- Mike Riedel
We've written quite a bit lately about local craft breweries. We're currently in the midst of a beer explosion, the likes of which have never been seen before by local suds-lovers. The variety of brands and styles available in the state has eclipsed even pre-Prohibition levels. As a result, a new concept in beer pubs has emerged—one that exclusively serves up the best of what Utah has to offer.
Simply called Craft by Proper (1053 E. 2100 South, craftbyproper.com), this new Sugar House pub's concept is simple: If it's brewed in our state, it's welcome on the menu. Craft, which opened April 19, is part of the Proper Brewing Co. umbrella of restaurants, which includes Avenues Proper, Proper Burger and Stratford Proper. Even though Proper had already established themselves in the beer-brewing community, they quickly became known as local pioneers in offering up their competitors' beers alongside their own. "Now it's a pretty common thing," says Eleanor Lewis, Craft's marketing director. "Nobody was pouring their competitor's products before Avenues Proper opened up in 2013. We're proud to see that it's now common practice among Utah brewers."
Andrew Tendick, Craft's co-owner, has been around since the early days of the Proper's inception and looks at Craft as a way to honor their initial plan. "It's a chance to expand on our original concept," Tendick says. "We like to foster a collaborative environment as opposed to a competitive one, and there's no better way for us to highlight our local beer scene."
Craft seems to be a sign of the times. Going back four or five years, could this local-only concept have worked? "To the extent that we're doing it?" Tendick asks. "I don't think it would have been possible five or six years ago, especially without the diversity we have now. It's the variety that will drive Craft's success."
And there will be plenty of variety. Look for 36 combined tap handles from two separate bars, and combine that with 80 to 90 bottle and can options ranging in size from 12 ounces to 750 milliliters. "We want to keep things rotating all the time," Lewis adds. "As soon as one beer kicks, we want to put another, equally diverse beer in its place, so the customer has a new experience every time."
Those diverse beer experiences will come from all over Utah, not just the Wasatch Front and Back. Goods from breweries that tend to get overlooked due to geography will also find a place at Craft. "A lot of the smaller regional breweries are self-distributing and can have a difficult time getting their product into Salt Lake," Lewis explains, "but when they do arrive, they'll find a spot as soon as they walk in the door."
Craft has a clean, modern feel that reflects the needs of Utah's diverse beer-nerd population. The sporty beer nerd has screens for sports programing; the hipster beer nerd gets a local, non-touristy vibe; and 1980s beer nerds like myself can claim pinball, arcade games and a seat at the bar to contemplate that next great Beer Nerd column.
If you're coming for food, you'll only find basic snacks; Craft relies on local eateries and whatever food delivery app that happens to be on your device. Remember, this is about the craft—of beer. Parking can be limited at times, so keep that in mind. As always, cheers!