Utah – Food & Liquor in the Land of Purity

Fire and smoke roll across my tongue, the warmth and aroma filling my head before cardamom and nutmeg blossom over my tastebuds, sweetening the palate to a light toffee finish. High West DistilleryFire and smoke roll across my tongue, the warmth and aroma filling my head before cardamom and nutmeg blossom over my tastebuds, sweetening the palate to a light toffee finish. The High West Distillery’s Campfire Whiskey is an excellent example of blended malt scotch, Rye Bourbon and Whiskeys…

Utah is widely known as a Mormon state and being that Mormons aren’t supposed to drink alcohol, the legislature has installed various quirks over the years but are slowly being reformed since the 2002 Winter Olympics. There are the usual limits with regard to age (21) and the hours of service but before 2009 if you wanted to go to a bar you had to pay a cover charge or be a member. There is also the ‘Line of Zion’, a demarcation in liquor establishments, for example if you are at a winery for a tasting, the line is located between the tasting area and the retail area. You cannot buy your wine from where you are tasting it. If you go to a tasting, you can have a maximum of two glasses in front of you. These quirks actually work in favour of enjoying the experience, enhancing through rarity and ritual.

Kiler Grove WinesOne of the first things we did in SLC was visit Kiler Grove Winegrowers. Kiler Grove is owned and operated by winemaker Michael Knight and his wife Elva, they source their grapes from California but produces thee wine here, and they are passionate about it.

A things I love about wine, which entices me to taste more, is how the environment changes the grape’s flavours and what winemakers create with those grapes. In the USA I found that the wine is more often than not sweeter than I am used to, but still enjoyable.

Kiler Grove offer a small selection of wines, in the Rhone style and staying on the appropriate side of the ‘line of Zion’, I tasted their wares: Riesling, Petite Syrah (very soft and smooth), Grenache, and Zinfandel (beautifully fruity with a lasting pepper taste), as well as a range of blended wines utilising those same grapes.

The Knights are great hosts willing to share with you their experiences and their wine, enhancing the tasting. We bought a bottle of the Interpretation (blend of Grenache, Mourvedre, Petite Syrah, and Zinfandel) for a dinner later in the week as well as a Late Harvest Zinfandel (a semi-fortified after dinner wine that is excellent with dark chocolate).

We also dined at a bar called the Garage, located in the industrial area the Garage looks like a rough and tumble saloon that should be filled with bikers. The menu is what I assume is traditional American – onion rings, chicken wings, various types of potatoes, cheese steak, burgers, fried chicken and the like. I felt compelled to try the Chicken Waffles, which turned out to be 3 pieces of deep fried chicken served atop a waffle. The chicken was good although the seasoning could have had more spice to it, and a waffle covered in syrup is always a good way to end a meal. While at the Garage we also drank pitchers of Utah produced beer.

The Garage, Salt Lake City, UtahChicken Waffles, Traditional American Cuisine

High West Distillery, Park City, UtahWe visited a saloon bar in Park City after spending a couple of hours wandering the Kimball Arts festival. Established in 2007, High West wants to honour the tradition and history of the American West but also bring something new into the world. The bar is classically designed but with appropriately modern. The bar staff are friendly and knowledgeable about their whiskeys and wares, and don’t mind having a conversation about it either. I ordered their High West Reserve Flight for $14, a selection of four whiskeys to try (of which you can only have two in front of you at any time due to Utah’s liquor laws):

Rendezvous Rye– a blend of 2 Rye Whiskies, 1 16y/o and a 6y/o, it is lightly spiced with a smooth finish improving with each sip.

A Midwinter Night’s Dram– another blend of two rye whiskies, a 6y/o and a 16y/o, but finished in Port and French Oak Barrels. The Dram is rich, dark and creamy with a sweet caramel like finish. The Dram was made for cold weather and would make a great introductory whiskey for new enthusiasts to learn from

American Prairie Reserve– This limited whiskey is actually the Rendezvous Rye aged in Port and lightly charred French Oak barrels. It is lighter that the Rendezvous and has hints of cinnamon on the finish. While tasting this I thought that this would complement wonderfully with a Syrah Poached Pear

Campfire– This is the whiskey to try if you enjoy the Single Malts Scotches. Another blend, this time a straight 6y/o Bourbon, a 5y/o Rye Whiskey, with an 8y/o Scotch. The Campfire is an excellent blend and highlights the skill and passion of the whiskeymaker.

The High West Distillery and Saloon in Park City is a great destination for the whiskey enthusiast, offering a range of whiskeys and bourbon from their own distillery and America and some very choice selections from the world.

Micro brewing has grown in popularity everywhere, including Utah and they have managed to produce some good beers with great names. I would heartily recommend that any beer aficionado try a few of the local brews and see for themselves what they are accomplishing.

Wasatch is the oldest brewery in Utah, opening in 1986 when the owner, Greg Schrif, arrived here from Milwaukee to find an absence of local beer. Schrif also opened the first brew pub in Utah. Wasatch has since been joined by other breweries and brew pubs and is part of a vibrant and thriving industry.

Polygamy Porter, Wasatch Brewery, UtahOne beer that is worth trying is Wasatch’s Polygamy Porter, if for nothing else aside from the name. The Polygamy is a low alcohol porter 4% and is very easy to drink. The darkness of the liquid when you pour, belies the medium body, with it quickly settling to a deep red/orange. It has a slight sourness and low hop for a porter and is very easy to drink.

Another is from Uinta brew company that I tried only for the name: Hoodoo Kölsch Style Ale. I found this as I was heading to Bryce Canyon to see the Hoodoos and thought that it was fortune that put it in front of me. A golden style of ale, it is slightly bitter and quite effervescent, filling the mouth with a smooth hoppy aroma.

There was more of a variety of local brews, whiskeys and wines than I was expecting here (I was expecting none at all) that I was pleasantly surprised. The variety is enough that you will be able to have quite the adventure finding the drink that you enjoy the most, or just trying to taste them all. Utah may be primarily for Mormons and outdoor enthusiasts, but a gastronomical adventure is also possible.

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