Thom Garwood was a music composition student at the University of Utah and worked as a cook at Sage’s Cafe and Super Natural. He was looking for something different to do but didn’t really want a traditional 9 to 5. He started playing with recipes using different ingredients for a ginger beer. He felt his ginger recipe could be a unique addition to the local food community, because he’d looked and hadn’t seen anything like what he came up with. He gave out samples and sold it at the Farmers Market.
From those beginnings Garwood’s Ginger Beer was born. He now runs it out of a small warehouse in West Valley, with vats for mixing and a bottling machine. Thom manages the whole operation single handedly. He does everything from mixing the recipes, bottling, marketing and distribution.
“I like playing around with flavors. The basic idea is to make a more full-flavored drink than what is typically on the market. I’m looking for a full, spicy ginger flavor,” he says.
He felt the ginger spice could be overpowering, so he added citrus to balance it out, making it more full-flavored. He experimented between 8 to 9 months before he felt he had a product that would work well enough to allow a full-time business.
Thom markets by taking samples of his product to local stores and restaurants. He also networks through the contacts he met during his days as a cook.
He started distributing to a handful of outlets such as Liberty Heights Fresh, Caffe Niche and Trio. He plans local promotional events around the summer and winter Farmers Market. He now has his brew in Harmons, Caputo’s, Jade Market and local coffee shops. He has even branched out to bars, where his ginger beer is on tap.
There are currently two strengths of ginger beer—mild and spicy. The spicy variety has twice as much ginger as the mild version. Thom continues to experiment by blending assorted local fresh fruits and produce. Some of the flavors he has planned are black currant with basil, grapefruit, and honey and blood orange.
Garwood’s fills about 500 bottles per week, and since the drink’s foundation is fresh juice, Thom likes to keep the local products he uses as fresh as possible, bottling and getting it out right away.
Thom puts in more than 60 hours a week, but it doesn’t feel like a 9 to 5 because he loves what he’s doing.
Story by Connie Lewis