Bewilder Brewing: Childhood Friends Realize Lifelong Dream

Bewilder Brewing - Copyright Bewilder Brewing
Bewilder Brewing

The anticipation is palpable. Each week, in advance of its opening, Bewilder Brewing treats Utah’s craft beer community to a new update.

It could be the installation of a floor drain. Or the uncovering of a century-old doorway, which for years had been hidden by bricks.

Or the delivery of shiny brewing equipment, signaling the arrival of a new player in Salt Lake craft beer.

The soon-to-open brewery, located near Pioneer Park in downtown Salt Lake, keeps its would-be customers apprised of its progress on social media.

It’s only natural. Ross Metzger and Cody McKendrick, the pair behind Bewilder Brewing, are used to interacting with the craft beer community.

For the past eight years, Metzger and McKendrick have owned and operated Salt City Brew Supply, a popular homebrew shop in Midvale, Utah. The duo doubled its footprint with the opening of Ogden Brew Supply a few years later.

“We expected it to be a lot of work,” McKendrick says of the homebrew shops. “We opened on a shoestring budget. After a  few months, we had some thoughts of ‘uh-oh, what have we done here?’ At about a year, it really started to pick up momentum. After three to four years, we had to move to a bigger location. So it worked out.”

Yes, it worked out. And not to worry Utah homebrew community. The shops aren’t going anywhere, they assure (though, McKendrick deadpans, “it won’t be as fun because I won’t be here as much.”)

It’s all part of the (unstated) plan.

“The better we can get our customers to make beer, the more excited they’ll be about the product, they’re making,” McKendrick says. “And the more they’ll want to make more beer.”

“Help us help you help us,” he adds, in half-jest.

Bewilder Brewing: In Their Own Words

Utah Beer News | Handcrafted Craft Beer Content to Sip & SavorBonus: Subscribe to the Utah Beer News Podcast and listen to our interview with Ross Metzger and Cody McKendrick. The owners of Salt City Brew Supply talk about what beer drinkers can expect when their newest venture — Bewilder Brewing — opens in the coming weeks. Note: We recorded this podcast ahead of Lagerpalooza in May. The Bewilder Brewing discussion begins at the 33:40 mark.

An Age-Old Friendship

Metzger and McKendrick grew up across the street from each other in South Salt Lake. Yet, due to the way district boundaries aligned, the two never attended the same schools.

Ross Metzger, left, and Cody McKendrick own two homebrew supply shops in Utah and are in the process of opening Bewilder Brewing in Salt Lake City.
Ross Metzger, left, and Cody McKendrick own two homebrew supply shops in Utah and are in the process of opening Bewilder Brewing in Salt Lake City.

“It’s probably why we remained friends,” McKendrick jokes.

Kidding aside, the two stayed close all through their youth. They knew they wanted to build a business together when they grew up.

When Metzger started A Tribute to Beer website in the early 2000s, the craft beer landscape in Utah — and nationally — was markedly different. The site aimed to promote beer styles different from the majority that lined store shelves at the time.

Metzger, who possesses a marketing/design background, also held the all-important entrepreneurial spirit. He partnered with McKendrick to sell homebrew equipment on the side to offset website hosting costs.

From there, things escalated quickly.

“It became a rabbit hole,” McKendrick says. “Looking at retail, one thing led to another.”

All told, it took three years from concept to the grand opening of Salt City Brew Supply. The childhood friends were business owners.

Homebrew to Pro Brew

The pair is embedded in the homebrew community. If you’re a homebrewer in Utah, chances are you’ve purchased ingredients or sought advice from Metzger and McKendrick.

Salt City Brew SupplyIn Midvale, the original shop — affectionally dubbed “the clown car” — left little elbow room for the growing homebrew community. So the pair moved across the street into a 3,000-square-foot-facility where they could appropriately serve the growing homebrew population.

Even though Salt City set itself apart by offering classes and serving as a resource, the homebrew shop experienced a slump. Funny thing about homebrew as a hobby: It tends to decline as the overall economy soars.

“There’s been a noticeable regression the last few years,” McKendrick says. “Generally, when the economy is doing well, people aren’t doing as many home-based hobbies. They’re out traveling and buying outdoor equipment. People are traveling to more breweries and buying more beer instead of spending time at home brewing it.”

McKendrick and Metzger were doing the same thing.

The Lauter Day Brewers homebrew club meets in July at what will be the Bewilder Brewing brewhouse.
The Lauter Day Brewers homebrew club meets in July at what will be the Bewilder Brewing brewhouse.

Bewilder Brewing: Not ‘Everything to Everybody’

“We’ve been working on it for a while,” Metzger says of Bewilder Brewing, when Utah Beer News visited earlier this year. “We wanted to put a brewery next to our homebrew shop in Midvale for a couple years. We thought we had plenty of time to put (a brewery) next door — the place (we were eying) was there for 30 years. It got sold out from under us as we were putting rubber to the road.”

Not to fear, the would-be brewery owners found a spot in downtown Salt Lake City that was exactly what they were looking for.

“It’s an awesome location,” Metzger says. “I’ve worked in that area for several years and I think it’s a really cool spot.”

That spot is the former Club X building at 445 S. 400 W. It’s a century-old building that Metzger and McKendrick have spent the past year-plus renovating to fit their needs.

“It puts us in this little neighborhood with Templin, Fisher, Kiitos,” McKendrick says. “There’s going to be a lot of beer down there and we’re all really excited about it.”

Bewilder Brewing, when it opens, plans to sell “beer across our own bar,” McKendrick says. The 10-barrel brewhouse will feature limited distribution and no packaging (at least initially).

“We don’t want to try to be everything to everybody,” he says. “We don’t have enough resources to do that, but we want to sell awesome British pub-style beers; German lagers will be our emphasis.”

Be-Wilder Brewing

Utah’s newest brewery will include a limited food menu, featuring handmade sausages and sandwiches. On the beer side, it will strive to utilize dozens of grains at its disposal, thanks to contracts with its homebrew shop suppliers.

“We can lean on our experience working with those grains in different ways,” McKendrick says, noting Salt City stocks close to 100 various grains.

The new brewery’s name — Bewilder — connotes a few different things.

“Finding a name not already in use” is surprisingly difficult, Metzger says. “Finding time to open a business while running a business was a bit confusing and bewildering.”

Word nerds will love that “wild” is nestled inside the word “beer.” And, of course, if you separate the word into two, you get a different meaning altogether.

“I personally grimace at Be Wilder,” McKendrick says. “But that’s part of the branding. and we have 2,500 square feet of barrel space. When we start doing some more exotic beers we can emphasize the wild  (part of the name).”

About Bewilder Brewing

Bewilder Brewing Co. is brought to you by the owners of Salt City Brew Supply and Ogden City Brew Supply. It’s owned, as are the two homebrew shops, by childhood friends Ross Metzger and Cody McKendrick.

The 10-barrel brewhouse, which is scheduled to open this fall, is located in downtown Salt Lake City. It’s occupying the old Club X space — a 120-year-old building that once housed Western Electric.

The brewery will focus on “selling beer across our own bar,” says McKendrick. It will focus on “pub-style beers” and German lagers will be its focus initially, he continues.

Bewilder will feature in-house food that includes hand-made sausages and sandwiches, but “nothing crazy,” Metzger adds.

  • Opened: Fall 2019 (scheduled)
  • Address: 445 S. 400 W., Salt Lake City, UT 84101
  • Notable: Childhood friends Ross Metzger and Cody McKendrick are co-owners. They currently own a pair of homebrew shops in Salt Lake and Ogden. In somewhat of a twist, a $25,000 Kickstarter campaign helped Bewilder get across the finish line (rather than give it a jumpstart). And the brewery will feature a dedicated free parking lot — rare for downtown Salt Lake breweries.
  • Website: https://bewilderbrewing.com/
  • Social Media: Facebook, Instagram
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