SALT LAKE CITY — For years, Cody McKendrick and Ross Metzger have been teaching Utahns that they don’t need a brewery to enjoy a beer at home.
As the owners of both Salt City Brew Supply and Ogden City Brew Supply, Metzger and McKendrick brought home-brew beer to the masses. Now, they’ve branched out and are making a new mark on the Utah beer scene with Bewilder Brewing, a brewpub in downtown SLC with eats and drinks aplenty — and classes on home-brewing, among other things, to continue the democratization of drinking.
McKendrick insists there’s still no better way to learn about beer than to make it yourself.
“When you’re home brewing, you get to interact with the ingredients,” he said. “You get to smell and taste the different ingredients, and you get to, over time, experience how different changes in process and ingredients can impact the end beer.”
For example, he said, Sierra Nevada is “kind of the torch-bearer for American pale ales.”
“But once you brew enough, if you smell it, it doesn’t smell like just hops any more — it smells like Cascade hops. And (Squatters) Full Suspension starts to smell like Columbus hops. And when you really start to pick out those different flavors and learn to manipulate them to make the beer that you want, it gets really exciting.”
McKendrick said Bewilder can’t legally start producing its own beers until the new year arrives. In the meantime, the young company has partnered with local breweries like 2 Row, Wasatch, Bohemian and Toasted Barrel for its on-tap selection.
McKendrick said Bewilder’s beers will, for the most part, explore traditional styles like British pub beers and German lagers. “And then from there, you know, we’re home brewers, so we like to be creative and do different stuff,” he said. “So the rest of our taps we'll flesh out with unique beers, do some fruited beers and stuff that’s fun and interesting to people.”
He anticipates that Bewilder’s selection will be on tap around Jan. 17.
Bewilder is located in a century-plus-old building at 445 South and 400 West, which McKendrick said was originally home to the Western Electric company. “It’s been all sorts of different businesses over the last century,” he said.
McKendrick said the renovation process was “substantial,” but that they “wanted to be as light-handed as possible.”
“Old buildings have a lot of character, but they have a lot of secrets, too," he said. "Besides the utility upgrades, the interior was a matter of cleaning it up and making it bright and restoring some of the original character to the old building.”
Now, after the mid-December opening, the historic building will host the Salt Lake community for quick midday meals, brewing classes and nights on the town. McKendrick said the full kitchen features homemade sausages, hot sandwiches and salads.
He and Metzger will still be present at the brew supply stores, he said, popping in to check up and keep an ear to the ground of the home-brew scene. “There’s really no better way to get a pulse on the beer industry than to talk to a bunch of passionate home brewers about what they’re up to.”
He said the industry in Utah is continuing to grow and thrive, especially with the recent increase in maximum alcohol by volume from 4% to 5% on draft. “It’s an exciting time,” McKendrick said. “The overall quality of beer is as high here as anywhere else.”
And between downtown breweries and at-home brew kits, there’s more than one way to enjoy it, too.