Hoppers Grill & Brewing: ‘Boutique’ Brewery a Perfect Fit

The fuzzy Vimeo video doesn’t do it justice. How could it? The life-altering golf shot effectively changed the trajectory for Hoppers Grill and Brewing.

When Jason Hargett, then a restaurant manager within the Sizzling Platter group,  sunk a hole-in-one at a 2009 charity golf event, it signaled the start of something special.

At the time, Sizzling Platter’s restaurant portfolio — Sizzler, Red Robin, Little Caesars, and more — stretched across the United States. The conglomerate also owned the Ruby River Steakhouse that Hargett managed, as well as a one-off outlier: Hoppers.

Hargett’s hole-in-one earned him $1 million. It, with some other investments, afforded him and his brother, Brandon, the opportunity to purchase the Ruby River Steakhouse chain from Sizzling Platter. Four years later, the brothers purchased Hoppers Grill and Brewing in Midvale.

Though Hoppers thrived under Sizzling Platter, local ownership — and the nimbleness that comes with it — serves the single brewpub well.

“I feel you get more empowerment to do the things you think will be best for your business,” says Brock Blonquist, general manager at Hoppers. “(Jason will) let us make the call. If it works, great. If not, (he’ll) come in and change it. Jason gives us the autonomy to have a local feel and put our best product forward.”

Bonus: Subscribe to the Utah Beer News Podcast and listen to the full interview with Hoppers Grill & Brewing. Hear more about how the 23-year-old Midvale brewpub came to be locally owned and operated. Learn how you can be the first to know about “secret” menu items. And more!

Hoppers: Award-Winning Beer

Hoppers Grill and Brewing Brewers Donovan Steele, left, and Richard Rodriguez
Hoppers Grill and Brewing Brewers Donovan Steele, left, and Richard Rodriguez.

Situated on the southwest corner of Fort Union Boulevard and 900 East in Midvale, Hoppers opened its doors in 1996. The brewing equipment, tucked inside a seven-barrel brewhouse, is all original, according to brewmaster Donovan Steele.

Hoppers bottles beers from time to time, but for the most part it’s a draft operation. And while you can find the beers on taps around the valley, by and large, if you want a Hoppers beer, you best come to the source.

Maintaining a small, Cheers-like atmosphere is important. The goal’s always been to be a “boutique” brewery, Blonquist says, though he wouldn’t rule out some expansion. “But I’m a handshaker,” he says. “So I want to keep that feel to our restaurant and pub.”

Steele, who started his professional brewing career at Ruby River Steakhouse in Ogden, agrees.

“I like the feel of a local, community brewpub,” says Steele, who transferred to Hoppers in 2003 to work with then-brewmaster Kevin Ely before ultimately taking the reins in 2007. “We have the freedom to make our own recipes, and design and alter recipes as necessary.”

Medals and plaques line the brewpub walls, a gentle reminder that Hoppers consistently turns out award-winning beers. Steele, who brews alongside Richard Rodriguez, specializes in crisp, clean lagers.

Hoppers Grill and Brewing - Beer List - Utah Beer News

On the Board

The This is the Pilsener is its most-award-winning brew, having had “won so many gold medals” that Steele stopped counting. The Helles Festbier took Gold at the 2013 Great American Beer Festival. Each has earned its share of North American Beer Awards honors.

“For me, it’s really cool to see how respected Donovan is in the beer community,” Blonquist says. “To have someone who’s very passionate about old-world styles … it’s great to have him on board.”

Hoppers’ Orange Honey Wheat is its most popular, Steele says. The brewery keeps a handful of year-round beers on tap and mixes in a few seasonal offerings. It has bottled beers in the past, and it plans to do so in the future.

In terms of upcoming releases, keep an eye out for a Mesquite Porter, Blonquist says. And Hoppers’ next high-point bottled beer could be a Maibock.

Getting Social

Natalie Rogers started as a host at Hoppers 10 years ago. She’s worked within the Hargett empire — Ruby River, Hoppers — for much of the time since then. Now, she’s taken over marketing for Hoppers Grill & Brewing.

The brewpub knew it needed to establish a stronger presence on social media. But it didn’t come without a bit of initial apprehension.

“I’ll be honest,” Blonquist admits, “I couldn’t stand social media. I thought it opened doors to a lot of negative feedback. But Natalie opened our eyes to how much benefit it brings in. The followers you get, the loyalty you build to your brand.”

“It gets you involved in the community,” Rogers adds.

Now, Rogers is building relationships with the community through social media, especially Instagram. She encourages fans of the pub to keep an eye out. You never know when a “secret” menu item — or special beer release — will be broadcast first to Hoppers’ Instagram followers.

After that, you could pop in to the pub for one of the secret specials — or a well-advertised $2.50 dimple stein on Tuesdays and Sundays — and start up a conversation with one of the many regulars.

“It’s so great to see the community connect over a beer,” Rogers says.

About Hoppers Grill & Brewing Company

Hoppers Grill and Brewing - Outside - Utah Beer NewsHoppers Grill & Brewing opened its doors in 1996 in Midvale, Utah. It’s built a reputation on brewing award-winning lagers — notably, This is the Pilsener and Helles Festbier — and offering a casual, family-oriented brewpub vibe.

  • Founded: 1996
  • Address: 890 E. Fort Union Blvd., Midvale, UT 84047
  • Notable: Sizzling Platter LLC owned Hoppers Grill & Brewing until 2014 when Jason and Brandon Hargett purchased the brewpub. Its legacy of brewmasters includes Tim Barr, Kevin Ely, and Donovan Steele.
  • Website: http://www.hoppersbrewpub.com/
  • Social Media: Facebook, Instagram

Hoppers Grill and Brewing - Inside - Utah Beer News