*All Photos credit Red Rock Brewing Co.
When people think of Utah, craft beer is not exactly the first thing that comes to mind. Surprised? You shouldn't be. In a recent USA Today article Utah ranks last among all 50 states in annual beer consumption per capita and total beer consumption. Probably a direct result of their, let's call them, unique liquor laws. Maybe I should move there to help them climb up a place or two on the ladder in these oh-so-important rankings. Don't let this data fool you and lead you to believe that there isn't any good craft beer in Utah. Despite, their paltry beer drinking numbers, Utah is actually brewing some really good craft beer. The number of craft breweries have been on the rise for quite some time now, boasting 23 and regularly take home medals from competitions around the country.
One such brewery that is producing amazing beers and can be considered the trailblazers of the modern craft beer movement in Utah is Red Rock Brewing Company. It's hard to believe that they originally opened their doors in March of 1994 but they have withstood the test of time and are currently producing some of the best tasting and most unique beers in the state. Red Rock's Elephino DIPA is consistently one of the top selling craft beers in the state and the award winning Paardebloem Belgian Style Ale is brewed with dandelions and deliciously out of the ordinary. Since the original brewery opened in Salt Lake City, they have added two other locations, (Park City and Murray) and are currently in the design phase of yet another. Talk about growth. As their 25th anniversary approaches in the spring of 2019 and with ski season only a few weeks away, we caught up with Red Rock Brewery's Sales Manager Shantel Stoff to talk craft beer, food and the benefits of being in the epicenter of The Greatest Snow on Earth.
All About Après: What is the inspiration behind the brewery and how has that helped define your path of development?
Shantel Stoff: Utah isn’t exactly known for being a drinking state. Prior to Prohibition, Utah had the Salt Lake Brewing Company that was producing upwards of 100K barrels of beer, one of the largest breweries outside of Wisconsin, and Becker Beer in Ogden. After Prohibition ended, Utah really had no breweries left once Becker Brewery in Ogden (1908 to 1933 and then for a short time after prohibition ended) stopped producing beer. Big beer pushed out local breweries all across the country. Locally once the law was changed in the late 80’s and breweries could sell their own products, Local Craft was born. Downtown Salt Lake City at the time was being redeveloped and for the partners of Red Rock, it seemed like a perfect time to start making world class brews. The Building was originally an old dairy and was converted into our current brewpub.
All About Après: Why was it important for you to open in Salt Lake City? What unique qualities does that location offer?
Shantel Stoff: The partners of Red Rock are from SLC and for us it’s important to stay local. Breweries weren’t allowed until the late 80’s to sell their own product and once that law changed, craft beer in Utah started to flourish. The location is amazing. In Utah we have world class skiing, climbing, fly fishing, and our city life is great as well. Theater, arts and food. It did take a while for downtown to really blossom as a city and Red Rock has been a big part of that.
All About Après: What attractive qualities do the other locations offer that prompted you to open there as well?
Shantel Stoff: Our Park City location was attractive as it’s a gateway to the greatest skiing on the planet. We opened in January of 2005. It is 10 minutes to amazing outdoor recreation. Deer Valley Resort is consistently the #1 resort in North America. There are biking trails, cross country skiing trails, and amazing open space. Not to mention the Greatest Snow on Earth. On any given day at our Park City location you will find people in their bike kits, their ski pants or covered in chalk dust from local world class climbing as well. Our Murray location opened in 2010 and is just down from the Cottonwood Canyons. Doesn’t get better.
All About Après: How has your creativity as a brewer allowed you to stay ahead of the blossoming brew scene and continue to grow over the last 20 years?
Shantel Stoff: The beer in Utah is amazing, the 4% ABV in grocery and draught forces us to make amazing beer as you aren’t able to hide flaws behind alcohol content. Being a small craft brewer, we are able to develop new styles at any time. We are brewing new draught styles with fun changes monthly. We keep about 10 styles on at a time and 3 stay year round with the others always something fun and new every time you come back in. We also have a production facility for our higher ABV beers and our Elephino is the number one by dollar volume DIPA in the state of Utah.
All About Après: Was an inclusion of a brew pub part of the original plan or did that come about after?
Shantel Stoff: Our flagship pub houses our brewery so it was all opened at the same time in the spring of 1994. Once state law allowed breweries to sell their own beers, that made the most sense. We strive to have fresh, made from scratch food that pairs well with our world class brews.
All About Après: How does food play into the beer that you brew or vice versa? Does one inspire the creation of the other?
Shantel Stoff: Our brewers are so creative that we let them do what they do best and create amazing beer from fresh ingredients. We are always playing around with different styles, adding fruit, aging in oak, different hop varieties. On our menu we try to help pair beers with dishes that make them shine but when it comes down to it, pairing is often a matter of personal preference and creativity.
All About Après: Is there a relationship between your apres-ski crowd in Salt Lake City and the food you cook or the beers that you brew? If so, can you explain?
Shantel Stoff: We know that after you ski all day, you are hungry and thirsty. We brew world class beer and our menu has offerings from Steak to ½ Roasted Chicken to wood fired pizzas. It has something for everyone and also our portions are big enough to satisfy even the most hungry diners. Come in for a full meal or one of our amazing appetizers and a pitcher of beer to share. Our Park City location is full of families on ski vacations as well so we also have a kids menu for the little ones as well as a full bar with a great wine selection as well. We want to make sure that you come to Red Rock every day of your vacation and have options for even the pickiest of eaters.
All About Après: Why is Red Rock special when it comes to après-ski? Do you do anything different to attract a good crowd post pow?
Shantel Stoff: We love to have the ski crowd. We have tables that push together easily for a large group for après-ski and have a significant number of appetizers that come out of the kitchen quickly to take the edge off when you come in hungry from skiing powder all day.
All About Après: What is the overall vibe of Red Rock as it pertains to après (ski, bike, hike, etc)?
Shantel Stoff: All of our locations have patio dining so the after bike crowd loves coming in to sit outside after recreating. It’s the best place to grab a burger and pitcher and reflect on the amazing Utah scenery. Skiing is the same, the bar seats fill up fast with skiers looking to grab a cold brew and try out our Kobe burger of the day. Everyone ends up talking up their best run of the day, the epic powder in Utah and what style of craft brew is a favorite.
All About Après: What is your relationship like with the mountains that you are near? Do they feature any of your beers? Do you collaborate on events with them?
Shantel Stoff: We are working on something now that will hopefully be released to the public soon collaborating with one of the local resorts. We are a brewery featured at Hops on the Hill each summer at Stein Erickson Lodge and we all love getting out there and skiing the fresh pow.
All About Après: Do you have a beer that you consider an ideal après-ski beer? If so, which one and why?
Shantel Stoff: Some people would say our Elephino, but a crushable amazing lager bier is one that we consider the perfect après-ski quencher. Our Frohlich Pilsner is a 5.5% traditional lagerbier in the style of a true German lager. It is filtered clear and goes down amazingly smooth with a crisp finish.
All About Après: What is your flagship beer? What makes this beer special?
Shantel Stoff: Our flagship beer would definitely be our Elephino. This is an 8% American Double IPA that is easily the most drinkable DIPA anywhere. It’s floral and piney and accounts for a significant amount of our production. We bottle so much of this beer that we joke around the brewery that we are actually the “Elephino Brewing Company”. Available in Utah at all three of our pubs, our production facility beer store, the state liquor stores and restaurants and bars across Utah.