Utah Stories

Salt Lake Breweries Produce Innovative Combinations and Crowd-Pleasing Brews

Three Local Breweries are producing sell-out beers and brews.


Brian Erickson – head brewer at Bohemian. Photos by Steven Vargo.

Bohemian Brewery and Grill

Brian Erickson is the head brewer at Bohemian Brewery and Grill, and he is excited about the small batches of brews they have been putting out. “We’re finding new ways to get small beers into cans. We’ve got new hops coming in from Germany who are following the Americans with wild new hops. We can brew some fun, different beers. We’ve got a couple of sour beers that have been well received.”

Bohemian currently brews about 4,000 barrels a year. They’ve got a large brewery, “big and impressive,” according to Brian, but they allow their brews to mature longer than most breweries—six to eight weeks—which Erickson sees as “slow, but worth it.”

The Bohemian Berlinner Weisse is a top seller along with Cottonwood Common, a spin on the California Common. Both are big hits and will likely be back again.

Erickson is also looking forward to Bohemian’s Lagerpalooza Homebrew competition in May. It will be the third annual all-lager brewing competition in collaboration with Salt City Brew Supply.

Erickson learned his craft when he moved to Utah to go to college. In Brian’s words, “As a young, thirsty college student, my roommates and I learned to home brew out of necessity. They all grew up and got real jobs while I worked in wine cellars for a couple of years. I missed Utah, and when I moved back, I got a job at Bohemian and worked my way up to head brewer.”

Brian Coleman and Clay Turnbow of 2 Row Brewing.

2-Row Brewing

According to 2 Row Brewing president, Brian Coleman, the company has grown a lot in the past year. They’ve entered the draft beer market, developed a line of 4% styles, added kegging equipment and started to distribute drafts in bars and restaurants. They also have plans to get into grocery stores in the future and are developing recipes and designing a label. Their expansion is in part due to the popularity of their brews.

According to Coleman, “Last month a couple of our new ones sold out quickly on the same day of release, some within hours. Our Darky Alley Imperial Stout was a huge hit. I believe it was the strongest beer made in Utah at 13.4% for the non-barrel aged and 14.9% for barrel aged. There was a huge line for the barrel-aged in the middle of a snowstorm just to get two bottles of this beer.”

They’ve also been experimenting with a New England IPA style that is trending and popular on the East Coast. Coleman explains that the brewing process is different from other IPA’S by being unfiltered, “very hazy, very juicy, but not bitter. It is made with a lot of citrus hops. Some trends don’t catch on in Utah, and I felt it was a gamble because it was so different. We tried a relatively small batch and it was our fastest selling beer to date.”

Coleman would love to see the legislature change the definition of beer in Utah and thinks it could be coming. “Oklahoma changed their laws and it could lead to changes here,” he says.

Trent Fargher – Shade of Pale Brewery

Shades of Pale Brewery

Trent Fargher of Shades of Pale Brewery does a little bit of everything. In Trent’s words, “Head janitor is really what I do and I’m working my way up to head lettuce washer. In reality, I handle the brewing and almost everything else, including cleaning and some of the sales and marketing.”

Fargher started in his kitchen as a home brewer. When the economic downturn happened, he was at a crossroads in his life and decided to start a brewery. “File the paperwork and see what happens.” He envisioned a small tap room where he could make beer to serve over the counter, even though Utah law complicates things with strength restrictions. His goal is to stay small, even though “making a living tends to force you to get big.”

Fargher has toyed with the idea of buying a canning device but explains that the real issue is how expensive it is to get a beer on the shelves in Utah. “In other states,” he says, “breweries can sell directly to liquor stores, but here you have to first submit a sample to the state for them to taste and it can take up to six months. Then, if it passes, you are still handicapped by the space allowances. The state requires sales of $20,000 on a particular line or they drop it. Bigger guys have the money to advertise so they sell more product.”

Shades of Pale’s top sellers this past year have been their Salt City Citrus IPA and Belgian Tripel. Both brews sold out within two weeks of release.


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