It's no secret times are a-changin' in the quirky, green Jell-O-loving state we all call home. And while construction cranes signal changes on the skyline, hops and barley might herald a broader cultural shift, as craft beer appears to be teasing more palates and opening more minds.
From dispelling the myth women don't like beer to doubling down on Utah's counter-culture, the burgeoning local craft-beer scene is generating the kind of positive news our little mountain town desperately needs.
Prior to my stint as a server at Fiddler's Elbow with some 20 microbrews on tap, I didn't much care for beer—though to be fair, who actually enjoys shotgunning a warm Natty Light? Tasting microbrews and having them explained by brewmaster Al Dieffenbach helped me step up my beer game, and truly appreciate the art of creating craft beer. Had it not been for my time there, I, too, might have written myself off as just another female who preferred a wine buzz. The reality was I just hadn't met a beer I liked.
Despite the majority of beer ads targeting male consumers (especially at the mass production level), I'm far from being the first female beer convert. If anything, I've yet to take my brew-love to the next level. Such is the case for Julia Shuler, president of the local Pink Boots Society chapter and brewery assistant at Strap Tank Brewing Co. Similar to the path of other women I've chatted up, Shuler realized beer wasn't just for the boys when she started home brewing. Through Pink Boots Society, Shuler now helps other women realize their potential in the widening world of local craft beer.
In better acquainting myself with Utah's beer scene—beyond the realm of consumption—I was surprised to discover both the existence and popularity of ladies-only drinking groups. Whether women wish to master home brewing with the Hop Bombshells, expand craft careers with Pink Boots Society, or sip the night away with Salt City Girls Pint Out and Barley's Angels, the options for female bonding aren't your mother's book club. Discovering the existence of these groups warmed my cold heart, especially considering bonding with friends is what lured me into beer drinking in the first place.
Growing up with a bit of a rebellious streak naturally lent itself to trying beer at an age I won't divulge in print. And I didn't drink it for the taste. My B.C. (before craft) years, consisted of sneaking beers in the garage of a friend's house and playing the card game, "Presidents and Assholes," until dawn—a game that, above all, taught me the slightest bit of power goes straight to your head. Throughout college, my crew and I favored Desert Edge Pub, initially for the half-priced student pitchers, and in the end for their bravery in replacing porters and stouts on nitro for lighter ambers and ryes during the spring and summer months.
At the time, it seemed as though we were part of a small population of hopped-up sinners in our Salt Valley suburb, a belief that followed me into my 30s. It wasn't until looking over statistics on the Brewers Association website that I became aware of just how much Utahns drink on an annual basis, indulging in more than 206,000 barrels in 2017. I was even more shocked to learn Utah ranks 17th in the nation for gallons consumed per adult. With more breweries expected to open before the end of the year, there will be more opportunities for Utah to transform its reputation as home to a few thirsty gentiles into a craft beer mecca.
Interestingly, in contrast of our top 20 spot for partaking, our breweries per capita remains low (ranking 44th in the nation), meaning there's plenty of room for Utah's beer scene to grow. Nicole Dicou, the new executive director of Utah Brewers Guild, is excited about the current buzz surrounding the Beehive's beer scene. During a recent phone chat, Dicou discussed the projected population growth and the potential for folks already in the beer industry, as well as those contemplating throwing their hats in the ring, especially in regard to females interested in further exploring craft careers—crafts that don't involve a hot glue gun, that is.
"There's a lot of opportunities to get in from the ground floor and really make your mark," Dicou rejoiced—while my exuberance might have been from the voices in my head, shouting, "Must get paid to drink beer!"
Regardless, if the merriment was Dicou's, my own, or both of our minds syncing across the same cosmic brainwave, one thing is clear: Tasty and creative craft concoctions are changing the way neighboring states view our celestial town. More importantly, the brew might just be altering the way we see ourselves.
Aspen Perry is an SLC-based aspiring author, beer enthusiast and self-proclaimed "philosophical genius." Send feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org