by Jacob Hodgen
Salt Lake City’s Diverse Homebrew Scene is Hoppin’
It wasn’t until 2009 that Utah legislators finally clarified the legality of homebrewing. However, the passage of House Bill 51, which now allows Utah residents to brew up to 200 gallons of beer a year in a household with two adults, didn’t phaze everyone.
ZZ Hops is one of Utah’s numerous and thriving homebrewing clubs that got it’s start long before the new law was passed. “Our club has been around since at least the 80’s,” says ZZ Hops President Mike Johnson. The clarification of the law was great, but even before the new law was passed, homebrewing was a thriving hobby in Salt Lake. There have always been homebrewing shops selling supplies around town.”
Based in the Salt Lake Valley, ZZ Hops is open to everyone and generally gains new members through word of mouth. Their members are diverse in age and their level of experience with brewing. “We have members in their early 20’s and some in the their 50s and 60’s. Everyone is welcome,” Johnson tells me.
Each month barley loving members take turns hosting a casual event at a member’s houses for an informal gathering and tasting. While some months the group will organize a theme, Johnson says that the club is about camaraderie and education first. “Everyone brings what they have made, no matter what style, so that other people can taste it and give feedback.”
Johnson tells me that homebrewers tend to be creative, and they will sometimes bring in experimental beers. “People will use a lot of interesting ingredients like spices, herbs, coffee, or licorice. Most of them turn out pretty well. You’re going out on a limb a bit when you use unusual ingredients. Recently a member brought in a dark lager flavored with spruce tips. People are always intrigued to try what people have created.”
While the monthly gatherings are typically casual by nature, many of the group’s members have won awards for their craftsmanship. “We have a lot of really great brewers in the club” say Johnson. One of the notable homebrewing events each year is the Pro-Am, which is run by the Brewer’s Association and pairs homebrewers with professional brewers. Homebrew recipes are scaled up to commercial size and then entered into the Great American Beer Festival. Last year ZZ Hops member Jerry McPhie was selected to team up with the Avery Brewing Company in Colorado. Together they produced a commercial-sized batch of his recipe for Roggenbier, a German style rye beer, which was then sold commercially and also served at the Great American Beer Festival in Denver. In 2009, Johnson paired up with Salt Lake’s own RedRock Brewery in the Pro-Am to create a Schwartzbier, which is a style of black lager.
One or two Salt Lake breweries, including Squatters Brewery, are looking at participating in the pro-am program this coming year. “It comes as a shock to many people, but Salt Lake is a great place for beer,” claims Johnson. “We have more great beers now than ever before, and they are all top notch and award-winning. It surprises people who come to Utah to see the wide range of breweries here. Utah brewers win more than their share of medals in competitions every year.” Homebrewers in Utah currenlty have two primary locations to stock up on supplies. The Beer Nut, which is located on 12th State Street in downtown Salt Lake City and (G3) Grains Grapes, and Grounds, located at 2340 Washington Blvd in Ogden. Both stores offer a wide variety of fresh ingredients, brewing supplies, and a knowledgeable staff to help out beginners.
With a little know-how and few tips from local homebrewing club, apprentice brewers can get started for under $100. The Beer Nut even offers a missionary discount! If beer isn’t to your liking, your inner sommelier can rest easy knowing that both locations also carry an extensive selection of winemaking kits and supplies. For the prohibitionist community, you can always buy homemade root beer and soda kits. With so many options, there really isn’t a better time to start brewing in the Beehive State.
Learn More About Homebrewing in Utah:
To learn more about ZZ Hops, contact Mike Hahn at: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Beer Nut: Homebrewing supplies http://www.beernut.com/zen-cart/
Grains Grapes, and Grounds: Homebrewing supplies