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The Beer Issue

Beer as Art


  • Andy Hood

It was a sobering moment last month in Boulder, Colo., during the Association for Alternative Newsmedia's annual awards ceremony. City Weekly placed in all three categories it was nominated in, with last year's Beer Issue nabbing first place in the Best Special Section bracket. Surprised by the recognition, I got onstage to receive the plaque and said in front of a room full of alt-weekly cohorts, "Salt Lake City just won a national award for booze coverage. Let's all take a moment to soak that in."

Yes, our fair town is known for a lot of things, but our burgeoning craft beer market is not usually on top of anyone's list. Enter the Utah Beer Festival, which for the past decade has been showcasing and uplifting the Beehive's brew scene.

Wanting to really drive the message home, and apropos of the round number anniversary, we thought that elevating the local beer scene to art seemed fitting, given the crafty Pollocks, Fridas and da Vincis who have acted as conservators of its frothy swell.

The result is a curated love letter to all things Utah beer—from a museum-worthy brewery out to leave its signature in Utah County to a permanent exhibit of ale pairings that can be found in your grocer's freezer and a brewer collaboration that would make Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat proud.


It's not all highbrow, though. This being a City Weekly pop-up, we also took the lot of SLC mayoral candidates out for a frosty one (Diet Coke counts, right?), continued our foray into the #FakeBeer movement, assembled the perfect playlist to get sloshed to and rounded up our staff's most trusted hangover cures (Velveeta, anyone?)

So raise a glass to (and place a red sticker on) this issue and all those featured in it. Our carbonation installation is now open to the public.

—Enrique Limón, docent

10 Years of Beers!

How the Utah Beer Fest went from an informal kickback to the state's largest beer-a-palooza.
By Ray Howze

Pre-summer 2010
In a virtual beer wasteland, Utahns were kept to bars and their homes to enjoy their hops. Times were bleak for some, as camaraderie and collective morale could have used a frothy boost. Luckily, the craft beer craze was picking up steam.

September 2010
City Weekly hosts its inaugural beer festival at Washington Square outside the Salt Lake City & County Building. The first year features a single-price all-you-can-drink model because of the pesky Legislature. Despite only selling 300 tickets in advance, more than 3,000 thirsty beer drinkers show up, creating some chaos. But it's a promising sign for the future. Ten local breweries participate.

August 2011
In the festival's second year, organizers move it to the third week of August, where it remains today. The Legislature had recently passed a new law requiring drinkers to pay as they quaffed, creating the token-like system used today.

August 2012
The festival moves to Gallivan Plaza and for the first time was held on a Sunday (proof Utahns drink on the Sabbath). Regional breweries join in.

August 2013
More beers are added, as well as an "International Beer Row" on Gallivan Avenue.

August 2014
The festival moves back to Washington Square and expands to include more food vendors along 200 East.

August 2015
No longer permitted at Washington Square, the festival picks up and moves across the street to Library Square. For the first time, tickets sell out.

August 2016
The festival moves to Utah State Fairpark and with it, more room for beer tents and, wait for it ... more beer! Tokens bid their adieu and drinkers can now get their suds via wristbands.

August 2017
Double your pleasure, double your fun. The state's largest beer bash is now a two-day event.

August 2018
Perhaps its best-ever event, the festival continues its two-day run. This time, it features an outdoor gear and beer tent—proving once again that recreation and beer go together—responsibly, of course.

August 2019
Finally reaching its 10-year vintage, the fest now features concerts at the end of each day with bands such as Royal Bliss and Jagertown. It also hosts nearly 60 beer vendors. Time to drink up, dance and be merry, fellow Utah beer enthusiasts!