Utah Stories

Utah Beer Best in Nation Thanks to LDS Church?

Utah’s thriving craft brew industry seems stunning coming from a state where the predominant religion frowns on consuming alcohol. 


Photos courtesy of Bewilder Brewing Company.

What began as a fun hobby for two twenty-somethings blossomed into a thriving brewpub that as of this summer serves up its own award-winning craft beer.

“We just started home brewing with little extract kits like most people do,” Ross Metzger said of the pastime he and business partner Cody McKendrick enjoyed more than a decade ago.

But this June kicked their notability up a notch when Bewilder Brewing Company came away from the North American Brewing Association Festival in Idaho Falls with two bronze medals and a pair of golds.

Their Kolsch and ESB brews came in third place, while their Double Hazy IPA and Wee Heavy beers both took first.

“As far as I know, we’re the first national gold medal winner in Utah to get a gold for that style of beer. That’s a pretty big deal for us,” Metzger said of their super-hoppy IPA. 

Getting the gold for their Wee Heavy beer also felt significant, Metzger said, because it resulted from a collaborative effort with Strap Tank Brewery in Lehi.

Cody McKendrick, Ross Metzger, and Justin Field of Bewilder Brewing.

“It’s a Scottish ale with high-alcohol content. We did an extended boil that kind of caramelizes the sugar and darkens the color of the beer,” Metzger said, noting that the process “makes for a really long brew day.”

“So we did part, Strap Tank did part, then we mixed the beers together, fermented it and ended up winning a gold,” Metzger said.

But Metzger noted that he’s equally proud of the bronze honors their Kolsch and ESB beers received.

“Those are traditional-style beers that are fairly nuanced,” Metzger said. “And they’re our core beers what we have on tap all the time.” Not to mention they’re gluten-reduced, he added.

The nonprofit North American Brewers Association formed in 1996 to “secure beer’s role in our culture and society through the advancement of brewing quality and consumer education.”

The organization’s list of this year’s winners included 138 breweries from 22 states who nabbed a total of 288 awards, with Utah boasting 17 brewmakers and 51 medals.

Utah’s thriving craft brew industry seems stunning coming from a state where the predominant religion frowns on consuming alcohol. 

But Metzger said he’s not surprised by Utah’s quality of production.

“(Alcohol) laws are influenced by the LDS population, obviously, but it’s actually driven Utah to make a little bit better beer,” Metzger said, recalling the state’s former 3.2 percent alcohol law that lawmakers lifted in November 2019. 

“You couldn’t brew a beer on tap over 4 percent in volume,” Metzger said. “When you’re limited to that, you have to have really good production and technique to make good tasting beer with really low alcohol.” 

445 S 400 W, Salt Lake City, UT


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