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Local Utah Breweries Expanding
August 20th, 2009

Despite laws, religion and the poor economy Utah's microbreweries are growing at an amazing pace.
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(First in a two-part series) by Richard Markosian

Wasatch Beers Owner Greg Schirf, Cindi Jones and brewmaster Dan Burick
Wasatch Beers Owner Greg Schirf, Cindi Jones and brewmaster Dan Burick

To say the words "Beer in Utah" in the same sentence was once as much of an oxymoron as saying "tight slacks" or "pretty ugly" or "Microsoft Works" -- it was sadly laughable. Considering less than 23 years ago there was not a single brewery, brew pub or beer producing business in Utah, it is amazing how so many businesses are flourishing in producing great quality locally-made Utah beer than ever before.

Despite economic conditions breweries and brew pubs are in the process of expansion. Utah Stories paid a visit to each one to get the low-down on what they are up to.

Bohemian Brewery

Bohemian Brewery has just expanded their brewing facility square footage by nearly double. Head Brewer Bobby Jackson explains that the immediate benefit is their keg washer and that they no longer required to use a separate facility in Woods Cross for storage of their cans and kegs. This reduces the amount of steps of filling containers from 8 to just 3 -- which Jackson said increases productivity substantially.

Bobbby Jackson: 23 year old head brewer for Bohemian Brewery has won several awards for his lager beers
Bobbby Jackson: 23 year old head brewer

Beginning in the fall, in addition to offering their Czech Pilsner in grocery stores Bohemian will also be offering their Venese Lager and Cherny Bock beers in their signature aluminum cans. Jackson said that last year they nearly maxed out their production capabilities with a staff of 4 producing 1709 barrels for the year. An amazing 40 percent of this beer was sold in house. If you tasted Bohemian draft beer in house you will understand why. The aging process produces a natural carbonation. And Bohemian doesn't just pour beer they practice the "art of the pouring". "A good beer especailly the lager takes four or five pours...Its an art. You can speed it up, but if you do speed it up you hurt the beer," said Bohemian's Owner Joe Petras. A "full head" a rich foamy top is a signature for Bohemian beer.

Bohemian Brewery was founded by Joseph Petras who is an immigrant from former Czechoslovakia. Petras maintains the old European methods of making beer -- using the best quality ingredients brewing and fermenting using time consuming and honored traditions. Bohemian's beers take about twice as long to produce as traditional beers, and they use a "double concocting" process for filtration. They offer their beers in four basic varieties: blond (pilsner), brunette (cherny bock), red (Viennese Lager) and sandy blond (hefeweizen). They are all beautiful and delicious.

Squatters & Wasatch Beer Coop

In 2006 Squatters made some big additions to their operations adding both the Squatters Park City Road House Pub and doubling the size of their downtown restaurant, taking over the second level of their own building. This was done to help sustain the incredible growth the popular brew pub and beer label have maintained.

Squatters downtown location is one of the highest volume local restaurants in Salt Lake City. Squatters Marketing Director Amy Coady said that despite supplying their pub from beer coop just a few miles away, they sometimes can't maintain supply to meet demand. Coady added that last January when the Outdoor Retailers Convention was being held concurrently with the Sundance Film Festival, "We had three taps that had 'sold out' signs, before the night was over." The high volume Squatters has grown accustomed to. Sustaining and satisfying the demand for their beers in stores and in bars is their next big hurdle.

Wasatch and Squatters beers have maintained a partnership for their brewing and bottling operations at 1763 South 300 West for the past 11 years (check). This facility has undergone improvements and additions since inception. This year they are beginning their most ambitious project with a $2.3 million building and bottling expansion which will increase output from 125 to 380 bottles per minute. It will be a completely automated system. Recently they purchased a turn-key bottling, labeling and packaging system from Italy which is currently en-route to SLC.

Why? Schirf says that both Squatters and Wasatch Beers draft and bottle sales have maintained a 15% annual increase for the past 5 years. "We are getting better at making great beers consistently." said Schirf. For the first time Schirf revealed that their annual sales are now exceeding $7 million. He said that the ratio of sales of beer sold on draft compared to bottles is 60% draft and 40% bottles. Wasatch and Squatters have just expanded into Nevada, but Schirf maintains that Utah will always be their core market.

Wasatch Beers will soon be offering a new summer beer "Hop Rising" a beer Schirf describes as "an ass kicking". The new label features Squatters brewer Jason Stock, with his long beard dressed as a farmer holding a hop on a pitch fork.

Redrock Brewing Co.

Rockrock brewery's current expansion is shrouded in secrecy. They didn't want to disclose the location of their new facility. Despite rumors that Redrock is planning on offering their beer in cans, Redrock Marketing Director Mike Brown said he is aware of these rumors but currently there are no plans for packaging their beer, instead Brown said "We want to have the opportunity to get the Redrock name out there on more taps in more places." Once up to full capacity their new facility will offer five times the production of their current operations. Considering the numerous awards Redrock has won it would seem a logical next step to offer their beer in bottles or cans. Head Brewer Kevin Templin has consistently produced award winning beers: recently they won the bronze in Czech pilsner at the North American Brew Festival at Idaho Falls they won a silver metal for their Northern German brown. Head Brewer Kevin Templin was recognized as one of America's best brewers from NABA (North American Brewers Association). All of Redrock's brew pubs offer a lively setting with great beers and food. They are currently choosing a location for a third Redrock brew pub

This article will be offered in a second part for our next issue of Utah Stories. The second part will feature Unita Brewing Co., Desert Edge Brew pub and Park City Brewing Company as well as a review on the new Beerhive Pub.

Redrock Brewing Company

More Information on local Utah Breweries

Bohemian Brewery


Wasatch Brew Pub & Brewery

Utah Brewers Cooperative

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