Thirty miles west of Salt Lake City on the other side of the Oquirrh Mountains, lies a valley and a city called Tooele (too-EL-ǝ). You’ll find it nestled next to the mountains near the Great Salt Lake at the edge of the vast expanse of Utah’s West Desert, home to the Bonneville Salt Flats of motor racing fame. It’s not on the way to anywhere, except some remote recreational areas. Gamblers heading from Salt Lake to Wendover, Nevada must travel 12 miles off the highway to visit the town. Nevertheless, Tooele is home to a damn good brewery! Bonneville Brewery is a lone beacon of refreshment in Utah’s West Desert.
It may be on the road less traveled, but I find the Tooele valley very picturesque and worth a visit. Bonneville Brewery sits next to the track of an old train line with beautiful views all around. The structure feels large and spacious with picture windows that let the mountains in. There’s a traditional restaurant on the main floor with a beautiful, large bar area (21 and older) upstairs. If you choose, step out on the spacious balcony for a vantage point of the little city that surrounds you. Tooele is an old pioneer farming town with mining roots and a small manufacturing sector. It’s also the location for the Federal Government’s Tooele Army Depot. The people who live there work hard and have simple tastes.
That suits brewer Dave Watson just fine. “I’m not trying to reinvent the wheel,” he tells me; “I just want to brew quality, drinkable beer.” Dave enjoys drinking creative brews himself, but isn’t interested in making “stunt” beer. The restaurant follows suit. The folks who live in Tooele aren’t looking for a fancy gastropub. The fried mac n’ cheese balls on the menu at Bonneville Brewery will do just fine, thank you! Feeling plucky? Order the mac n’ cheese burger. It features a fat puck of fried mac n’ cheese atop a thick patty of meat. Open wide!
The beer at Bonneville Brewery is certainly drinkable, and will satisfy a variety of beer drinkers. The Bonneville Light will please the non-craft swillers, if they can be talked into putting down the Bud Light. Silver Island Hefeweizen, Black Rock Belgian White, and Vienna Lager (Oktoberfest) are tame enough for the masses, but will also surprise the astute beer geek with subtle complexity. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed the Peaches and Cream Wheat! It’s sweet in all the right ways with a luscious, creamy mouthfeel. My favorite has to be the seasonal Ton Up Nut Brown. Those roasted malts are banging, yo! Also this season, enjoy the Red Line Irish Red on nitro alongside Sir Malcolm’s Stout (always on nitro).
If you have trouble making the trip out to Tooele, don’t be discouraged. The owner, Brad Shepherd, is in the bowling and entertainment business and sends a steady flow of Bonneville beer to his All-Star Bowling centers located in the Salt Lake Valley. You can find Bonneville’s full line-up of beer at the brand new Pin’s and Ales inside the Draper location. Whether you’re bowling or not, you can take a growler full home to enjoy. But, hell, why not knock a few pins down while knocking back a few pints? It’s a respectable way to spend an evening.
The big news out of Bonneville Brewery is the brand new bottling line it just acquired. Yes! Bonneville beer is soon to be available at a local grocery store near you. It’s taken a lot of work to get everything ready for bottling – like building a new storage building and installing a new refrigeration unit – but things are just about ready to get rolling. If you shop at Whole Foods or Harmons, you’re in luck. The newly bottled beer should be hitting those stores first. Look for four of Bonneville’s flagship brews: Pilot Peak Pilsner, Free Roller Session IPA, Red Line Irish Red, and Antelope Amber. You really can’t go wrong with any of these selections. They’re as solid as Dave intended.
Sadly, many Salt Lakers don’t spend a lot of time thinking about what’s out west, outside the bubble. It’s really quite unique and beautiful! The beer names pay homage to the distinctive local landscape features as well as the history of motorsports and land speed records on the nearby Salt Flats. Black Rock and Antelope are both islands in the Great Salt Lake, and a “free roller” is a speed demon who lays his body flat on his motorcycle to reduce drag. I love the reference to Pilot Peak. The mountain near the Nevada border was used by early pioneers to navigate to water located at its base.
So it holds true. When you need refreshment, look for Pilot Peak and Bonneville Brewery.
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