Walk downtown, then head out to the mountains; there’s beer everywhere in this unexpectedly crafty city.
If you’ve shied away from a beer trip to Utah, you’re missing out; red tape hasn’t slowed down Salt Lake City brewers. On draft, beer’s 4% ABV or below, which means you’ll taste the best sessions in the country; for those who like their pints with a little more devil in ’em, bottles on the table can have sky-high ABVs. You don’t need to buy a membership to drink (anymore), but if you’re in a restaurant (not a bar) you’ll have to order food to go with that brew. With gorgeous views and fantastic hikes, this outdoor enthusiast’s enclave is also maybe one of beer’s best kept secrets.
DAY ONE: A convenient downtown SLC stay means you can stroll to restaurants, shops and, of course, beer stops. The Grand America Hotel fits the bill; built in 2001 for the Olympics, it takes the cake for over-the-top opulence with splashy floral patterns and gilded fixtures everywhere. At the hotel’s Garden Café you can fuel up for the day: Try the Wasatch Eggs, a bed of crisp potatoes topped with two fried eggs, doused with sour cream and big chunks of bacon, which are a breakfasty spin on Funeral Potatoes, Utah’s signature dish for more somber occasions. Trek a few blocks to the buzzy Red Rock Brewing in an old dairy warehouse downtown. It won’t be the last place you spy cool session pours; here, opt for the organic, easy-drinking Zwickel. If you’re hungry, tuck into a wood-fired crisp Italian sausage pizza with homemade tomato sauce. Just turn the corner to hit the original Squatters Pub location; since 1989 this happy, wood-dressed spot has wowed with simpler pours like Provo Girl Pilsner on draft and stunners like GABF medalist Fifth Element, a bubbly sour. Trek back toward the hotel, but make a little detour to the quintessential pub Beerhive, where the ice bar is as cool as the bottle list is long. The staff here knows their stuff, so ask away.
DAY TWO: Get in a car and start your day at award- winning Uinta Brewing; the 21-year-old just completed a huge expansion, so a tour of the shiny new tanks is a must. Sidle up to the tasting room bar for pints, including some Utah-only pours, and don’t forget to grab a bottle of this year’s Birthday Suit, a celebra-tory bright yellow sour. The Annex is Epic Brewing’s new gastropub dressed in brick, steel and Edison bulbs. The 7-barrel brewhouse churns out house beers that also arrive on the plate: There’s spent grain in the buns and salad dressing starring Utah Sage Saison; order the lamb shank with a bottle of vinous Brainless on Cherries. For your late-night cool fix, drive to The Bar-X, a shoulder-to-shoulder speakeasy beloved for its crafty cocktails and connection to owner and SLC resident Ty Burrell of “Modern Family” fame. Through the side door is the new sister spot, Beer Bar, which has taken all measures to become the city’s beer mecca, even finagling an influx of exclusive pours from brewers like Ninkasi. The ambiance is warehouse-chic-meets-beer-garden-friendly with indoor communal picnic tables, artisan sausages and beer in proper glassware. The bar’s clean house Helles is brewed by Utah’s Bohemian Brewery, whose other German-leaning pours are all worth checking out.
DAY THREE: Grab a sixer and venture three hours south of the city to Capitol Reef Park and mountain hikes like the Hickman Bridge trail, which leads to a natural rock bridge. On the way, stop at Gifford Homestead, an adorable mom-and-pop shop that sells amazing pies. Make your own beer on the homebrewing system at Cougar Ridge Lodge, a family-owned ranch that’s an ideal group rental: Mountain vistas, a bowling alley, movie theater, wine cellar and workshop offer endless entertainment. Arrange for a day of fishing trout or hunting fowl, and they’ll bring in a chef to cook it up for you.