Squatters Pub Brewery snuck up on me despite many years of wanting to go there. I had not made it to Salt Lake City in either my 1994 or 1995 trips to Utah, always seeming to get stuck in the state's more renowned southern sights. So, Salt Lake City and Squatters were intertwined as places I just could not manage to get to and when you can't get or have something, it only makes you want it more. So, why was it that now that the chance was on my doorstep that I no longer wanted it so much? Well, a lot has to do with timing. If we had been in the situation when we were visiting Arches or Zion National Park four months earlier, Squatters would have been greatly welcomed. There was a serious lack of brewpubs in southern Utah and the ones that were there were pretty dismal. Both the food and beer at the Moab Brewery were fair at best.
As it was, we were now nearing the end of a six-month trip and had not only just completed perhaps the most amazing segment in Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming but had thoroughly enjoyed Snake River Brewing in its gateway town of Jackson. Three times in fact. So, a visit to another brewpub was not high on the agenda but I knew well that it was not only the brewpub that had eluded me but the state's capitol as well. No, Salt Lake City and its brewpub may not have been exactly on our way but they were about as on our way as they were likely to be for another decade so we bit the bullet and pointed the car south when it should have been going east.
Driving over the Utah state line hours later, we looked at each other and wondered why we would have ever debated on returning as memories of our amazing spring here just months earlier flooded our imaginations. If we could have we would have surely made a bee-line for one of the states amazing national parks in the south but unchartered territory beckoned.
The town was nice enough but anything less than spectacular would have been disappointing. It was clean and organized as you would expect of a Mormon stronghold and it certainly had a pretty setting in the mountains. It was a glorious sunny day and we made no pretense about wasting it despite this being our first room in over two weeks. We did after all have only one day here. We walked into town and immediately were confronted by how many homeless people littered the otherwise spotless streets. We only had a few hours so visited the most noted of its many Mormon sites and make no mistake, all the sights are Mormon sites. Brigham Young's house and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir were free to enter and offered free interesting tours. These were given by Mormon devotees from around the world, in US to evidently help the religion grow and practice their English. We expected a strong push to “join up” but it never came. They just presented their facts and what they had done and were doing, allowing you to make your own decision. For those looking for a tidy answer to the world's problems, I am sure it looks pretty good.
I was however had one more thing to check out before making any decision on the town: its beer. We had stopped by on our way into town to see if they had a happy hour and the hostess looked at us perplexed and said that happy hour was illegal in Utah. It wasn't the first time I've heard this but they way she said it kind of irked me. Not that she made it sound like I was ignorant for not knowing Utah state law but almost that Mormon's would not have such a thing, and that was good. I was just trying to save a little money but by not having a happy hour, it restrained our time less.
We had enjoyed the town and now that the sun was going down and we were hungry, Squatters was calling. On entering, it looked much like any other brewpub. It was nicely furnished, looking older and more historical than it actually was but somehow gleaming and modern at the same time. They had a long bar which we decided to sit at, hoping to get a few tasters of their many beers rather than drinking full servings. The atmosphere was boisterous and chatty. Everyone there seemed to be having a grand time. If these were Mormons, they sure didn't seem to not like having a beer or two. We were planning on doing just that too. This was the first time that we were staying within walking distance of a brewpub since Victoria in British Columbia and it would be nice that my wife would be able to have more than one or two, not having to drive us back.
The beer list was interesting and ambitious. Along with the usual American-style interpretations of English ales there were surprisingly quite a few Germanic beers. It is unusual that one brewery is good enough to brew both lagers and ales, and seemed especially so in a state where brewers are restricted to brewing beers of only 3.2% alcohol by law. Oddly enough, we had just come from one such success story in Snake River Brewing in Jackson. It seemed impossible to us that it could even remotely live up to this fine place but we tried to keep an open mind. These are the beers we tried: 1) Vienna-rich malty brew in the Marzen tradition, typical seasonal in September in US brewpubs but generally not all that great. This one hit the mark but could have been a bit spicier & the finish could be ever so slightly drier but overall a good interpretation of a tough style, and one of the better ones of the trip. 2) Alt & in the Way-cute name for an alt, a style of beer originated in Dusseldorf, Germany-fruity amber brew w/ sourish dryish finish. Not in a league with Uerige of its origin town but better than Frankenheim, a mass produced Dusseldorf product. Better than expected. 3) Black Forest-black w/ tan head. Chocolate malt w/ some roasty notes. Clean dry finish. One of the best dark lagers I've ever had in the US and better than many ones made in Germany! 4) Provo Pils-Nice light-bodied dry pils very much in the German tradition. Crisp, dry finish and at 3.2% one of the tastiest “light beers” made. So, as you can see, their Germanic beers fared quite well. They were not as good as Snake River's or say Victory's in Pennsylvania, but all of them are 3.2% and it is much harder to brew tasty beers at such low gravities. Pretty amazing. How did their ales hold up? 5) Chasing the Tail Golden Ale-cask-golden English style session ale w/ bready palate that dries well in the moorish finish. These guys can make cask beer too! 6) Emigration Ale-Deep amber w/ good head retention. Great mix of malt & hops. Dry bitter finish. This would be killer if on cask. Full Suspension Pale Ale-unfiltered golden. Dry hoppy brew that is well-balanced w/ fair malt but bitter & dry to the end. 8) Espresso Stout-nitro-deep mahogany w/ creamy tan head. Light bodied, more like a porter but unrelenting dry bitter beer w/ pronounced espresso flavor. This beer begs for chocolate cake! Again, the brewers show their ability to brew ales as well as lagers despite being restricted.
Beers come in third or half liters glasses and were pricey at $3.79/4.79 respectively. Again, not pricey for a big eastern city but more than most places out west that we had been to. They serve a six beer sampler for $4.49 and the bartender was happy to give you smaller samples for free before you made a decision.
Beer can be sold that is over 3.2% in liquor stores and evidently in restaurants if a full meal is ordered with it! These beers were not on tap at Squatters but they did sell them in bottle form. I am not sure if we could have had one of them as we had already eaten a meal each. They were a bit pricey so I figured I would look for them in a liquor store the next day. I found them on the way out of town: 9) The Devastator-bottle-8%-deep amber w/ frothy lasting head. Rich malty nose w/ raisin element. Huge malt palate but roasty from start for good bittering balance. Bittersweet dry finish, especially at 8%. Better than many German dopplebocks though a few notches below the very best. 10) Squatters IPA-bottle-deep golden w/ ample rocky head. Citrusy nose. Floral hop palate well-balanced w/ big malt presence. Long dry finish. Very nice. So, the brewers know what to do when brewing higher gravity beers too. It's a shame they can't have more freedom, there's no telling how good their beers would be.
Favorite Dish: The food menu is pretty extensive for a brewpub. It ran the table from tandoori to Chinese to Mexican to steaks. Everything we saw looked good and the place seems very well run so my guess is most meals are good if not entirely authentic. They even serve breakfast on the weekend! I wonder if you can get a beer at 10:30 in the morning..... They certainly have some pricey items but the pub fare is in line with most big cities. It seemed high for what seems more like a small town and certainly pricier than Snake River Brewing in Jackson, WY. It was fine with us as we really were in the mood for a good burger and had been for a few weeks. We both opted for the Black & Bleu Burger ($9.99) which was 100% Niman Ranch ground chuck beef topped with melted bleu cheese and Daily's bacon. It came with garlic herb fries which were more like Belgian frites in their crunchiness and were very tasty. Neither of us is really a fries person but these babies were great as were the burgers. It was very high quality and I changed my opinion on the prices immediately. We finished up by splitting the Molten Lava Cake ($6.99) which was deep dark chocolaty served warm with fresh cream. The Stout we were drinking was begging for it.
We paid $64 for our meal with beers & tip.
Small but charming place, one of the best in SLC. They brew their own beer. Stout beer is enough good to drink more than one.
About food, meat is great (buffalo!), but I didn't like pizza.
Favorite Dish: Buffalo's hamburger!