As the most recent City Weekly beer issue shows, the state has grown in leaps and bounds when it comes to breweries and brewpubs, seeing expansion both in Salt Lake City and cities that have never had a proper pub before. --- One of the brightest additions to our city in the past year has been Avenues Proper. Nestled up on 8th Avenue and just a stone's throw away from LDS Hospital, the small pub has given this slightly gray pocket a new shade of color and patrons of the area a new place to drink and enjoy some awesome grub. Today, I chat with the three founders about the brewery and the success they've had so far. (All pictures courtesy of Avenues Proper.)
Rio Connelly, Andrew Tendick and Liam Connelly
Gavin: Hello, gentlemen. First thing, tell us a little bit about yourselves.
Rio: I’m Rio Connelly, I was born and raised in Salt Lake City, I’ve worked in the restaurant industry since I was 18. I started homebrewing with my brother Liam when I was 19 in 2005 and have been in the commercial-brewing industry since 2010.
Andrew: I’m Andrew Tendick, I’ve lived in Salt Lake, Moab, Hawaii and California. I’ve been in the restaurant industry since I was 14, started cooking at 17 and worked at every level.
Liam: I’m Liam Connelly, born and raised in Salt Lake City. I majored in music at Hobart college in upstate New York, where I worked at various wineries in the Finger Lakes region -- my first introduction to fermentation -- which led me to start homebrewing with my brother. I've always had a passion for food, and cooking, and finally went professional about seven years ago.
Gavin: Rio, what got you interested in brewing, and what were some influences on you?
Rio: I went to college in the Pacific Northwest, and upon arrival, I was bombarded by the beer culture up there. When I grew up in Utah, there wasn’t a lot in the way of interest or attention given to craft beer, and while we had some excellent breweries, I had never seen what it could be like in a place that embraced it. My eyes got big and I dove in. I always liked beer; the idea of making something that is more than the sum of its parts appeals to me greatly.
Gavin: Did any of you get any special training or did you learn just from homebrewing?
Rio: Aside from homebrewing, I also worked in a homebrew shop, then got hired at Epic Brewing, where I received the best training anyone could ask for as head brewer Kevin Crompton’s right-hand man. After leaving Epic, I also attended the Siebel Institute of technology, America’s oldest brewing school.
Gavin: What was it like for each of you just starting out and creating your own beers and menu items?
Rio: It was a lot of fun. I have a lot of creative freedom and it’s been a blast to see the customer response to some of my more unusual brews.
Liam: Creating menu items that include or pair well with beer has been a lot of fun. The possibilities are endless, really, and it's fun to explore what’s possible. It’s also been incredible to see beers on tap that are more refined -- much more, in many cases -- versions of the recipes Rio and I created in the back yard.
Gavin: How did the idea come about to start up your own brewery?
Rio: As a homebrewer, everybody dreams of one day making beer commercially. Liam and I always used to talk about it as a possibility. When it seemed within reach, we went for it.
Andrew: I wanted to exercise our creative freedom and offer Salt Lake something it hasn’t seen, something unique.
Liam: It was always in the back of our minds, I think. For a long time, I think we knew we weren’t ready to dive in, but then the opportunity came and we decided to go for it.
Gavin: How did you come across the location in the Avenues, and what made you decide to set up shop there?
Andrew: We really wanted to be in a residential neighborhood and have always loved the Avenues. There aren’t many neighborhood restaurants and no residential breweries in Salt Lake. We jumped at the opportunity to be in the old 8th Avenue Market location, next to Hatch Family Chocolates.
Liam: The Avenues is a dream location; the neighborhood is fantastic. Having lived in the Avenues for years, I couldn’t think of a better place for us, so when a spot with proper zoning was available we had to jump on it.
Gavin: What was it like getting all the equipment together and formulating a plan for it to work in that space?
Rio: That was really difficult. The building is old and we couldn’t change that much, so we had to adapt. And there was a lot of equipment I had to source and check. After a few hiccups, it ended up working out, and I finally have all the kinks worked out.
Gavin: On the other side, how was it setting up the restaurant and creating the vibe in that dining room?
Andrew: Building from the ground up, we were able to design everything from scratch. That really let us nail the vibe we wanted in the restaurant and the flow we wanted in the kitchen.
Liam: What he said.
Gavin: How did you go about deciding what you were going to brew and what food to prepare?
Rio: I wanted to brew beers I was passionate about. A lot of breweries have obligatory styles that customers expect but the brewers aren’t excited about. By carrying other Utah breweries in my product list, I’m able to fill those classic styles with excellent products while giving myself more creative freedom. So, really, I get to brew anything I’m excited about. We’ve brewed some crazy styles so far, including a Gose, which is brewed with salt. It’s an unusual beer, for sure.
Andrew: We wanted to do pub-influenced food but with an emphasis on quality and from-scratch preparation. We use as many local products as possible.
Liam: We set out to provide good solid from scratch, food to go with our from-scratch beer. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel when it comes to pub fare, but too many places fall into the same old mold. We’re trying to put our own spin on the concept by making almost everything from scratch, and sourcing as many of our products as locally as possible. We’re not trying to redefine any dish, like a burger or fish sticks, we’re just trying to do them the way they should be done -- by hand, using quality ingredients, and with love.
Gavin: What's the process like for you when creating a new brew, and how do you decide when it's ready to go?
Rio: I have tested a lot of different brews and so I have an arsenal of recipes to choose from. When I’m ready to brew it on a larger scale, I go ahead and it usually turns out just as I predict. But there are some beers I just wing it on. I have limited capacity here, so I’m always trying to have new batches ready to meet demand.
Liam: He also has to put up with Andrew and me telling him what we’d like to have and how we think it should taste, which doesn’t make it easy on him.
Gavin: What's the reaction been like from the city so far since you opened up?
Rio: People seem to love my beer, which is great to see.
Andrew: We’ve had lots of positive feedback, but we’re still trying to get our name out there and reach the people who don’t know we exist.
Gavin: What can we expect from all of you and Avenues Proper over the rest of the year and going into next?
Rio: Lots of new beers over the next six months. I plan to have a couple of standards that you’ll find here often, but keep the rest of my lineup pretty fluid. Expect a nice array of interesting lagers this winter.
Andrew: We are looking forward to working with other local producers to do pairing dinners with beer, wine, spirits and other combinations.
Gavin: Aside from the obvious, is there anything you'd like to promote or plug?
Rio: I have a fantastic new beer, a collaboration with Charming Beard Coffee, a local roaster here in Salt Lake. It will be a Belgian-style coffee stout aged on Guatemalan coffee and served on nitro.
Andrew: Look for a Beer & Whiskey tasting dinner in collaboration with High West sometime near February.
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