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Utah’s first modern craft brewery returns to local ownership

Top Of Main Brew Pub (TOMBP)

It’s been a busy old year for Salt Lake Brewing Co, and as we wrap up the year, the pace of change and news shows no sign of slowing down. As backstory then, Salt Lake Brewing Co was brought back to life after the sale of CANarchy – the former company that held ownership of both Squatters and Wasatch breweries, pubs, and line up of award winning brews.

Just two months after a $330 million sale to Monster Energy, the re-minted Salt Lake Brewing Company confirmed they’d sealed the deal to ensure the continuity of all the brand’s popular brewpub locations in Utah. Formed in part by Squatters original founders – Peter Cole and Jeff Polychronis – SLBC’s re-acquisition had a certain romantic elegance to it, effectively bringing the team full circle, back to their 1989 roots. Almost.

While the company initially took back ownership of all the local brewpub locations in 2022 it wasn’t until earlier this year that the company took another bold step forward. March saw Salt Lake Brewing purchase the downtown SLC microbrewery facility that adjoins the famous brewpub. The talents of Jason Stock would also rejoin the fold again – and the company would get back to brewing their own creations. As we slide towards 2024, there’s one final announcement. This month sees formal confirmation of the acquisition of the Wasatch brewery facility on Park City’s historic Main Street. The band is back together, as they say.

Those with sufficiently unsudsed memories will know that this was Utah’s first modern day brewer opening more than three decades ago in 1986. Opened by Greg Schirf, Wasatch was Utah’s first brewery since Prohibition. Indeed it was Schirf himself that proposed a landmark brewing bill to legislators, one that heralded in an unstoppable craft brew scene here in Utah. The transition of Schirf’s foundational brewery back to local ownership means more updates for the storied space, not least a name change to Top of Main Brewery (Monster remain owner of both the names and beers – Squatters and Wasatch).

Salt Lake Brewing Company - Jason Stock pouring Dog Lake Pale Ale
Salt Lake Brewing Company – Jason Stock rejoined the team earlier this year

Rick Seven of Salt Lake Brewing Co tells me, “As of November 1st, Wasatch Brew Pub was rebranded to Top of Main Brew Pub.  We will slowly be transitioning the interior of the brew pub to a new Old Town Park City feel…how is that for being contrary, as we work to make the brew pub and brewery a destination at the top of Main Street that both locals and out of town guest will want to frequent. We are excited to bring the history of Utah brewing all local again with Salt Lake Brewing Co.’s reacquisition of this brewery.

We talked with Greg Schirf, and he is supportive of the rebranding.  It was important to us to have Greg involved with the rebranding process as even though we are rebranding, we are maintaining the history of Wasatch Brew Pub, Utah’s first brew pub. Maintaining the history is something that is extremely important to us.  We are even naming one of our core beers after Greg in honor of what he did to start the whole craft brewery movement to Utah along with Peter Cole and Jeff Polychronis who founded Squatter Pub Brewery in Salt Lake City”

Under the eagle eye of brewmaster Nils Imboden, a newly installed stainless-steel kettle has now replaced the vintage copper kettle (in use since the 1986 opening believe it or not).  In a recent interview with KPCW Imboden seemed inspired to take the historic site to new heights stating, “this is really an excellent opportunity for me to sort of flex my creative muscle and be able to put out some new products and some new recipes and new designs with some similar styles.” Beers kegged and ready for the taps at the rebranded setup include:

  • Mother Urban’s Parlor Blonde Ale
  • Utah Beer An American Lager
  • The Original Schirf Beer  (Munich style Helles lager named after Greg Schirf, founder of Wasatch Brew Pub)
  • Swede Alley Nitro Stout (Oatmeal Stout)
  • Hop Carousel Rotating IPA – A series of Nils specialty IPA’s, about 4-5 styles based on hop availability.

Seven also told me of the plans for the acquired brewery ahead, explaining, “With the new brewery, we will also be able to expand distribution of Salt Lake Brewing Co. beers by brewmaster Jason Stock who is currently limited in the volume he can produce due to the size of the Salt Lake Brewing Co. brewery next to Squatter Pub Brewery. These beers will be available at our restaurant locations only, and soon PA’s will be made available so people can buy these beers in cans to go at our brewery locations.  Of course growlers and crowlers are always available for purchase.”

Image credit, rendering of Top Of Main courtesy of Salt Lake Brewing Co.

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3 thoughts on “Utah’s first modern craft brewery returns to local ownership”

    1. One reason why I popped ‘modern’ into the title Michael. Wasatch were the first after prohibition ending, actually helping to change the laws in 80s to allow craft brewing to kick start 🙂

      I don’t know much about the original Fisher, though I do note they might not be what we call a craft brewer in modern terms. There’s a story about how by 1905 they were selling 75,000 barrels a year which dwarfs the current brewers per this story:

      https://www.axios.com/local/salt-lake-city/2022/09/28/utah-craft-brewery-sales-mixed-results-after-pandemic

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