S2:Ep9. Greg Schirf: Evolution of Ski Town Breweries

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If you're a skier or snowboarder, there's a pretty good chance you've been in a brew pub be it for a draft beer, hamburger or a pizza. Today we take ski town brew pubs for granted. Where did it all begin? Well, right here in Utah!

Craft brewery visionary Greg Schirf started it all in 1985 with Wasatch Brew Pub in Park City. In this episode of Last Chair, Schirf walks through the evolution of ski town breweries sharing some laughs about his ingenious PR stunts and taking us on a tour from pale ale to IPA to Polygamy Porter.

Growing up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Schirf knew beer - PBR, in particular. But a chance meeting with a brewing pioneer led him into a business that would change the face of ski towns across America.

We drink our share and sell the rest.

And it wasn't easy! There hadn't been a brewery in Utah for over two decades. But he did it. And there was no legal pathway to brew beer at a restaurant. So he got the law changed - in Utah!

Today, every major ski resort town has a nearby brewery. And it all stems back to the pioneering efforts of Greg Schirf in Utah.

Grab a beer, your headphones and enjoy this walk through brewing history.

Greg, you were a beer enthusiast but had no business background in brewing. What motivated you to start Wasatch Brewery?
There was a poem by Robert Frost (Two Tramps in Mud Time) that I had read that said if you can combine a vocation with an avocation, you know, you'll have a happier life. That was pretty simple, but it struck me as profound. I had a passion for two things: being an entrepreneur, starting a business, and then looking for the right marriage with that business.

When you first opened Wasatch Brewery in 1985, what was your beer lineup?
The first year or two, we brewed one beer. Every craft brewery started out with a pale ale. Today, that might be an IPA, but in the old days it was a pale ale. Wasatch Premium Ale, that was the beer we made.

In the mid-80s, there were few micro breweries. Who were your early mentors?
Tom Boane of Pyramid Brewing and Kurt Widmer of Widmer Brothers.

This is a fun episode of Last Chair, complete with a tasting of six legendary Wasatch Beers. We'll also learn about the value of working with politicians to change laws and more.

  • How did he learn about brewpubs (there weren't many in 1985)?
  • Why is serendipity his favorite word?
  • Which of Greg Schirf's legendary marketing campaigns is he most proud of?
  • What was the first beer he brewed?
  • How does foam work into the beer equation?
  • Which genre of beers dominates the brewpub scene today?

Take a listen today. Tune in to Last Chair: The Ski Utah Podcast presented by High West Distillery and Saloon on your favorite podcast platform. Subscribe to get first access to every episode.

BEER TASTING

Greg Schirf is one of craft brewing's true pioneers, a leader in the early days of the industry and a connoisseur still today. Last Chair had a chance to do a tasting at the original Wasatch Brew Pubwith Schirf. Listen to his podcast episode for the behind-the-scenes stories of each of these legendary Wasatch beers and the role they've played in the evolution of our beer palates the last 30 years.

Wasatch First Amendment Lager (American Lager)
A turn of the century pure malt, crisp lager. 1st Amendment Lager is made with European style hops and Munich malts. This beer has a wonderful, clean, crisp flavor certain to please all.

Wasatch Hefeweizen (Hefeweizen)
Has defining flavor notes of licorice, clove and banana. Add to this the tangy sweetness of wheat malt and flowery bitterness.

Nitro Polygamy Porter (Porter)
She's on Nitro! Meet the sister-wife of our classic brew. This nitrogenated version is as chocolatey and easy-drinkin' as the original but even softer and creamier. It's ok to love them both.

Wonderful Winter (Ale)
A rich amber-mahogany colored ale with caramel malt flavors and a large hop presence. Brewed with the finest Northwestern pale and caramel malts then generously hopped with Columbus and Amarillo hops. Expect a piney, floral character.

Snow Bank (Amber Lager)
When the snow starts to pile up, it's time to reach for the delicious malty notes of Snow Bank Amber Lager. A smooth malt backbone is balanced with heaps of hops for a crisp, clean refresher. Let it snow!

Our Share IPA (India Pale Ale)
This well-balanced, sessionable IPA brings notes of pine and berry, with a smooth malt backbone that will have you sharing this beer all year long.

44 episodes