Utah Beer Festival satisfies state's thirst for brew
Drinking • Serious beer drinkers can get in early to taste beers and talk to brewers.
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The Utah Beer Festival is now in its fourth year. During that short time, it has expanded and changed.

"When we first began thinking about throwing a beer festival, it came from all the excitement that we had for our local brewers and what they were doing," said Jackie Briggs, a spokeswoman for City Weekly, which sponsors Saturday's event at Salt Lake City's Gallivan Center.

Utah brewers had been winning national awards and "putting Utah on the map for craft brewing," she said. "We really wanted to celebrate that."

The inaugural event at the City and County building had about 15 local brewer tents. Patrons also could try an unlimited amount of beer with paid admission.

By the next year, the Utah Legislature had banned unlimited sampling. Then the festival needed to find a bigger space. Last year it relocated to the Gallivan Center.

This year more than 125 beers will be available at the festival, which helps raise funds for Best Friends Animal Society.

Things have changed a bit for Saturday's event, too. It will include regional breweries and some international brands.

There will be more beer tents on Gallivan Avenue, merchant vendors and glass bottle recycling for home brewers.

"Each year we've been able to expand a little more, and that's exciting," Briggs said. "Who knows where this could go, many cities host beer festivals and I think for a state that has a reputation for being dry that it's pretty neat that we can be part of changing that mindset. Viva beer in Utah!"

This year there is a new feature for hard-core beer enthusiasts called the Early Beer Taster ticket. It will allow a limited number of patrons to enter the festival an hour early to avoid lines, taste the beers and talk with the brewers.

"Some just want to drink beer in nice weather, listen to music and hang out with their community, which is great," Briggs said. "But there are attendees that really enjoy the craft of beer making and want to be able to taste a large variety and have the opportunity to talk with the brewers."

Utah beers will come from a number of Utah brewers — from Bohemian and Bonneville to Uintah and Wasatch.

The brewers look forward to the event as much as the consumers.

"It's always exciting to talk with people who are trying our beer for the first time or have traveled specifically for the event," said Matthew Allred, communications director for Epic Brewing.

Emily Park, a regular attendee and assistant pastry chef at Deer Valley Resort, appreciates how the festival focuses on local talent.

"It's a great way for the uninitiated to learn about it while drinking for charity," she said. "A bigger space would probably help the festival, although early beer entry could be nice. There are a lot of really great beer festivals out there, and a lot of great examples are a short drive away. I hope that ours will follow the example and continue to grow."

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Utah Beer Festival

More than 125 beers from local and regional breweries will be available to sample. The event helps raise funds for Best Friends Animal Society.

When • Saturday, Aug. 17, 3-8 p.m.

Where • Gallivan Center, 239 S. Main St., Salt Lake City

Tickets • Tokens are $1 each; 4-ounce samples are 1-2 tokens while 12-ounce pours are 3-9 tokens. There's a $5 designated-driver ticket, as well as $50 VIP tickets. Purchase at utahbeerfestival.com; City Weekly offices, 248 S. Main St.; or many of the participating breweries.