As an East Coast microbrew drinker and confirmed beer snob, I was understandably concerned before my recent trip to northern Utah; the Beehive State is well-known for its arcane alcohol laws, as influenced by the omnipresent Church of Latter Day Saints. I needn’t have worried. The greater Salt Lake City area runs foamy with tasty brews.
The Red Rock Brewing Company, at 254 South 200 West, in Salt Lake City, was our introduction to Utah brewpubs. Since it was cold and rainy that day, I started with the Oatmeal Stout, mild and more porter-like than stout, and then had a mellow Nut-Brown Ale with my lunch, the spinach, bacon and too rich Gruyere cheese pizza special. Mr. Mouse first had a pint of the inoffensive Amber Ale and then moved on to the much superior IPA Junior, so called because it has less alcohol than a non-Utahan IPA. He also had a pizza (pepperoni) and we both agreed that the pizza crusts could have been thinner and crispier.
I think my favorite brewpub of the trip had to be Squatter’s Pub Brewery, on 147 West Broadway in Salt Lake City, just around the corner from the Red Rock. On our first visit, stopping for beer-consumption only, I had the Emigration Amber Ale, which was nice and not too hoppy, while Mr. Mouse tried their Full Suspension Pale Ale. This is an excellent pale ale, extremely drinkable. The second visit to Squatter’s was a few days later on our last night in Utah, and we decided to eat as well as imbibe. The Chasing Tail Golden ale, darker than most golden ales and with plenty of hops, went very nicely with my chile-rubbed ahi tacos (served with chile verde, pureed black beans and innocuous yellow rice). Mr. Mouse had the jambalaya, to which he added some of my chile verde for a needed extra kick, and washed it down with more pale ale. I wish I hadn’t been too full to try the Captain Bastard’s Oatmeal Stout which looked delicious and was recommended by the local guy sitting next to us.
Roosters Brewing Company and Eatery, on historic 25th Street in Ogden, was the third stop on our northern Utah brew tour. We ordered the Polygamy Pale Ale, which was too hoppy for Mr. Mouse’s taste, and the Two-Bit Amber, which is a fine if unremarkable, red ale. We both went with the specials for dinner: the chicken chimichangas which had a lot of flavorful shredded chicken wrapped in crispy flour tortilla packages, and the chicken cordon bleu, also reported as very tasty.
The Wasatch Brew Pub and Eatery in swanky Park City is partnered with Squatter’s as the Utah Brewer’s Cooperative and, as such, shares an offsite brewery and bottling facility. I had the seasonal pumpkin ale, which was strongly but not overwhelmingly spiced, accompanied by the fish tacos with beer-battered cod, shredded cabbage, tomatoes and pico de gallo. Mr. Mouse went with the Evolution Amber Ale and the chipotle chicken enchiladas, which could have been a little hotter chile-wise.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the two excellent saloons that we also found: the Shooting Star and the No Name. Utah's oldest continually operated saloon (built in 1879), the Shooting Star in Huntsville, is packed to the ceiling with antiques, knickknacks, old photographs and a stuffed and mounted St. Bernard’s head; the 72-year old proprietress was on-site and very friendly. The taps pour only Budweiser, Bud Light and Coors, but there is an impressive selection of bottled beer, including the very good local Cutthroat Ale. The No Name Saloon, on historic Main Street in Park City, is similarly filled with old stuff and the antique building itself is incredible with high ceilings, vaulted brick ovens and a gorgeous wooden bar. We managed to grab one seat at the crowded bar – when its former occupant got up to play on the indoor shuffleboard court - and each had a Cutthroat Ale, this time on tap.
Greater Salt Lake City’s microbreweries produce outstanding beers, far better than might be expected. With only four of Utah’s twelve brewpubs visited during my trip, I have reason to return to see if the rest of the state’s suds are equally as enjoyable.
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