Before Wasatch Brewery started making beer in the mid ‘80s, brewing and drinking were “all but forbidden” in Utah, says founder Greg Schirf, who moved to the state from Milwaukee. Schirf says he made that move largely as a consequence of the no-drinking belief embraced by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, who today still make up more than 60 percent of Utah residents. Taking that as a sign, he founded the brewery—the state’s first—in 1986. And he then proposed a bill in 1988 to legalize brewpubs in Utah, opening the state’s first one soon after on Park City’s historic Main Street. Wasatch now has an outpost in Salt Lake City, and a pretty robust distribution of their ales, covering a swath of states across the Rockies and the central U.S, and venturing as far south as Texas and as east as Louisiana. But throughout the decades, they’ve always embraced their Utah roots—and their religious neighbors, as evidenced by their now-iconic labels. Here’s a handful of the best ones.
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If you've seen any Wasatch labels, it's likely the Polygamy Porter, a Renaissance-inspired graphic that echoes the work of Italian artists like Michelangelo. It also offers a not-too-subtle wink at the Mormon faith, who practiced polygamy openly from 1852 to 1890 and is still associated with the religion—just watch Sister Wives on TLC. The more recent Polygamy Nitro Porter carries a similar image, aptly described as a sister beer of the original.
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Ghostrider White IPA
This one leans into Utah's frontier history, displaying a masked rider traversing the state's Wasatch Range, seeking revenge on the person who stole his White IPA recipe. The Belgian-style ale boasts a robust 6% ABV, meaning you can only purchase the brew at a state liquor store or directly from the brewery.
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First One Down Winter Warmer Ale
Paying homage to the six world-class ski resorts within proximity of Park City, including America's largest, Park City Mountain, the winter warmer boasts a hearty 7.1% ABV, served on tap and in parking-lot-après-friendly 12-ounce cans.
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Snowbird Session IPA
Another nod to the area ski resorts, the Snowbird Session IPA displays the famed tram that traverses from Snowbird Resort's base to its peak, easily one of the wildest mountains in the country.
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Provo Girl Pilsner
Not in steady rotation, the Provo Girl is named after the Western-infused town of Provo, about an hour south of Park City.
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Evolution Amber Ale
A slightly subtler dig at Mormonism, the Evolution is a tribute to Charles Darwin. The label theorizes that beer alone is the thing most responsible in the evolutionary leap from ape to man. Followers of LDS would likely disagree with…pretty much all of that.
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Devastator Double Bock
If drinking is a sin, then the Devastator is the way to sin big. And what better way to reinforce the double bock's boisterous 8% ABV than with an image of a charging bull raising flames from its hooves as it stomps over a few iconic Salt Lake City buildings.
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Snap Down India Pale Lager
As with most of their other labels, the background silhouette of the Snap Dragon label is lifted from the Wasatch Mountain Range, which hems in much of Park City and served as inspiration for the brewery's name. But the foreground is all D&D—before the Game of Thrones made D&D hip.