anticipate growing the nonprofit over the next five years?
CS: So many ways! There are certainly a lot of challenges facing brewers here, but I am working hard to show all Utahns that the craft beer industry provides a multitude of benefits to the local economy and the cultural fabric here. I’ll be working with the legislature on molding smart alcohol policy that makes sense and creates positive change—one of the big things I’ll be working on is to legalize beer flights next session. I want to continue to support new breweries that open their doors, making sure they have the resources and support to be successful.

SLUG: How do you feel the community embraces local brewers?
CS: One of the many things I love about Utah is our incredible support for all things local, and the craft brewers are no different. The community is incredibly supportive of new breweries. It says a lot about the local scene that new breweries can open up and pretty quickly find success while brewing quality, amazing beer. While the scene in Utah is growing, I don’t think we are near the saturation point affecting other craft brewery centers like Portland, Asheville or my home state of Michigan. There is still a ton of opportunity for new breweries to find their niche. It is one of my goals that Utah is seen as a craft beer destination, and with the immense amount of tourism here, Utah breweries really have a chance to show the world the incredible brews available here. Within the national craft beer community, Utah brewers are consistently recognized for the quality of their beer, and many breweries here win numerous awards while up against some of the powerhouses in the industry. I think that shows the strength of the quality of beer being produced here.

SLUG: Do you have a favorite style of beer?
CS: Picking a favorite style of beer is like picking a favorite child! My drinking styles really vary with the weather and seasons—the heat of the summer definitely calls for a pilsner, I’m always up for a rye, and hefeweizen was the first craft beer style I really remember loving. There are days when I crave something big and hoppy, and days when I snuggle up with a stout. One style that I wasn’t familiar with before moving to Utah is gose, which I find to be a pretty perfect Utah beer for the outdoor lifestyle here. There’s nothing like cracking open a gose after hiking Grandeur Peak or at the end of a ski day.

Indulge in Fluid Art’s art-and-beer pairings at UMOCA this fall. Visit utahmoca.org/fluid-art for tickets and more upcoming information concerning specific dates and times. To follow the UBG’s latest events and more, follow them on Instagram (@utahbrewers) or Facebook. And remember, there is always something great on tap!

Editor’s note: Since the publication of this article, UMOCA and UBG have pushed the Fluid Art event back until the fall. The article has been updated with necessary changes.