As I sit here nursing a hangover and reading a cease and desist from my liver, I reflect on the event that led me to this present state: The first-ever Utah Brewers Guild Fest.
Nestled on Salt Lake’s McCarthey Plaza, just off Regent Street and under the hot summer sun, were several tents. One of them YUUUGGGEE ! The tents played host to the June 29 soiree and provided much-needed shade from the melanoma machine above.
Nicole Dicou, who’s wrapping up her first year as Utah Brewers Guild executive director, hit a home run with this first-of-its-kind-in-Utah beer festival. I had a great time! The variety of beers available on tap from every brewery in the state (well, almost every brewery) was impressive. But even more, this festival’s unique feature — beer collaborations — set it apart. Not just one or two collabs, but 14.
Utah Brewers Pair Up
Twenty-eight participating breweries conjured up 14 craft beer collaborations. Working in pairs, these breweries added their own bit of pizzazz to the inaugural event. To my knowledge, this sort of mass collaboration has never before happened in Utah.
Sure, we occasionally get our fantastic craft beer breweries working with one another to create some deliciousness. But nothing to this degree or scale. It’s pretty amazing. I gotta say, this beer festival was worth every penny. I bought a VIP ticket for $45. Those tickets sold out pretty quick.
The difference between the $30 general admission ticket and the VIP were a couple of things. Although both tickets got you a collectible taster glass and 12 three-ounce pours, the VIP ticket snagged you early entry into the event and a Moab Brewery-branded swag bag full of goodies! Who doesn’t love free stuff?
What was in the bag? Well, aside from the bag itself (which I will repurpose to haul gear and beer), it included: stickers, coasters, koozies, bottle openers, keychains, and some lip balm! You could also use the bag to snag even more free stuff each brewery was giving away underneath the main tent. It was a cornucopia of good times, I tell ya!
Setting the Stage for Greatness
What was interesting about the setup of the Utah Brewers Guild Fest were the collaboration beers being poured under a separate tent.
Initially, I went to the main tent thinking each brewery would have a tap handle featuring their collaboration. That was not the case. Instead, they featured the exclusive beers under their own, fully staffed tent.
I was worried about long lines becoming a problem once more people arrived and the general admission crowd hit at 2 p.m. But that appeared to never be an issue because the staff and volunteers of this festival were on top of it.
Top 5 Standout Collaborations
As for the collaboration beers, there were five that really stood out for me.
Salt Flats Brewing and Hopkins Brewing Co.
The Chili Mangose had a perfect blend of heat from the serrano chili peppers, a mild mango flavor, and salty sourness characteristic of the gose style.
SaltFire Brewing Company and Squatters Pub Brewery
The There’s Only Room In This Town For One Key Lime Milkshake IPA smelled great. It had a slightly creamy mouthfeel. I’m assuming that’s from the lactose used in the brew. There was a hint of hops complemented with flavors of graham crackers and lime. Pretty tasty!
Desert Edge Brewing Company and Fisher Brewing Company
The Ancient Sour Of The Future was fantastic. I’ve been really big on sours lately. This one stood out because it was the right amount of sour to where I could easily have downed a lot more of this.
UTOG Brewing Co. and Cerveza Zólupez
I found the Manderina Kölsch to be perfect and delicious. It had a subtle orange flavor in a crushable Kölsch style. Great summertime beer.
And the Best in Show…
In my opinion, “Best in Show” went to the T.F. Brewing and Shades Brewing collaboration: Berliner Weisse with Guava, Coconut, and Mint. My actual notes state the following:
“WOW! LIKE SUPER WOW! Okay, that’s it. I’m calling it. THIS is the ‘Best In Show’ right here! Fantastically delicious mixture of flavors while still complementing the style of a berliner weisse. Not too sour with pronounced notes of that guava, coconut, and mint. I want more of this in my mouth! This could be a contender at GABF!”
NOTE: If you missed the Utah Brewers Guild Fest, we hear many of the collaboration beers were to be made available at taprooms. But hurry! They won’t last long — and you’ll want to double-check with the specific brewery to make sure the collaboration you’re after is still around.
Utah Brewers Guild Fest: A Real Crowd-Pleaser
I successfully tried all 14 collaborations. My admission ticket got me 12 three-ounce pours. But I gleefully threw down another $20 to buy additional tokens to finish off my quest and have some full pours from the main tent.
The main tent was NUTS. Every brewery was pouring a variety of beer. And there were A LOT of breweries housed under this giant tent (all Utah-based, by the way).
But it didn’t feel crowded. I didn’t feel overwhelmed. You could move about and socialize easily and even visit with the very people who make some of Utah’s finest award-winning beers.
There were also some great food trucks, a fun mix of music, and a merchandise tent where I bought myself a Utah Brewers Guild Fest t-shirt.
And — I can’t stress this enough — PLENTY of bathrooms.
Since the event took place in the heart of downtown Salt Lake City, when the Utah Brewers Guild Fest drew to a close, there were all kinds of options (within walking distance, even!) to continue your fun.
Whether it was to keep drinking, grab a meal, or enjoy some entertainment like pool, arcade games, a concert, a movie… you name it… it was all at your fingertips.