Steve Kirkland has been craft brewing since practically the beginning of the craft brewing movement. Originally a brewer for Sprecher, a Milwaukee brewery, back in 1987, Steve has been the brewmaster at Roosters in Ogden for the last two decades. Owners Kym and Pete Buttschardt brought him out here back when they first opened the restaurant and he’s been with them ever since.
According to Steve, finding a niche in Utah means one thing: “You want to brew a full-bodied beer that’s still 3.2 on tap and that can be a challenge, at least it was in the beginning.”
Roosters carries four on-tap selections year-round, as well as two rotating seasonals and, as of late 2013, they have “high points” which are available in bottles and come with a higher alcohol content than the allowed 3.2 for tapped beers. They launched three high points and now have five brews, including the brand new Iron Rooster, an Imperial Stout just released in January.
Roosters brews in both the Ogden and Layton locations but only bottles the high points in Layton, which in turn means that you can only purchase one to-go from that location – hey, that’s Utah for ya, confusing us with the liquor laws at every turn.
Both locations feature an almost identical brew system; together they produce about 700 barrels in a year. That’s “just about capacity for us” with the existing equipment, says Steve, and if they want to grow further he admits there’s a big conversation to have, because “if we want to grow like that we’ll need to have a dedicated brew facility rather than this brew-pub feel.” He’s not sure what the future will hold just yet, or maybe he’s just being modest about their plans – after all, he’s not one for frills and fluff. He’d much rather join up with other brewers to “celebrate beer” as he puts it, than to enter his brews into competitions and go head to head. “I just want to enjoy good beer.” Don’t we all.
Of their lineup, Steve says the Junction City Chocolate Stout has been like a “cult classic since the beginning,” with the Bees Knees Honey Wheat a close follower to that. His top pick from their high points is the Niner Bock.
“We still have a lot left in Utah…room to grow, a culture to permeate.” As far as Steve is concerned, the state is anything but oversaturated with microbrews. And he should know. When he’s on the road he likes to try anything and everything locally brewed he can find. “I’m still just experimenting. I’m not dedicated to any single beer that’s not my own. I’m always trying new things.”
Roosters beer is available at the two Roosters Brewing Co. brew pubs, the original on Historic 25th Street in Ogden, the other in Layton near the Layton Hills Mall. Additionally, diners will find Roosters on tap at the sister restaurant, Union Grill, also on 25th Street, and at several Weber County events throughout the year, including OFOAM, Harvest Moon, Roots and Blues Festival and more. This summer marks twenty years in the brewing industry and you can expect a grand party to celebrate later this year.