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Oct 20, 2014

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Salt Lake City pub crawl

By Gregg Smith

Nothing was more important on journeys in the old west than a route between watering holes. Stories and movies reinforced this with images of cattle skeletons and circling buzzards. Some hardships were unspeakable and even when mother nature seemed to provide relief she could really be lining up a cruel trick. Imagine what it was like to be a settler coming through the mountains of the Wasatch range. The party comes through a pass and spots a huge lake in the valley below. The wagon train must have been ecstatic, but at the shore their spirits were near crushed when they discovered it was more salty than the ocean. Things haven't changed much since that time. True, today it's skiers and other visitors traveling to Salt Lake but it can be a disappointing and dry trip without a map to the watering holes.

At one time there were upwards of 22 operating breweries in Utah. Of course now people rarely think of it as a beer friendly state. Fact is there are now eight breweries in the beehive state and plenty of watering holes in Salt Lake to dispense the output.

A little study of a city map reveals just how easy this crawl is to follow. Unlike other American urban areas, which conform to the irregular windings of rivers and lakes, Salt Lake was laid out in a simple grid. The width of the streets are also surprising, designed to allow the early settlers room to pull a U-turn with horse drawn freight wagons.

This version of pub crawling includes suggestions on turning it into a progressive dinner so bring an appetite. It all begins just beyond the edge of downtown in the section called "Sugar House". Named for its early roots in the sugar beet industry, the farms and refinery have given way to small businesses. Near the center of the district is your first objective, Salt Lake Pizza & Pasta at 1063 East and 2100 South (801) 484 1804.

There's good reason to begin the journey here, sustenance is part of this tour and a vital ingredient in ensuring you stay the course. The dinning room of Salt Lake Pizza & Pasta has an uninspired interior but all other aspects are far from bland. All appetizers are recommended; foremost is a very garlic infused calamari, fried to a golden perfection few restaurants attain. Other good bets include sauteed mushrooms, or the chicken pasta with spicy peanut dressing listed as an entree but which makes a great starter. What to drink with this? The selection is even broader than the food menu: there are 25 taps from which to choose. The owners are proud of the beers they offer and they try to ensure all Utah micros are represented. No easy task with the growing list of breweries in the state. Patrons even have the option of purchasing a growler of their favorite.

Next you head downtown to 254 south and 200 West, home of Red Rock Brewing (801) 521 7446. The airy modern decor, open kitchen and piped in music (often the Grateful Dead) differs sharply from the traditional image of Salt Lake and makes for a comfortable visit.

This is the salad stop, but beware, they give new meaning to the phrase "generous portions." It might not be a bad idea to split one with a friend. Try the shrimp with its hints of Cilantro matched to one of their fresh brewed hefe-weizens. Other beers include a pale, amber and smooth oatmeal stout. The wood fired ovens, veggie sandwiches and Red Rock beers may tempt you to stay but there's more to do.

Exiting the Red Rock turn right and walk to the corner. Continue across the street, turn left and cross again walk one half block and you're at the next stop, Salt Lake Brewing Company is Squatters, another brewpub (801) 363 2739. As featured in All About Beer, Squatters is the oldest brewpub in the area. In the door is a bar to the right and dinning room on the left but the recommended spot from spring through fall is straight ahead to the patio. Here's the location for the main course, and the grill provides any number of well prepared entrees from chicken to mahi-mahi. Try pairing these with the emigrant ale, or if dinning on red meat, the award winning porter.

By this point you've noticed one of Utah's strange liquor laws; the staff is not allowed to ask if you want another drink. You must initiate a request and Squatters can be just the place to require a second round.

Back out the door, make a right and head up to Port O' Call. This is another of the oddities in Utah - a private club. For higher strength beers, liquor and legal after hours drinking, clubs are the answer. Patrons must be members but after a short application and small fee (usually $5) everyone qualifies. The interior is an incongruous mix of neon, tin ceiling, brash neon and deep wood wainscoting. Still it rates as the dessert stop because of the dozen taps and seventy-odd bottles with enough variety to match with any dessert. If you visit during daylight hours grab a table near the window for the impressive mountain vistas.

This isn't the end of the crawl, there remains the matter of an after dinner beer. A few doors away (out and turn left) is the Market Street Oyster Bar (801) 531 6044, which presents an opportunity to have a Guinness or make a selection from their single malt scotch list.

A few blocks north is the sister brewery to Squatters, not far from the new Delta Center. From Port of Call walk 2 blocks north on West Temple and turn left on 2nd South, walk three more blocks to 2nd South and 4th West, and there you'll find Fuggles, named after the famous British hop variety (801) 363 7000. This pub is larger than Squatters and though it offers a similar lunch menu the dinner is a bit more upscale. Don't hesitate to visit, it may appear a touch modern and trendy, but it maintains a pub-like feel. It's a warm and friendly place to relax and even includes darts.

Need one more stop? As you leave Fuggles head back the way you came toward 1st Street South. Pay your respects as you pass near the temple and head to 22 East 100 South (four blocks east of Fuggles) for the Ashbury Pub (801) 596 8600. Keep a sharp eye, this bar is down a half flight of stairs in a red stone and brick walled basement. The music and posters conjure up memories of Haight-Ashbury but the beers feature 10 taps backed by a line up of various bottles. As the last stop on your trek it could be time to relax with a yard and if you saved room they have growlers to go.

There's always been great skiing in the mountains and now there is even more to enjoy. Salt Lake has made remarkable advances in the last decade and there's more to come as they pursue the winter olympics. Don't think of it as the ancient seat of repression, it's fast becoming an oasis of beer.

Gregg Smith

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