- Rio Connelly, Faultline Beverage Consulting
Ogden River Brewing: Utah's Newest Brewery
It's always a call for celebration when a brand new brewery opens up in Utah. The state went so long with relatively few breweries that the explosion of new operations in the last half decade is a welcome change of pace. Ogden is already home to several great breweries including long-time mainstay Rooster's and Utah's only nano-brewery, Cerveceria Zolupez. But like a lot of Utah, the city is growing rapidly and there's definitely room for some new contenders. Ogden River Brewing has recently joined these ranks, opening a brewing facility and 250-seat pub restaurant near the Ogden River Parkway in October 2020.
This new brewery is the culmination of years of hard work by Head Brewer Pat Winslow, whose dream of was to provide a place to relax and enjoy craft beer in Ogden,. “I never imagined I'd be opening up during a pandemic,” he laughs, “[but] the experience of opening has just been phenomenal. I've been working on this project for three years, did my kickstarter in October 2017.” Winslow's original crowd-sourcing efforts helped raise money for the project and show he was serious, but a little more assistance was needed to get to the finish line. Bryan Wrigley's hospitality company, Lotus Craft, came in to help get there with more resources and expert staff. Patrick Bourque, formerly of Uinta Brewing and Saltfire Brewing, is Lotus' Director of Brewing, and helped Winslow get going, while Landon Jeffery, named 'Utah's Best Homebrewer' at the 2019 Beehive Brew Off was tapped as Assistant Brewer.
With the team assembled and the tanks in place, Ogden River Brewing opened nad has been cranking out new beers. I made the trip to Ogden to check it out and the first thing I noticed when approaching the building from the parking lot was the prominence of the fermentation tanks. Upon entering, a quick turn to the right shows the entire brewing area directly in front of you. “It's been really cool having this brewery as an 'open-concept' brewery, where the customers can literally walk up and talk to us,” says Bourque. “We're not just a brewery in the back of a building, hiding the brewers away from the public. It's really cool to nerd out with customers who are willing to nerd out with us!” And you can do exactly that, as there are no barriers save a low wall. If the guys are working, feel free to stick your head in and compliment your favorite beer.
Continuing the tour, straight ahead, I found the bar and ten draft taps, while a large and comfortable seating area with booths and tables expands to the left. Heading upstairs to the huge wrap-around patio overlooking the park trail area conjures visions of sun dappled afternoons and lush foliage, once the weather permits. You could jog there and take a break for a beer inside. Winslow beams like a proud papa, showing off his new facility. “I love to make beer and I love to taste beer, and I really like people a lot,” he says. “I like to walk around during rush hour and stop, talk to the people at the tables and ask them what their favorite beer is. That's where I fit in.”
Speaking of favorite beers, Ogden River Brewing provides a variety to choose from, many based on Winslow's original homebrew recipes. “The first one we brewed was Hop Train,” he recalls, “a pale ale I've been brewing for years and years on my homebrew system. It's been real popular and will be one of our flagship beers.” And he's right, I love this beer! An unironically classic and well balanced American Pale Ale, dank and resinous with a smooth body and bitter finish. Other early favorites were the coriander-infused Aviator American Wheat, Blasting Powder Coffee Milk Stout, and Jacob's Bogie, a Scottish-style ale brewed with malt that Winslow smoked himself over pecan wood for a subtle nuttiness.
But Winslow's recipes aren't the only ones having an impact. For someone who's as big a fan of Leipziger Gose as I am, the Black Currant Gose makes a fantastic addition to the menu and it's based off Jeffery's recipe. “I really enjoy the gose style and brought it over to Pat,” he shares. “That's been our rotating fruited series, we did a lavender gose and now we have a black currant, so it'll always kind of change up.” And the currant-version is excellent, tart and fruity, but with the prominent coriander and salt flavors that I feel other brewers of gose often neglect. The whole package is wonderful.
Veteran brewer Bourque brings his expertise to bear as well. “Most of the creative process that I've brought here so far is the hazy stuff,” he admits. “We have this hazy line where we get to play with new and interesting hops, what we're looking for is off-the-cuff brewing, trying things we've never tried before.” The first release from this series is currently on tap as ORB Hazy #1 and is brewed with South African hops on the hotside, and an experimental hop known as 692, now called Talus, on the coldside. And the results are intriguing. “You're gonna get this coconut, cream, wood, pineapple thing going on,” says Bourque of his experiment.
The rest of the taplist on my visit was rounded out by clean and crisp Return to Reality American Lager, hugely juicy and citrus forward Derailment Hazy IPA, well balanced Everything Nice Porter brewed with vanilla and cinnamon, and a stellar hoppy red ale named for the nearby Union Station. The robust beer menu is complimented by a full beverage and cocktail program as well as a menu of elevated pub fare with an eye towards bold and creative flavors. “We're trying to be as ambitious with the food as we are with the beer,” says Bourque. “We want those to reflect against each other.” I enjoyed the Bison Patty Melt and the Mormon Hush Puppies (think deep-fried funeral potatoes) both immensely on my visit.
So there's a little something for every taste at Ogden River Brewing, and because they're so new, it's still only the beginning. Construction has already begun on an adjacent building, being called 'the Campus,' that will house additional brewery production space, room for packaging and barrel aging, as well as some additional food concepts. The whole project should grow the area's already strong reputation for excellent craft beer and food. Just another reason (they're really starting to pile up) to make the trip up to Ogden. Congratulations to Pat Winslow, Patrick Bourque, Landon Jeffery and the whole team at Ogden River Brewing!