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The Story of Wasatch Brewery: The Pioneers of the Craft Beer Brewing in Utah

In post-prohibition Utah, there had not been a brewery since the original Fisher Brewing Co. closed in the 1960s. That is, until Greg Schirf came to the Beehive State and opened Wasatch Brewery in 1986.


Greg Schrif, founder of Wasatch Brewery
Greg Schrif, founder of Wasatch Brewery. Photos by Dung Hoang.

In post-prohibition Utah, there had not been a brewery since the original Fisher Brewing Co. closed in the 1960s. That is, until Greg Schirf came to the Beehive State. After graduating from Wisconsin’s Marquette University with philosophy and journalism majors and minors, respectively, and still only 21 years old, Greg Schirf hit the road, literally. He hitchhiked from Milwaukee to Utah to join his brother who’d already moved here, and eventually landed in Park City. Speaking of himself and his brother, Schirf said, “We were sort of dirtbag hippies and we moved into a town that we were comfortable with.”

Working at various jobs in and around Park City in the mid-70s ― as a newspaper reporter, real estate developer, in construction, and traveling as a journalist with the U.S. Ski Team ― he hadn’t really found his niche. But remember, Schirf is from Milwaukee, and what is that great city synonymous with? BEER, of course!

Schirf says that he was “a homebrewer at heart.” So, he decided to open a brewery. In Utah. In the 80s.

When he took his business plan to the banks for financing, Schirf says the response was that they always knew he was “a little special.” They thought he was nuts. And Schirf is a little nuts; a contrarian at heart and a bit of a trickster. He enjoys a good laugh, is self-deprecating, and cherishes the sort of irreverence that has become a calling card of his Wasatch Brewery.

Never one to be told that he can’t do something, Schirf succeeded in opening his Utah brewery ― the first in decades ― in 1986. Their motto: “We drink our share and sell the rest.”

Schirf and his brewery have come a long way since the day he went to the DABC and told them he needed a brewpub license. Their response: “What’s a brewpub?”

Today, Wasatch sells their beer in more than 20 states, including Utah, and produces 75,000 to 80,000 barrels of beer every year.

On October 22, 2021, Wasatch Brewery turned 35 years old and celebrated with throwback prices for draft beers and giveaways co-sponsored by Ski Utah at both brewery locations in Park City and Salt Lake City.

Through the years, Wasatch and its brewing partner, Squatters, has garnered a truckload of awards and prizes for beers like Polygamy Porter, Devastator Double Bock, Great Deceiver Imperial Pilsner, Apricot Hefeweizen, and others. This writer was particularly fond of the Raspberry Wheat beer that he consumed in vast quantities at the Park City Wasatch Brew Pub during the mid-90 when he was a fixture at the upstairs bar.

All of which makes me happy about the near future of Wasatch Brewery. Because, even as Greg Schirf and his gang look back fondly on the past 35 years, they’re not sitting still. Coming in the Spring of 2022, according to the brewers at Wasatch, is the Top of Main Rotating Series (referring to the top of Main Street in Park City, where the Wasatch Brew Pub is located). And their first new brew in the new series, I’m thrilled to report, will be a Raspberry Ale.

Congratulations to Greg Schirf and his gang on 35 years of misbehaving and supplying us all with bodacious brews. Here’s to 35 more sudsy years!


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