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.
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 Pub with 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.
Tom Kelly: |00:00:00| Welcome to Last Chair, thanks for joining us.
Greg Schirf: |00:00:02| Hey, Tom, it's good to be here. I always like talking about beer and skiing, for that matter.
Tom Kelly: |00:00:06| Nothing wrong with that. We are actually sitting in the bar right now at the Wasatch Brewpub at the top of Main Street. And Greg, one of the things that we want to talk about is beer as a part of the ski experience, the lifestyle of it. We're going to go into year history a little bit at Wasatch here and the pioneering efforts that you put forward in the 80s. But talk a little bit, if you could, about the role that beer plays as a part of the hospitality aspect of a ski town.
Greg Schirf: |00:00:34| Well, before the whole brewpub, well, we used to call micro breweries and those days now known as craft breweries. When I started in nineteen eighty six, that phenomenon hadn't really gone off as part of a normal ski vacation. It soon became part of that. But any time you're out to have fun, you're going to have a beer or a glass of wine or cocktail. So skiing and breweries, natural partners I think. And I also think, you know, the athletic part of skiing kind of lends itself to a beer afterwards or even, you know, why you're having lunch. So to me, you know, when you get the combination of a resort town where people are trying to have fun skiing, when you're trying to have fun and beer, which is always fun, there's a good trifecta going on there.
Tom Kelly: |00:01:27| So you grew up in Wisconsin and full disclosure, I did as well, which is that we grew up on PBRs and Miller - Miller High life was my lager of choice. But what brought you out to the mountains? How did you make your way from the Milwaukee area where you grew up and went to school, to the Wasatch,
Greg Schirf: |00:01:51| Tom, it's a little bit of a crazy story because so many people that were drawn to Park City that we all know well. And I grew up here with it because I came here as a 21 year old, actually hitchhiked here from Milwaukee after I graduated from Marquette University. And like a lot of people who just came here solely to be to ski or to become ski bums and find a job and spend a couple of years, I really never skied. Growing up in Wisconsin, I had probably skied three or four times, but I can't remember the name of the small resorts. You could see the bottom of the run from the top of the run.
Tom Kelly: |00:02:25| Little Switzerland.
Greg Schirf: |00:02:26| Little Switzerland comes to mind and usually it was and sometimes you'd go at night and it would be so cold. And, you know, frostbite was you talk about frostbite like, yeah. You know, it's just like getting a cold or something, you know. Yeah, I got a little frostbite last week or, you know, it was so cold and it just didn't lend itself to, you know, the snow is hard packed. And so I wasn't a passionate skier when I was growing up in Wisconsin. And I didn't come to Park City because I was - I came because of the mountains. I came because I had grown up in Milwaukee and I thought it was time to go west. And my brother had actually pioneered his way here from Colorado. And that's part of the attraction for me to come to Park City. And I came just really as an adventure. And it wasn't solely about skiing when it got here. Obviously, I can remember meeting people like John Wilking, who was a ski instructor, and he had to teach me how to ski because I really didn't know until I got here. So, yeah, once I got here, you know, I used to ski probably even in my hardcore working days, you know, just 40, 50 times a year, not like some guys that were getting in 100. You know, I didn't get that in, but certainly part of my experience here. So I got here in 1974 and went through a couple of different careers. A reporter, photographer for the local paper, worked a little bit in construction, didn't do very well. And that worked for my brother, wasn't really born to be a construction guy. Then I ended up working for the ski team for a year.
Tom Kelly: |00:04:00| Yeah, I want to hear more about that because I've never really talked to you about this. But you essentially had my job for some years.
Greg Schirf: |00:04:08| Yeah.
Tom Kelly: |00:04:08| Decades earlier.
Greg Schirf: |00:04:10| That's being a little kind. My job. I work for Karen Korfanta and John Chase and they put an ad in the paper. They were looking for someone to kind of cover and try to create more exposure and more, you know, just basic race results and whatever we could drum up for the North American ski series. So no, I didn't get to go to Europe and cover the World Cup like you spent all those great years doing. But I went from, you know, from Mont Tremblant in Canada to Whistler and Vancouver and a lot of resorts in between. And I had a Subaru. Subaru was a sponsor then. So I had it all a little Subaru wagon all decked out with U.S. Ski Team logos.
Tom Kelly: |00:04:54| And those are pretty hot little cars.
"I didn't have a marketing budget so I had to come up with ways to promote the beer that didn't have serious costs involved. The easiest way was to be controversial to get the media to cover you and talk about you. And they did it for free."
Greg Schirf: |00:04:56| That was fun. And I had to really put a little. One year I'd go from Quebec to Vancouver, and that's a long drive, but it was a lot of fun and I got to know the kids who were racing and got them in the Nationals. And I got to hang out with the Mahres and some of those type of people. And this is way back. This is before we had the kind of success we've had since then. But you remember the days well before you even came. So back in this would have been back and I guess the late 70s, we didn't have a lot of race results, Tom.
Tom Kelly: |00:05:31| Oh, I know that even when I started in the 80s, I didn't have a lot of results. There was a period in between us where we did, but we sure didn't in that late 70s period.
Greg Schirf: |00:05:39| No, I mean, the Mahres, you know, the first real - Phil was the first real, absolute podium contender and, you know, races. And before that, you know, if we got a guy in a top 10, we thought we really had a successful outcome.
Tom Kelly: |00:05:55| You still follow that today, though.
Greg Schirf: |00:05:58| I do - really - I'm into Mikaela, you know, and Lindsey Vonn and, you know, all the skiers. And I just think people think ski racing is such a terrific sport. I'm not sure why. I mean, you know what it does in Europe. Of course, it just never in your job was to try to beat it in the people that ski racing in the U.S. Ski Team deserved your support and deserved your enthusiasm and following. And you can tell you can fess up. That was a tough job to get ski racing sold in this country.
Tom Kelly: |00:06:31| It was a really tough job. And I feel good that we really did that. I mean, we really did get it done. And I feel particularly good about cross-country skiing. I mean, I started at the American Birkebeiner in northern Wisconsin, as you know, and I worked in country for years and for 25 years we were really awful. I mean, nothing was happening. And then it started to happen. And then it really started to happen with Kikkan Randall and then Jesse Diggins and others. I was just reading a story today in The New York Times talking about the great renaissance that the U.S. cross-country ski team has had, particularly on the women's side. So I'm proud of those accomplishments.
Tom Kelly: |00:07:06| And they all emanated from.
Greg Schirf: |00:07:08| You did a great job for a lot of years. And that publicity you were able to get. And I guess to you know, you were there for, you know, the transition into snowboarding and all the rest of it.
Tom Kelly: |00:07:17| Yeah, it was an exciting time. So, Greg, when you were forging your careers and you're going through all these different career pathways here in Park City, did you have any underlying passion for becoming a brewer?
Greg Schirf: |00:07:30| Well, you know, we were talking about another issue earlier and we decided that honesty is always the best policy. I think so. The answer is yes. I was always a beer enthusiast, have been a very accomplished home brewer, had been a very enthusiastic consumer. And my sophistication in beer took a pretty big leap forward when I got to go to school in Europe for a year. And that changed my landscape because as you mentioned, you know, growing up, drinking PBR, you know, like a great beer. And I still find myself getting the PBR here and there. So it's a functional beer. Yeah. And drink a lot of it. But when I got to Europe, what's my first Oktoberfest, even the beers in Italy, you know, Peroni then going to Germany and Austria, beer was just such a different experience in Europe and they had taken it to a level before, you know, we had even thought about it in this country. So that really got my interest. So I was drinking imported beers. And, you know, my friends are still, you know, drinking Miller and passed and you had to try this.
Greg Schirf: |00:08:39| So to answer your question, yeah, I was a beer enthusiast. To cut to the chase, starting the brewery first and then the brewpub to come was a combination of finding something that I could execute as a vocation and an avocation. And that's a poem. There was a poem by Robert Frost that I had read. I think it might have been college or might have even been high school. But Robert Frost said, if you can combine a vocation with an avocation, you know, you'll have a happier life. And that was pretty, pretty simple, but it struck me as profound. So I had realized that I wasn't the world's greatest employee. So to be a good idea, to start my own business. So I had a passion for two things being an entrepreneur, starting a business and then looking for the right marriage with that business.
Tom Kelly: |00:09:25| I think you and I are like in that sense, I spent my career working in a sport I absolutely loved and I just look back so fondly on it. I know that you do. You do.
Greg Schirf: |00:09:35| What if you were in a car company? Wouldn't have been nearly as cool.
Tom Kelly: |00:09:39| Or if you're selling beer, I mean, it is. And but I think the other thing, Greg, and we'll get to this in a minute, you made it cool, too. I mean, you brought life to it that really it didn't have before.
Greg Schirf: |00:09:49| Well, it was really fun. So when I decided to start a brewery in Utah, I had a little bit of a push from a good friend, a college roommate, a guy named John Morris in Seattle and for Thanksgiving 1985, he said, What are you doing for Thanksgiving? I was a bachelor and I said, not doing anything, really. He said, well, come up to Seattle. I want you to connect with some old friends and I want you to meet somebody else I've gotten to know pretty well. And I said, Do you now see Thanksgiving weekend? So I went up to Seattle. And during that visit, I met a guy named Tom Baune who had started the Pyramid Brewery.
Greg Schirf: |00:10:21| And actually it was in Washington, but it wasn't in Seattle. And I went to visit him. And then at that juncture, the lights kind of came on and I said, well, if he can do it, maybe I could do it. Not fully appreciating the fact that I was going to I was living in a place called Utah where half the people don't drink beer. So, you know, that wasn't really me. I was a philosophy major in college, so I didn't have that real highly skilled business acumen. So that I'll get to that later. So I saw what he was doing and I said, can you help me get started? Can you know what? Can I help you as a consultant? He said, I'll help you. You know, we had a really close mutual friend and he was kind of the conduit. So someone would come out. And at that point, I went down to the Department of Alcohol Beverage Control here in Utah, in Salt Lake City, and said I wanted to apply for a brewers license and wasn't sure what the reaction would be.
Greg Schirf: |00:11:17| And I wasn't sure if it was even legal. And they were quite nice. And they looked it up and said, yeah, you know, we had breweries here in Utah, you know, from day one. And we had the last one close was the Fisher Brewery that closed in about nineteen sixty five, I'm guessing something around there. So they said, yeah, it's legal, you can do it. We don't have an application because nobody's ever asked for one. But if you can get through the paperwork and get the federal approval next day, I was under the auspices of the BATF. If you can get BATF to sign off on it, then we're good to go with you as a state. And I said, OK, so that that was pretty seamless. And I had to, you know, go through a lot of paperwork. The federal paperwork was fairly intimidating in those days.
Greg Schirf: |00:12:03| And and then, of course, the next hurdle was to get some financing and put some money together to go ahead and to try to, in fact, put the business plan into action.
Tom Kelly: |00:12:14| So it wasn't that difficult on the federal side.
Greg Schirf: |00:12:17| It was laborious in the sense it wasn't philosophically challenging and it was certainly legal statute. It just was everything in duplicate. And it was long before there were computers to help out. So but, you know, I don't know why. It's just I'm not a real dot the I's and cross the T's kind of guy, but there was a lot of that going on.
Tom Kelly: |00:12:41| Now, to give people a perspective today, if you go into any ski town, you have breweries, tap rooms, brewpubs. Yeah, you probably in America. Well, actually, today, I know that today there are over 8,000 breweries around the country. How many do you think there were back in the mid 80s when you conceived this idea of Wasatch Brewery?
Greg Schirf: |00:13:03| I can't give you a really hard definition. No, I can take some wild guess, but I can tell you one thing that's absolutely true. There were more breweries closing on an annual basis than there were opening the mid-sized regional breweries. We're going out fast. I don't know if you've ever breweries like, you know, gentleman back in Wisconsin, pretty soon the big breweries were just really starting to merge and buying out the middle sized breweries. And pretty soon, about 90 percent of the consumption in this nation were, you know, the big five breweries and they control the marketplace. So there was onssly there was less than a dozen microbreweries in the country. When I got started in 1986, there was a there really was a northwest phenomenon. There were people in Kalamas, as I mentioned, Pyramid. And then trying to think of some of the other early ones in the Portland people came on Full Sail was early on and Portland Brewing that just went out of business. Oddly enough, it was early in. But, you know, even Sam Adams hadn't gotten started by then. Oh, of course, the greatest of all craft beers, Sierra Nevada, they were about two years ahead of me, a year or two ahead of me in Chico. They really blazed a trail for all of us. They proved that in those days. Micro breweed beer, as we now know, as craft beer, could be good beer because the reality was all of us when we got started, we're making some beers that are really good and some beers that really weren't so good.
Tom Kelly: |00:14:26| Kind of like any business, though, you got to have a little trial and error.
Greg Schirf: |00:14:29| Well, we just don't know what we were doing because nobody had done it before. So, I mean, we had a lot of on the job training and we finally got more and more scientific and more and more trained. And we started going to beer classes around the world, around the world and finding a higher level of brewing skills. If I look back anything that I was a little slow on the drawers, I had a philosophy and it's all about the marketing. And that's that's fun to say. But the reality is it's got to what we say, be in the bottle. The marketing is important, but the beer actually is probably more important, certainly.
Tom Kelly: |00:15:01| So you started out essentially in a warehouse district here in Park City.
Greg Schirf: |00:15:05| Out of town?
Tom Kelly: |00:15:06| Yes, there is one. It was actually out of town. You wouldn't say that today, but when you started out, it wasn't a lineup like today where you can go into any brewery or taproom and you've got 20, 25 different choices. How many beers did you brew right out of the line?
Greg Schirf: |00:15:21| Not a long time, but in the scope of things, the first year to two, we brewed one beer, every craft brewery and those they started out with a pale ale. Now, that might be an IPA, but in the old days it was a pale ale, tended to have a little color, you know, almost amber pale ale kind of coloring. That was a knockoff, Tom Baune taught me how to make a Pyramid pale ale. We had to ratchet it down a little bit for our liquor laws here in Utah and make it four percent, by volume. So we made a pale ale and that's all we made. It was called What's Your Premium Ale? Really catchy name. Later we got a little more creative. And those days, just the Wasatch Premium Ale, that was the beer we made. And then I thought, well, you know, the ladies would probably like a little lighter version or some other people that are transitioning from macro beers. So we came out with a beer we called Wasatch Gold, which is literally half two row barley and half wheat barley or wheat malt, I should say. That was a really light, wonderful beer. Sometimes I think we should bring it back because it was just super minimal presence compared to what people are drinking today. Probably had like 10, 12 ABUs, which is really almost minimal hops you could put in a beer. And it was really people really liked it because it was very approachable. And in those days, you know, part of the experience in 1986, all of us, one of the reasons we all get along together is, oh, we didn't mention the Widmer Brothers, too. They were one of the early ones up in Portland. But we all kind of felt we were in the same business and that we had to develop people's palate, you know, so we whatever we could do to help each other in those days that really nobody had really had ambitions to get out of their local market. So it wasn't like we were all worried about the competition. So, you know, if you needed a part or you needed a source for something and you needed something, you would just call up any of the local breweries in the country and they'd reach out to you.
Tom Kelly: |00:17:11| One of the things that struck me about this industry over the past decades is for the most part, it does seem to operate as a family and everyone growing together benefits each member of the family. I know that that's the way you ran your business here. How much has that helped really the boom in craft beer sales over the last decades?
Greg Schirf: |00:17:32| Early on, it was as a matter of surviving and not surviving because, you know, you needed that kind of support. I can remember getting so much advice when I was desperate, you know, to know which way to go without that support. I'm not sure it's quite as symbiotic as it was in the old days because the competition is significant because there's so many new breweries. I think there's still a real fraternal mentality among brewers. But it's not as the old days where you could really count on people to just don't almost anything to help you. And I think that's why we did survive and then did eventually flourish.
Tom Kelly: |00:18:11| So you are brewing in the warehouse district here in Park City, but you had your vision of opening a brew pub and brewpubs are commonplace to us now, but they really weren't.
Greg Schirf: |00:18:21| Back in the 80s, I had this I had this weird urge. It was called a survival urge. You know, I was losing money as a small brewery. And I was like, oh, my God, you know, I can't live off T-shirt sales forever. And I just couldn't get a volume. I made any sense. Am I? My friend Tom Baune said, oh, there's this concept of doing in Northern California, it's called brewpub. And you make the beer right on premise and then you sell to your customers right there and you don't have any cost of packaging and you don't have any cost with a distributor. And basically it's just your ingredients and your state and federal tax. And then you just put it in front of people. And, you know, basically in those days, if you were selling a beer for three dollars, I'm not exaggerating. It could cost you thirty cents to make. So that's why brewpubs became more and more popular. Besides just the love of beer and the passion for beer when brewpubs work, they were a good business. I'm thinking of our governor or not senator in Colorado. I Wynkoop he - Hickenlooper - his brewpub was just killing it. He was one of the first. When I did some consulting, I said, You want to try to do a thousand barrels a year as a brewpub. You're sure you'll have a profitable business. I think back in Denver, back in the early days, like early 90's, they were doing two or three thousand barrels at his brewpub there in Denver. And that's just what I could easily do with the numbers on that, because I knew what the cost was. That was a significant business success. So brewpubs were novel, but they caught on pretty fast. There was always an issue in almost every state and I had an issue here that they typically weren't legal before. You have to take a look at it in the landscape. Who loses? Who's the business that loses out? When a brewpubs is successful, it's the distributor. The distributors cut directly and immediately out of the equation. And for whatever reason, I don't think anyone thought we'd be successful or we'd have an impact on their business. But if we tried to pass a law today, the distributors would not be too understanding because the brewpubs have really impacted the volume of beer sold in a positive way with that beer was being sold without or without the aid of a distributor.
|00:20:31| So as you are. You've started your brewery. I think he started brewing in 1986. That would be three years until this building. Yes, we're in today. Would open as you looked for a location in Park City. And this is back in the olden days. There wasn't a whole lot going on at that point. How did you choose this location? How did you find this wonderful space if we got around it?
Greg Schirf: |00:20:53| My favorite weird yet serendipitous many times. So this is a classic example. First of all, I was struggling. I had to get together. And if we want to talk about at some juncture how we got the law changed in Utah, getting the beer, you know, getting the beer brewing, law changed, liquor laws changed in Utah is usually a monumental achievement, but we'll talk about that later. But to answer your question, I was looking for some space in those days. Everybody knew everybody else, the mayor, the city council, planning staff. And in this case, we had a new city manager named Arlene Loble. And somehow or another, it might have even been at a party or, you know, somehow she got wind of this idea of mine and knew that I was appealing to the state legislature to get the law changed.
Greg Schirf: |00:21:39| Well, she actually called me and said, listen, we're trying to add some vitality to Main Street. You know, we've got so many businesses not opening boarded up. Top of Main Street is particularly dead. You know, if you get that law changed, we have some RDA redevelopment agency property on Main Street. We're trying to get back on the tax rolls, trying to have it be more of a contributor. And if you can get that law changed, we'd be interested in talking to you about selling our RDA property on Main Street.
Greg Schirf: |00:22:11| You know, Main Street, not a bad place to do business, you know. So I said, deal, you know, so we stayed in touch and by some miraculous stroke of luck, the stars became aligned. We got the state legislature to make brewpubs legal in Utah. So I went back to Arlene. I said a deal's a deal. And she goes, absolutely. So she'd made me a deal. That's embarrassing to even tell people because they're going to try to back charge me. But Arlene told me she was OK.
Greg Schirf: |00:22:42| RDA says, you know, the city council functions as the RDA. So at the end of the meeting, they take off the city council has and put on the RDA hats. So as the redevelopment agency and the deal was and it was never public. I don't think I've ever said this before. Certainly not the microphone in front of me. But what the hell time old friend Arlene told me you get an appraisal, bring it in and I'll sell it to you for half the appraised value. And that was because businesses were not opening on Main Street. And I guess in her defense, that was nineteen eighty nine. That is 1989. What does that 31 years of paying taxes on Main Street and employing. We did a rough calculation. The number of employees we've had through here in 31 years and we're fully staffed. It's probably 60 to 75 people, you know, in front back of the house, average turnover, you know, maybe a year and a half, two years. We've literally had thousands of employees picking up a paycheck here over 31 years and a lot of taxes, both sales tax. And so maybe Arlene got the better end of the deal. Maybe I shouldn't be bragging.
Tom Kelly: |00:23:55| Well, I was thinking about that, that this has worked out really well for the city. I enjoyed your comments about how businesses were boarded up and there were vacant lots and buildings here on Main Street. It's hard to imagine that today, but it really was like that in the late 80s. You could see that it was coming along. But, man, it had a long ways to go.
Greg Schirf: |00:24:15| It really did. And, you know, my best friend, Jan Wilking when I first came out in town and I wasn't sure if I was going to be able to go the distance in Park City because I had already dated, like 35 eligible women that were in. And I was you know, I was they had cut me loose. So I was like, maybe it's time to push on. But he said, Greg, don't forget, this is going to be a major ski resort someday. You know, those days we just had the Park City Mountain Resort and, you know, it was nice and everything, but it was just getting on his foot. We had a gondola, which we thought was pretty cool. But he said, yeah. So today I kid him. I said, Jan, you're absolutely right about Park City. It was destined to become a major ski resort. It just took about twenty years longer than he told me he was going to take. But we did get there, didn't we?
Tom Kelly: |00:24:58| Well, you and Jan and many others were part of a great group of pioneering,
Greg Schirf: |00:25:02| Steve Deering
Greg Schirf: |00:25:02| Yeah, guys who just landed here, men and women who came from other parts of the country to this little town and stuck it out through those tough times and built it to what it is today. Let's look forward a little bit.
Tom Kelly: Once you got into this building and had more capacity to brew and you now had a really different business model, one of the things that really stood out for you was your marketing. And I know you mentioned earlier that it isn't all about marketing, but in those early days in particular, you really made your brand stand out with some of the marketing moves.
Greg Schirf: |00:25:38| You made a couple of thoughts of that time. One was, again, desperation. I didn't have a marketing budget per se because I was usually trying to make payroll. So I had to come up with ways to promote the beer that had don't really serious cost involved. So the easiest way to do that was to be controversial and to get people to get the media to cover you and talk about you. And they did it for free. So if I create a beer, Polygamy Porter, I had an article in The Economist that didn't cost me a penny. I had, you know, front page. I was always stirring up trouble and I had all the media, TV, print, radio on my Rolodex in those days. And I was going to do something irreverent. I just call them all up and tell them what time we're going to do it. And I'd get a, you know, show up. And sure enough, we get the word out and it fit right in the budget.
Tom Kelly: |00:26:32| So can you tell us a little bit of the origins of Polygamy Porter It's one of your more notable beers, and it has a pretty interesting story on how it came about.
Greg Schirf: |00:26:41| Yeah, you know, honestly, it's a little embarrassing. The name is kind of silly, isn't it? Polygamy Porter We had a beer. We were making that. We branched out and I was like porters and we were making a beer called Wasatch Honey Porter. And I really thought it was a terrific beer. Its attraction was that Porters are dark beers, but not heavily hopped. So, you know, they're quite drinkable and poundable. And the story was that the porter, you know, was a British beer and it was very thick and full of nutrients. But again, not not a terribly hoppy beer. And the story goes that the porters that carried your baggage from the train reporters and keep them alive and full of nutrients, that they'd give them this polygamy or I'm sorry, they given this porter beer. So that's how porter came about. And then we had this beer. We called Honey Porter, and I thought we needed to get more creative with a name. And I started coming. I thought it was totally brilliant. I had a beer for the porter. It's called Rockwell's Porter, which, you know, I thought because once I landed in Utah as a philosophy major, I started to spend some time looking at the Mormon history and Utah history. And I knew a little bit about the founding principles in Brigham Young and Joseph Smith. And then there was after Joseph Smith was assassinated, they had a bodyguard for Brigham Young. He was called Porter Rockwell, and he was also the angel of death because he'd slit you from ear to ear if you got in his way or Brigham Young's way and that's what they call blood atonement was from ear to ear. And apparently, he had a brewery or distillery up in Big Cottonwood Canyon and he was a badass. And I thought, what a great name for beer. I called the Utah Historic Society and they said his image was public property. I could put it on the label, no cost or known trademark issues. So I started trying this out for size on people. And I went to a focus group to be a little too formal.
Greg Schirf: |00:28:35| But I went to a group of young kids downtown at a bar in Salt Lake and was buying a beer. And I said, I want to call Rockwell's Porter. It's brilliant. And, you know, what do you guys think of that? And they all looked at me like I was a knucklehead. And then one guy raised his hand. He goes, I get it. You're talking about the American painter. And I go, No, I'm not talking about that guy. I'm talking about the angel of death. And I went back and said, forget that. Get the sledgehammer out. Polygamy Porter. That's the name who came up with, you know, Tom. I know it was one of those names that just was used. I think I got credit for. I don't know if that's fair or not. I think it was just a name. It worked for me. I don't know if I heard it or just got attached to it. I'd like the a little bit of irreverence to it because, you know, one of the one of the we touched on this, but a lot of the beers, in fact, many of them, you know, whether it's Evolution Amber Ale or First Amendment or Polygamy Porter, I didn't even even this year when we were having the the Black Lives Matter issues, I was like, yeah, you know, being a minority can really piss you off because I'm a minority.
Greg Schirf: |00:29:44| When I got to Utah, you know, growing up Catholic, white, Anglo-Saxon in the Midwest, I didn't understand that what minorities went through. I didn't understand that, you know, they were basically normalized. And ignored, invisible, when I got to Utah, I knew being a minority and it pissed me off, so whenever I could poke fun at the majority, it was just in my nature to do that because I was an angry minority. And I didn't like the fact that the Utah legislature was 93 percent Mormon and they controlled and you can have a Bloody Mary at 12, but you can't have it at 11:45 and you can't make a beer. That's four point five percent has to be under four percent. So I just thought, like all minorities, that the lack of freedom was annoying. And that was part of my stimulus. And part of my attitude was I'm a minority. So, you know, and when I had a guy call me up and asked me when I came out with Polygamy Porter to quit making it, and I said, well, no, I'm not going to do that. And I said, you know, polygamy is still practiced openly in Utah and certainly in other parts. And it's part of Utah history. I'm not making anything up that's not true. Polygamy is part of who Utah is. Make a beer in Utah, I'm calling a Polygamy Porter. And he went on and on and I listened politely for a bit and then I said, Well, listen, I suggest you do what I do when I'm not in agreement with an advertising program. He said, well, what's that? I said, I simply don't buy it. And he never bought a beer in his life, so that didn't really work for him. You couldn't stop buying Polygamy Porter, because you never had one. And what I used to tell my advertising friends that, you know, the beauty of being in Utah and doing what I was doing was no matter, it was really easy. But honestly, it was really easy because most marketing projects have to straddle the line to not offend somebody, but attract somebody. I didn't care about offending anybody because my customers weren't offended and the people that I offended would never buy my beer. So you can't lose the customer. You'll never have.
Tom Kelly: |00:31:48| So you took that irreverence and carried it across your line of beers and want to go to the 2002 Olympics. And you had another interest, serendipitous again and again, utilization of the news media. You were a PR genius, but you decided to not be a sponsor of the Olympics.
Greg Schirf: |00:32:09| I think that was a catch 22 love affair I had about, you know, so I decided that Budweiser was coming into town and they had provided a fifty million dollar sponsorship. So it's I guess it went to the U.S. organizing committee, maybe went to the IOC, as well, part of it. But any rate, they had all the rights inside the fences. So I came up with the idea and I said, well, you know, obviously I can't be an official sponsor of anything, but I decided I'd be the unofficial sponsor. So I came out with a beer called the 2002 Unofficial Amber Ale, and I had the international symbol of 2002 with a line through it. And set underneath that unofficial sponsor. And then I got a letter, I got a letter with more legal firms listed on it than I ever imagined was possible. One was from the IOC and the other one of us from the USOC saying cease and desist, and then we're going to sue your ass to kingdom come. Quit making that beer. I remember, I kept ignoring them and making the beer. Anyway, they kept sending these letters. And finally, this guy from a big law firm in D.C. called me up and he goes, he's talking to me, and I was laughing at him. And he goes, I need to talk to your lawyer. I said, lawyer, because I need to talk. Who's your what firm are you working with? I said, I'm not working with any firm. You can talk to me. That's what I got. And he goes, no, you know, who's your legal representative? And I said, do you think I'm going to turn free advertising into paid advertising by paying some lawyer to get involved? It's me, pal. Then what happened, Tom. You can relate to this. We were going back and forth and I'd have I would. So here's the catch 22 part of it. I would say I'm not the sponsor. I'm not claiming to be the sponsor. That would be wrong. I'm not the sponsor. I'm saying that unequivocally. I am not the sponsor of the Olympics.
Tom Kelly: |00:34:00| It's right on the can.
Greg Schirf: |00:34:01| Yeah, I'm not the sponsor. They said you can't say you're not the sponsor. I said that's where the catch 22 came in. So it was like, I'm not the sponsor. I'm telling you, I'm not the sponsor. And the response was, you cannot say you're not the sponsor. And as well, when I said I am the sponsor and they said, you can't even say you're not the sponsor. So this was going in circles and it was this more fun and all the time. And then we talk about the Clydesdales and the Budweiser beautiful Budweiser coach coming down Main Street every day. That's another part of the story. But what happened and this, again, was serendipitous in the middle of this whole rhubarb, can you remember what happened, Tom?
Tom Kelly: |00:34:39| A little scandal in your scandal became an even smaller scandal.
Greg Schirf: |00:34:43| Exactly.
Tom Kelly: |00:34:45| But let's be clear. You were not the sponsor of the 2002.
Greg Schirf: |00:34:48| Dude, I wasn't.
Tom Kelly: |00:34:51| I'm with Greg Schirf, the pioneer brewer from Wasatch Brewery. When we come back, we'll talk about the evolution of beers over the last few decades. We'll be back after this short break.
Tom Kelly: |00:35:13| And we're back with Greg Schirf now at the Wasatch BrewPub on the top of Main Street in Park City, Utah. We've been talking about the pioneering efforts of Greg Schirf and the entire craft brewing industry. And now we want to talk a little bit about the evolution of beers. And Greg, let's first go back to when we were growing up in Wisconsin. All we drank were PBRs and Millers.
Greg Schirf: |00:35:36| Yeah, pretty much it. Yeah. And an import to me in Wisconsin was when somebody went to Colorado and brought back a truckload of Coors. That was an import beer.
Greg Schirf: |00:35:45| That was getting sophisticated back then.
Tom Kelly: |00:35:47| So beers have evolved a lot from a fairly simple time when you opened Wasatch Brewery back in the '80s to where we are today with so many different and I must say really delicious choices. But start us out with where you were back in those days and what state. We're going to also do a little tasting here, which is one of the nice aspects of doing a podcast like this. So where are we starting out? Greg, what's the first beer we have to try?
Greg Schirf: |00:36:14| Ok, so we're going to start kind of as you do most tastings, or at least I did when I was in front of groups, is that we start with the lightest beer. It's kind of similar, I guess, that they do in wine tastings before you get too big. So we're drinking one of the lightest beers we make.
Greg Schirf: |00:36:29| It's called Wasatch First Amendment Lager. It won the gold medal in the nineteen ninety one great American beer festival is the gold medal winner. It is. It has a story behind it, its First Amendment lager. You know, I've always been kind of a progressive hippie type guy. So talking about First Amendment, you know, was not foreign to me, but what had happened here in Utah. Give a little context before we talk about the ingredients here. As I had been coming out with a number of irreverent ad campaigns, I did one where Wasatch Beers, Utah's other local religion, baptized your taste buds. They didn't really think that was that funny. So the legislature got together and decided that they had a committee meeting and they were going to introduce a new beer tax and excise tax. And they had one guy had actually one of the sponsors that suggested that it just be imposed upon Schirf Brewing Company and Wasatch Beers, which was totally ridiculous because you can't tax - just tax him, you know, forget everybody else. We don't like that guy. We'll tax him. And that just really pissed me off. And I couldn't afford to sue him, so I didn't have any other recourse that I could afford. So I came out with a beer called First Amendment Lager, and it was a beer that we dressed up in colonial costumes and dumped, I think it was eight kegs and a great Salt Lake, kind of as a knockoff of the Boston Tea Party. And we poured the beers in and we would say I had a Benjamin Franklin costume on and I'd say, give me liberty or give me a cold one or taxation without representation is Utah and drove me crazy.
Greg Schirf: |00:38:09| So then we had to actually commemorate it with a beer. So this is the beer we're drinking. First Amendment Lager was a protest beer first and foremost.
Tom Kelly: |00:38:16| It's a good beer.
Greg Schirf: |00:38:17| Yeah.
Tom Kelly: |00:38:17| Cheers.
Greg Schirf: |00:38:18| Thank you.
Greg Schirf: |00:38:19| It's a nice beer for those that aren't IPA or aren't, you know, big heavy beer drinkers and just want a nice like I said, I won the gold for American lager is what the category was. So toast.
Greg Schirf: |00:38:33| Cheers.
Tom Kelly: |00:38:34| Very poundable. It's very nice. It's kind of a knock off a PBR a little bit isn't it.
Tom Kelly: |00:38:40| Um, I guess you could, I guess you could say that.
Greg Schirf: |00:38:44| I mean it's pretty, it's an American style lager. It has minimal has I'm guessing twelve or thirteen how I you international business units and never meant to be anything more than just a quaffable lager. Like I said, I'm not the least bit confused about saying it. It was born to be a protest beer.
Tom Kelly: |00:39:09| Well, it's a good beer and we've got another one. And what's the next one?
Greg Schirf: |00:39:12| Up next one we're drinking is a hefeweizen, which is a kind of an evolution. It's also another mildly hopped beer as we move up the ladder. Hefeweizens became popular by the brewery in Portland, Oregon. Widmer, which went on to great success to brothers. Kurt, I knew the best. And I can remember walking to their brewery in Portland and they were coming out with the very first hefeweizen. And this is probably in 1987. Eighty six, eighty seven. They went on to just sell a boatload of that beer and introduced the U.S. consumer to hefeweizen. And they were the first ones. And then Tom Baune started making and taught me how to make it. We started making this beer in the late eighties. I had people bringing it back into the brewery saying there's something wrong with this beer. And I said, well, what do you mean? And this one is a little bit clear for everybody. And usually they get a little. Out here, this one must have been sold out for a bit, but, you know, traditional hefeweizen was made in - the Germans made it, typically in the summertime as a real summer beer, and then it became popular. I'm sure it's made year round. But the Widmers, Pyramid. Not so much. Ken Grossman at Sierra Nevada. It wasn't his - he was he was a pioneer and our leader in so many ways. But in this case, the hefeweizen phenomenon, was really owned by the Widmers. I actually asked them how to make it and they used an ale yeast. But they were very - they didn't tell me exactly how to do it, but they gave me a pretty good indication of which way to go.
Tom Kelly: |00:41:03| Well, hefeweizen has been one of my very favorite beers. And there's nothing like going to a brewery in Munich and having a hefeweizen right out of the tap. Well, this is a good one. Cheers to you, Greg.
Greg Schirf: |00:41:14| This is a Wasatch Hefeweizen. Yeah, does Nils make this downstairs. Ok, so we're going to drink another one here. Let's - it's appropriate to have this on the bitterness hop presence because this is a very mild. Gotta love that sound. You got a glass there. Tom. This is a good story, this one I'm actually pretty proud of.
Tom Kelly: |00:41:41| What's the beer here?
Greg Schirf: |00:41:42| This is the Polygamy Porter and originally when it came out in 2001, we can talk about that again, the serendipitous ness of the Olympics coming in 2002. We came out with this beer, created quite a bit of stir. This is when the internet was just getting started. And we were up here in the room we're at, Tom, we had our servers coming in early to pack FedEx boxes with Polygamy Porter T-shirts to ship off to New Zealand and Japan, Europe, Texas. We sold more Polygamy Porter T-shirts. You can still - you don't seem as much anymore because most of our ragged and tattered. But in the day we had a sweatshirt, long sleeve t and a t shirt and we just sold the bejeebees out of it. But what happened was we got all this publicity and we came out with it in October of 2001. And then oddly enough, in February of 2002, there was this crazy event that went off called the 2002 Winter Olympics in Park City, Utah. So our timing, again, people say, well, your timing was really exceptional because all these people were visiting. And I was like, yeah, yeah, I guess. But really, what I didn't I didn't have that planned out at all. It just happened that way. It wasn't.
Tom Kelly: |00:42:56| You'll take credit, though?
Greg Schirf: |00:42:58| I can't even take credit, but this year we're doing it now. We evolved. This is a nitro porter.
Tom Kelly: |00:43:05| Was your original one on Nitro?
Greg Schirf: |00:43:09| No. And it took my guys, a guy named Adam Curfew, our head brewer, now general manager down in Salt Lake at the brewery. Brilliant young guy. He put his expertise to work to figure out because the way the Guinness you know, what a beautiful experience. Drinking Guinness.
Tom Kelly: |00:43:27| Yes, smooth.
Greg Schirf: |00:43:28| and they have what they used to call a widget in the bottom of the can. I think they had it in the bottle as well, that when the pressure was changed as you opened it, the nitrogen widget would implode or explode and release the nitrogen into the beer and you would end up with this incredibly creamy rich head foam. And the beer being carbonated with nitrogen is so much less filling than CO2. So I always said, did the Irish invent nitrogenated beer because they spent so much time in the bar and they couldn't fill themselves up with too much CO2. Or did the nitrogen beer just make the Irish guys hang out in the bar all day because it was so good. I don't know which came first. But together there was, a good marriage. But so the first time I really got a little tipsy, I was with my parents in Ireland. I was sixteen years old and my sisters weren't big beer drinkers. So they got a taste and then gave me theirs. So I got to drink three of my sisters' beers. And you know that again, you talked about beer evolution going to Europe and going to Ireland and drinking a Guinness at a pub was not exactly drinking Pabst in Milwaukee.
Tom Kelly: |00:44:42| No, a much different story. I remember my wife Carole and I were over in Ireland and we went into a little pub the first night that we were there. And I started to count how many Guinness' the guys in the band put down that night. It was staggering, but it's so smooth going down.
Greg Schirf: |00:44:59| Well, here's another just a little aside again. Who created who? What preceded polygamy? I'm sorry. Guinness Stout is a very seriously beautiful beer, but it's very low in alcohol. It's only about five point five typically ABV. And people think you look at it and you think this has got to be just a knockout punch. But if you're going to sit on a bar stool in Ireland and drink all day, you can't drink a 10 percent above or you'd fall off after two beers. So the alcohol, the lack of bitterness, the lack of CO2 and the rich foamy presentation made that beer is such a classic.
Tom Kelly: |00:45:39| Well, I love nitro beers and polygamy on nitro is just testing happened, you know.
Greg Schirf: |00:45:46| You know what I'm saying about not being filling? You know, you drink it and, you know, as we get older, you get you drink a couple of beers and you feel like, you know, if you're filled up, but a nitro beer just doesn't give you that same CO2 gut.
Tom Kelly: |00:46:01| You know, this is a little bit different. But one of my favorites is the Jalapeno Cream Ale. How is that brewed?
Greg Schirf: |00:46:08| That's here. We brew it right here at the pub because, you know, it's not a mainline production beer. It's a pain in the ass because we use, you know, real jalapeños that had to be prepped and dissected. And I think they get blanched a little bit before they go in to the kettle. That beer has one of the more passionate followings they need to beer I've ever made because the people that like it, I'm kind of a gringo when it comes to peppers and how opinions so. Not my go to beer, but I got guys that tell me if we ever stop making it, I better get protection because I mean, some people just honestly, jalapenos and beer, I don't consider myself a traditionalist, but that's that's a little bit fast forward.
Tom Kelly: |00:46:56| So I have to tell you, though, Greg, I am a fanatic that you shouldn't put fruit in beer.
Greg Schirf: |00:47:03| Oh, my. We were brought up that I and I first.
Tom Kelly: |00:47:05| Exactly.
Greg Schirf: |00:47:06| If Ken Grossman thought I'd ever put fruit in a beer he probably would have broken my kneecaps.
Tom Kelly: |00:47:10| But you put apricot in hefeweizen.
Greg Schirf: |00:47:12| And before that raspberry, remember. And it worked OK. And that's fine. Very it was very on German of us.
|00:47:19| It was. But I have to say I love that. How you peno. Kriminal OK, we've still got three more cans to go through, so we're just going to move on here to save the IPA for a bit.
Greg Schirf: |00:47:29| Let's go to a beer that we make specifically for the skiers. We have some different names over the years, but now we're just called Wasatch Winter Fest. So it's a beer that's supposed to go with what you would expect to drink next to a fire after skiing. So the idea is skiing you don't need a Coors Light. What you're looking for something you can hang out in front of the fire or sit in the hot tub. This beer's got a little umph to it. It's pretty complex when you say, boy, this is nice.
Tom Kelly: |00:48:05| I have not had this one before.
Greg Schirf: |00:48:07| This has just been tweaked by Nils, our brewmaster.
Tom Kelly: |00:48:12| This is a Wasatch Wonderful Winter beer. I must say. I highly recommend this one. It is complex.
Greg Schirf: |00:48:20| It's got a little that I'm called burnt and I wouldn't call it smoky, but it has a little bit of that earthy cabin. I think it goes well when you're sitting by the fire.
Tom Kelly: |00:48:34| Your brewmaster up here, Nils.
Greg Schirf: |00:48:37| Nils Imboden.
Tom Kelly: |00:48:38| I don't know Nils, but I've listened to him talk before about the beers here.
Greg Schirf: |00:48:43| We'll just give a little back on people that know Park City. Know Adolf, it's Adolf's son. OK, go ahead.
Tom Kelly: |00:48:49| Yeah. And what I love about these guys and women as well who are brewing beer now is the creativity and the passion that they're putting into it. And you did as well at the start. But they're bringing in new vision and new horizons.
Greg Schirf: |00:49:05| It's unbelievable. I mean, the brainpower, of course, passion is easily used word. I mean, passion. Nils is. You know, he's got a masters in engineering and he's been brewing beer. You know, he won so many contests as a home brewer over the years. And believe me, when people think of home brewing, you think of home brewing because I my beers weren't exactly something you want to make a go out of your way for. But today, the home brewers around the country, around the world really have such a level of expertise and have such a network. And are so incredibly good, I mean, Nils, because he was so impressive, I was at Adolf's for dinner when he was around, he'd always - we'd always always annoy my wife because we didn't talk for a half hour about beer when my wife and I were supposed to be having dinner. But I said, you know, why don't you just come work for us? And he goes, Seriously? I said, Yeah, I'm pretty sure I can guarantee a job. Just, you know. So he Went to work for us first and Salt Lake. And then it really is a much better fit for him to be at a brewpub because his creativity can come out and we make so many beers and some of them we just make for for consumption here at the pub. So, I mean, he doesn't have and then the ones that we have a little small candy line downstairs. So the beers that we feel like bringing to market, we can always can it and put in kegs. But a lot of the beers, we just sit right here.
Tom Kelly: |00:50:32| Well, he does a masterful job. So that was Wasatch's Wonderful Winter. OK, we got two more to go. Greg, what's up next?
Greg Schirf: |00:50:41| Well, we're going to go ahead and move on to a new beer that kind of fits into our ski beer theme. It's called Snow Bank. Snow Bank.
Tom Kelly: |00:50:53| So we have some nice carbonation on this Snow Bank, a little bit lighter.
Greg Schirf: |00:50:58| So even though I can't claim I mean, my father was German, my mother was French, but I don't really have any credentials as a German style brewer. But I did grow up in a German community, German household, and I fell in love with beer in Germany. So the Germans, as you know and appreciate, really put a high value on foam. If you go to any place in Germany and you get a beer without foam, it'll just be returned. Because to me, the aesthetics and an extent, the aroma and the flavor in the the presentation, you look at a beer like this time versus a beer that has no head on it, you go, well, why would you want to drink that when this foam is just to me, if I was judging a beer, the presentation and the ability for the foam to maintain and to create what's called legs as you work your way down, the glass is a big part of the beer experience. I mean - all of the bartenders in service here laugh at me and they go, you know, I never get too involved with day to day operations. But when I see beer sit at the bar at the service station waiting to be picked up and they lose their head or their foam, it just really drives me nuts.
Tom Kelly: |00:52:16| Well, I remember going back to my days in Wisconsin and my grandfather would pour a beer and it always had a head. And you've created great head on this. This is an amber lager. I have to read the back. Crisp, malty, clean. When the snow starts to pile up, it's time to reach for the delicious malty notes of Snow Bank Amber Lager.
Tom Kelly: |00:52:43| So we have one more to go.
Greg Schirf: |00:52:44| Yeah.
Tom Kelly: |00:52:45| And we're closing out with an IPA?
Greg Schirf: |00:52:47| Well just yeah.
Greg Schirf: |00:52:48| We're going to do an IPA. This is kind of a back to basics IPA. It's not what some of the calls for the west coast IPA or the this is a good old IPA of when we made the first IPA that I certainly that I'm aware of before Ken Grossman in Sierra Nevada, before Pyramid, before anybody else, we were making an IPA back and it came out actually under our Squatter's label. That's another story, the Squatters Wasatch relationship. But our first IPA that we sold was a was under the Squatters label and it was really forward for those days because people weren't drinking. IPAs So when I was selling it, I probably told the IPA story at least seven thousand eight hundred times to tell because I always go back to that basic in marketing you got to have a story. So the story, the IPA, everybody knows at this point. India Pale Ale. It really became IPAs and their involvement over the last, I don't know, certainly twenty, but it really accelerated the last ten. I mean, I would venture to say, I mean, there are breweries that only make IPAs you look at like a Lagunitas or some of the other breweries, I mean, and we probably make three or four different IPAs. So to say that IPA is a found a home in craft brewery, it would be an understatement. I would venture to say some some form of an IPA is craft brewers' best selling beer typically. And I wish I could put my hands on this statistics of what IPA does in the ranking of lagers and ales and hefeweizens. I'm just going to be say that IPAs rule in the craft beer industry right now.
Tom Kelly: |00:54:55| I remember and this was probably 20 years ago, I was in Vermont at a small brewery and there weren't very many of them around at the time. And one of my friends, a former ski coach, John Caldwell, introduced me to IPAs and told me the story of how the name came about and so forth. And it was a good beer. It was different. It was certainly very, very bitter. It was one of the old raw IPAs of old. But it's blown me away to see how it's really, really taken over the market now in the last five to 10 years.
Greg Schirf: |00:55:24| Isn't it unbelievable? So this one is like I said, it's kind of a throwback in the sense that it's not nine percent alcohol by volume. It's not 110 IBUs. I mean, it's it's you know, I think it's six percent alcohol and probably 75, 80 IBUs. That's compared to what you might have is when you consider this a mild IPA, this.
Tom Kelly: |00:55:49| Yeah, this is mild and very drinkable. Is not very bitter, really. Not at all.
Greg Schirf: |00:55:54| No. I mean but I think if we had had this when we were growing up, we would have thought it was bitter.
Tom Kelly: |00:56:00| That may be, but this one is really quite drinkable. So this is the Our Share IPA. We haven't talked about that story.
Greg Schirf: |00:56:07| Yeah. That's a knockoff that my friend when we did we talk about marketing. The only marketing we have and we open was we had a poster. Posters were kind of- when you have posters in your bedroom, rock stars and football players. So posters kind of were part of the culture. A hundred years ago, people had posters. So I came up with a poster with our first brewmaster and it was just the two of us and Steve Deering. It was my good friend who also ran an advertising agency, which you never got a chance to bill me much. But he came up with the slogan, We drink our share and sell the rest. So we had myself and our brewmaster, Millie, on the poster. And underneath it says, we drink our share and sell the rest. And it's the entire Schirf Brewing Company staff is happy to present Wasatch Beers.
Tom Kelly: |00:57:01| A little bit of their share back to us.
Tom Kelly: |00:57:03| Yeah, well, cheers to you, Greg.
Greg Schirf: |00:57:05| It's funny that so one time when we couldn't keep up, once the market started to evolve and we were starting to have a little more demand for our product, we couldn't keep up for a bit. I can remember someone called me up from Snowbird, the food and beverage director, and said, Schirf, I'm so tired of you. You know, we haven't had your beer here for for a month in the middle of the ski season. And, you know, we're told by competitors told them that because we kept all the beer for Park City, we wouldn't sell it in Little Cottonwood Canyon. And I said, that's not true. It's whoever gets the order. And I don't really. But he said, he goes, You think you're so funny. You drink your share. And so the rest, you're drinking more than your share.
Tom Kelly: |00:57:49| And I'll bet he got his order in that. Well, Greg Schirf, it's been a joy to have you here and talk through the evolution of beers. We have a few more questions in this final section that I call Fresh Tracks. A few short, simple questions for maybe to tax your brain a little bit to pick some personal favorites over the years.
Tom Kelly: |00:58:08| And the first one we did talk about, that's a little bit earlier. But where did you begin skiing? In Wisconsin.
Greg Schirf: |00:58:16| Little Switzerland, little Switzerland.
Tom Kelly: |00:58:17| And just for the listeners, if you've not been to Wisconsin or Little Switzerland, it doesn't bear a whole lot of resemblance to Switzerland, does it?
Greg Schirf: |00:58:26| You could when you got off the lift, you could see the start of the lift at the bottom.
Tom Kelly: |00:58:31| But you could get a lot of runs in in the day.
Greg Schirf: |00:58:33| You could get a lot of runs and you could get frost bit like in four or five runs. Easy, much nicer here.
Tom Kelly: |00:58:39| Your favorite Utah ski run.
Greg Schirf: |00:58:43| Well, because some friends - I took such a yard sale on it at Deer Valley, they renamed the Ruins of Pompeii the Ruins of Gregoria. It was a powder day and I just ate it. And it took me an hour to find a ski. But when it was good, it was a really good run on a powder day.
Tom Kelly: |00:59:02| You know, I have never liked that run.
Greg Schirf: |00:59:04| Really? You like the dip, it dropped and then it went back.
Tom Kelly: |00:59:09| Probably because I heard about the ruins of Gregorio. That's a tough run.
Tom Kelly: |00:59:15| Of all of the Wasatch Brewing marketing campaigns. And you have had many. Which one is your favorite to look back on?
Greg Schirf: |00:59:24| I would say I mean, can I rephrase a little bit, Tom, and say,
Tom Kelly: |00:59:27| Sure can.
Greg Schirf: |00:59:27| What I'm most proud of, the Polygamy Porter, honestly, is a little silly. It was fun to poke fun at the Utah culture. But for me, as a political activist, even to this day, I'm a very political guy. The First Amendment Lager to me as a protest beer had significance and made a statement and and I thought it was an appropriate response to a tax initiative. And I thought it was in Utah where as a minority, you know, our First Amendment rights are often not fully appreciated. So I guess the First Amendment and then getting to dress up like Ben Franklin for all the events we did, I can't be that.
Tom Kelly: |01:00:16| You know, I've always thought, Greg, I would have enjoyed being your PR guy. You guys had a lot of fun.
Greg Schirf: |01:00:23| I couldn't have paid you, though. You wouldn't have liked it.
Tom Kelly: |01:00:25| But you could have given me free beer
Greg Schirf: |01:00:27| Free beer.
Tom Kelly: |01:00:27| So, Greg, I have two questions I ask every one of my guests here on last year, the Ski Utah podcast. In the first one is what's your favorite Utah craft beer?
Greg Schirf: |01:00:38| Uh, well, you know, because I'm old school, you know, I'm sixty eight and I grew up drinking. It was beer, it was legal and at eighteen in Wisconsin. And if you're 18, I meant you could drink at 16. So I drink a lot of beer for my lifetime. I've enjoyed the whole evolution that we talked about and tasted today from, you know, starting out with, you know, with hefeweizen and moving up to all the complex IPAs going off today. I guess this would be you know, this is not contemporary. This is just historical. Hefeweizen, like you said you liked having when you were in Germany. To me, on a hot day, a hefeweizen was presented with a lemon slice is as refreshing as beer can get.
Tom Kelly: |01:01:28| Served in the proper glassware.
Greg Schirf: |01:01:30| That too! With a nice three. What I would three finger head, three finger foam.
Tom Kelly: |01:01:36| Exactly. You know, every time I go to Germany I make it a goal to bring back one or two hefeweizen glasses because you just don't you don't see him here. You know, we're used to some in our shop, you know, if you remember.
Tom Kelly: |01:01:49| And then finally groomers moguls glades or powder?
Greg Schirf: |01:01:55| I'm so old. Coming from Wisconsin. It took me a lot of nosedives to be able to ski a decent powder run. Glades and then, you know, being fortunate to ski Deer Valley with all those groomed runs for all those years. I mean, that made you feel like you could really ski better than you actually could. I got to be honest, I had my best runs on groomers because I felt like I was Stein out there making a big GS turn on a groomed run at Deer Valley.
Tom Kelly: |01:02:27| That's the most important thing. As long as you feel like you're Stein.
Greg Schirf: |01:02:31| Yeah, remember that. You just see him make those big G.S. turns.
Tom Kelly: |01:02:36| It was amazing. Greg Schirf, pioneer brewmaster from Wasatch Brewery.
Greg Schirf: |01:02:42| Old fart!
Tom Kelly: |01:02:42| No, no, no, no, no. You're still going strong. It's been an honor to talk to you today on ....
Greg Schirf: |01:02:49| We've known each other for a long time. We got the cheese head thing going for us. But I've always admired what you did for the US Ski Team and brought that program to the successes that they're enjoying. You know, today, especially with Mikaela in particular, you had a lot to do. So toast to you.
Tom Kelly: |01:03:04| Hey, cheers. Thank you, Greg.