It was 25 years ago, in October 1986, that beer nut Greg Schirf founded Schirf Brewing—Utah’s first active brewery since Prohibition. His mission—then as now—was to make the best ales and lagers possible, to “drink our share and sell the rest” and “to have as much fun as we can legally get away with.” Mission accomplished.
Hailing originally from America’s beer capital of Milwaukee, Schirf—a self-described “hippie”—was disappointed when he planted roots in Park City to find that his newly adopted state didn’t have a brewery of its own. “Go figure,” says Schirf, “I left the highest per-capita state for beer consumption to start a brewery in the state with the lowest.”
Taking matters into his own hands, Schirf founded his brewery in 1986 and then opened Wasatch Brew Pub in 1989. Since then, Wasatch and Schirf have thrived, winning numerous national and international awards for their beers, growing steadily and garnering a gaggle of loyal locals and tourists for whom Wasatch Brew Pub serves as Cheers. I am one of them. I loitered at the upstairs brewpub bar for many a night when I first moved to Utah, enjoying cold, handcrafted microbrews and listening to tall tales from founding bartenders like Jeff, Gordy, “Dark Side Dave” and Mark Cleveland. The latter now heads up Wasatch and Squatters beer distribution nationwide. His business card reads: “International Man of Beer.”
Without Greg Schirf, not only would we have no tasty Wasatch beers to enjoy, but we might not have any brewpubs to enjoy them in. It was he who proposed the bill to the Utah Legislature in 1988 that would make brewpubs legal in Utah. Now there are a litter of them, thanks to Schirf and the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Mike Demeitrick from Price.
The same year that Schirf opened Park City’s Wasatch Brew Pub, Peter Cole and Jeff Polychronis inaugurated Squatters in Salt Lake City. Through the years, they had a friendly rivalry until, in 2000, a partnership was created between Wasatch and Squatters, allowing them to better compete against national macrobrews. Squatters and Wasatch now share a brewery in Salt Lake City, as well as bottling, production and distribution facilities and networks. You can sample and purchase Wasatch and Squatters beers—as well as caps, T-shirts, mugs and other swag—at their Beer Store, located in Salt Lake City at 1763 S. 300 West.
Another way to get a mouthful of Wasatch suds is to attend the big 25th-anniversary beer bash that Greg and his crew are throwing in Park City. It’ll take place on Saturday, Oct. 15, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., in City Park. Free beer was part of the original plan, but that’s not legal in Utah. So Wasatch will provide free food and entertainment, along with seven Wasatch beers for purchase, priced at $3 for 16-ounce drafts and $5 for high-alcohol brews. Fat Paw, Bryon Friedman and Holy Water Buffalo are scheduled to play, and there will be a bounce house for the kids. This promises to be a really fun time.
Known for infamous beers like Polygamy Porter, Wasatch Unofficial 2002 Amber Ale and 1st Amendment Lager, Schirf clearly enjoys pushing people’s beer buttons. “People have come to expect, and almost demand, our ongoing irreverence,” says Schirf. “We have done some crazy stuff. People always ask me what is next. I just say, ‘stay tuned.’ ”
WASATCH BREW PUB & BREWERY
250 Main, Park City