Beer Stories

A Utahan Goes on a Bike Trip to Europe and Discovers European Beer

In my twenties I biked from Paris to the farms in Amiens, onward through the North of France into the Belgium and the Netherlands. Along the way I discovered European beer. I found that every decent-sized town had a Cathedral to worship God, and a brewery to worship what God and man produce in tandem—great…


Travelling France by bicycle and discovering European beer. Photo by Richard Markosian.

Trip to Europe:

In my early twenties, a girl I studied with asked me where I had “traveled.” I replied that most summers we traveled to Lake Powell, and sometimes we had family reunions where I traveled to Saint George. I told her that three times I visited cousins in Oregon, traveling through Idaho to get there.

She told me she had traveled to Paris, Frankfurt, Munich, and Vienna with her parents. But more recently she had returned from a five-country backpacking tour all alone, staying in hostels.

“In Europe? Alone?” I asked in disbelief.

“Yes,” she added, “And I’d highly recommend it. You should go … alone,” she said, while giving me a slightly condescending look. Perhaps she didn’t want to date this unsophisticated Utah boy.

In retrospect, I realize she was actually offering me a cure for my “Utah bubble-boy syndrome.” I was a provincial. I wasn’t cultured because I hadn’t traveled. I loved European history from books. I should do as Rick Steves and find out what I was missing.

I man I met told me he had taken a bike with pannier bags and camping gear through Europe for a month. He said there were plenty of safe campgrounds and bike paths everywhere. “Through every town, village and countryside are bike paths,” he said. I bought a book, France by Bike. I bought all the gear and outfitted my mountain bike with street tires. I was on my way.

It took two years before I finally decided to visit Europe alone. I biked from Paris to the farms in Amiens. Onward through the North of France into the Belgium and the Netherlands where the language and currency and license plates changed three times. Along the way I discovered European beer. I found that every decent-sized town had a Cathedral to worship God, and a brewery to worship what God and man produce in tandem—great beer.

Breweries sponsor the soccer teams. Their logos are plastered around the city squares, and every major street fair or big party in various cities is sponsored by local breweries. A few of my favorites are Castelain, Au Baron brewery, Motte-Cordonnier brewery, Etoile du Nord, and St. Bernardus brewery. The breweries and the good beer in the North of France and into Belgium are known throughout Europe, and many date back hundreds of years. I wished (in 2001) that we had something, anything remotely like that in Utah.

Beer in Utah:

It seems that most cities in the U.S also noticed our beer deficiency in the early 2000s. Beer is not to be produced by mega corporations in million-ton vats by publicly traded conglomerates on a stock market. Beer is to be locally-crafted and consumed by the locals for locals, and for tourists when they travel and visit. It should be exported as a representation of everything that reminds one of a particular place. The rise of craft brewing in the U.S. demonstrates that we are finally getting this.

The U.S. is actually becoming famous overseas for our craft beer, and now Utah is becoming famous within the Continental US for some of our beers. Across state lines, a lot of beer consumers know Wasatch, Squatters, Uinta and Epic beers.

Our beers are the flavor profile of Utah, which is now home to 27 craft breweries. The rise of craft beer represents real social progress. Yet Colorado is home to 348 breweries. Utah is ranked 37th in the nation, and Colorado is ranked second behind California. Why is this? Is Colorado’s water better than ours? Certainly not. Do they have better amber waves of grain? No, we have plenty of grain. It’s our laws that suck. And it’s about time they improve. And our legislators see that trying to stop culture and history from entering Utah is squelching the possibility of more Utah’s cities actually becoming cool and worth visiting.

Cities in Utah absent a brewery are missing out: Provo, Saint George, Cedar City, Helper, and Manti residents, get with the program! Seriously! Launch your own breweries. If you brew it, we will come and we will drink. We will have a better reason to see our own state. Every town looks better after a beer. And to our LDS friends, beer is much safer and healthier than painkillers and antidepressants!

Utah Breweries in Chronological Order:



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