Beer Kissery | Private Eye | Salt Lake City | Salt Lake City Weekly
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News » Private Eye

Beer Kissery

Making a profit from beer—now there’s a novel idea that harkens back to, well, forever.



When I was young, kids raced cars, cruised State Street, hung out at burger joints and played kissy face when no one was looking. It was Happy Days every weekend and most nights in between. Our burger joint was the Arctic Circle where a ranch burger, fries and a Coke cost only 45 cents. Most of us couldn't afford it.

Our kissy-facing often took place at the Ute or Redwood drive-in theaters where, often as not, we'd sneak another couple in via our car trunk, and the hanky panky would commence as soon as the cartoons ended. Let's just say, as far as I know, The Reivers and Play Misty for Me have alternate endings. Just as often we'd kissy-face on the dry farms that filled the valley before subdivisions did. The South Jordan LDS temple does indeed look down upon hallowed ground.

For the kids who weren't afraid of the dark, there was always Butterfield Canyon to go smooch in. Even all these years later, with all the new people moving into the south and west parts of the valley, the canyon remains unknown to most Salt Lake County residents. It's really pretty with a little brook, lots of places to picnic (or hide) and if you keep driving, you'll end up on the other side of the Oquirrh Mountains in Tooele. At the crest, you can drive even higher to the top of Sunshine Peak. Now, there's a view to beat all.

When we weren't in Butterfield Canyon making out, we were just as likely to be up there for a kegger. Everyone knew where to find the well-known bars in town that sold kegs to-go and they were equally well-known for selling to minors. A couple of our friends became quite skilled at "tapping" the keg, and were called upon to do so because they could avoid it foaming up and not wasting too much beer. They also often bought the keg themselves. That meant they stood to profit from the kegger since everyone had to chip in to partake.

Making a profit from beer—now there's a novel idea that harkens back to, well, forever. Salt Lake City's first breweries date back to 1850 and the suds have flowed ever since, with some of Utah's hallmark pioneer families full-frontal in the beer business. They even built some notoriety over a Mormon-produced brew called Valley Tan, enjoyed by Mark Twain himself. Breweries dotted the landscape, often in mining or railroad camps, and Provo even had its own brewery. Yeah, Provo.

It was about 150 years after the good folks in Utah County began imbibing that I bought my first keg. That was in 2010 when City Weekly held its first-ever Utah Beer Festival in Washington Square and we bought lots and lots of them. The event was a hit, so we did it again. Then again. This year marks our eighth annual fest. What began as a celebration in support of the blossoming craft beer industry and Local First Utah, has grown into a major beer event, one of the largest in the West. After iterations at Washington Square, Library Square and Gallivan Plaza, we moved it to the Utah State Fairpark last year. Upping the ante, this year's event will be a two-day affair—from Saturday-Sunday, Aug. 19-20.

As with nearly all beer festivals, ours carries a benefactor component. Over the years, the festival has raised more than $75,000 for local charities, including Local First, Best Friends Animal Society and our current partner, the Humane Society of Utah. So, not only is this a chance to sample some of the 200-plus beers on site, but it's also a giving opportunity. The Humane Society helps us recruit the nearly 600 volunteers needed to run such an event, plus they bring a number of animals to the fairpark for adoption. The past two years, all of them have found new homes. It's a great partnership.

To be sure, the festival has become a revenue source for City Weekly as well. It didn't begin that way, but our industry has changed. News organizations everywhere are deep-diving into new avenues to find and replace the revenue that has been lost to the digital and internet age. It's a damned irony, but it's true that we now sell beer so our reporters can produce the award-winning stories we've all grown accustomed to. No beer festival would mean less funding for our paper. Oh, we might be here, just not doing news.

Our industry is changing—we're print, we're online, we're mobile, we're digital; we're everywhere and ads alone don't cut it. Readers must change as well, because we're all learning the hard way that journalism is not a business model—supporting it is. Readers must accept that their favorite journals and authors may go away, and those who appreciate the truth, investigative news and alternate viewpoints, who appreciate that City Weekly has always fought for the little guy, must step up to the plate (as at

This year, the Utah Beer Festival falls under the umbrella of the newly minted Galena Fund, a 501(c)3 with the mission of supporting not only local charities with fundraising events, but also to raise funds to financially support local journalism. If journalism matters to you, have a beer with us to help make sure it thrives. If you don't drink beer, you can still contribute and say you did it for the animals.

And if you see me, just ask for a kiss. It's a long way from Butterfield Canyon, but I think I still remember how. It's just City Weekly saying thank you. Kiss you there.

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