Tasty Beer and Good Times Brewing in Zion Canyon
by Alexa V. Morgan
photos courtesy of Jolene Pace/Zion Canyon Brewing Company
The Zion Canyon Brew Pub in Springdale carries the distinction of being the only brew pub in southern Utah. But their menu of classic favorites with a local twist and vibrant atmosphere, coupled with a picturesque setting at the gateway to Zion National Park, are what truly set them apart. “There’s definitely a market for it, and we’ve found that niche,” general manager Troy Moyers says.
The pub is the retail face of the Zion Canyon Brewing Company, which started about 11 years ago and was initially a very package-oriented business that specialized in kegging for local restaurants and selling beer by the bottle. But that focus shifted when the pub opened in 2012. “The real money is selling by the pint,” says Jeremy Baxter, who took over as brewmaster in late 2013. “That’s what we’ve been doing since I got here – putting beer into kegs and in turn, into pint glasses.”
Their “pub grub” is every bit as tasty as their beer, says Moyers. The menu changes with the seasons and only fresh ingredients are used. After major renovations and the addition of Baxter and chef Asiry Jaramillo, revenue has doubled each year.
Moyers attributes this success to two main factors – the growing appreciation for craft beer worldwide and a virtually untapped regional market. “Southern Utah has a huge amount of traffic tourist-wise, as well as a very rapidly growing community. The fact that there isn’t another brewery is pretty amazing,” says Baxter. “If you built it around the correct business line, you could have another brewery in Springdale and be profitable, let alone St. George.”
Utah’s overly restrictive and antiquated liquor laws are to blame, Moyers says, adding that his staff has to explain to confused patrons from other states and countries that they’re required to buy food with their beer no less than 100 times a day.
The entire north side of the building was recently remodeled to add a dog-friendly patio with a watering trough and a new beer garden, bringing the capacity to 200 outside and 120 inside. 2016 also saw the launch of a retail shop catering to the beer enthusiast.
Moyers says that plans for the pub’s future may include taking over the building next door to create a bigger kitchen and a brewery that customers could tour. An outdoor kitchen to bake brick oven pizza is another possibility.
Owners Jolene and Andrew Pace, who are also behind the Painted Pony and George’s Corner restaurants in downtown St. George, are contemplating opening up another pub in Ancestor Square within the next couple of years, Moyers says.
Those who want to take a bit of Zion home with them might soon be in luck, as Baxter plans to explore canning his unique brews in 2017. “We’ve been kicking around some ideas,” he says. “There’s always something exciting and new around the corner for us.”
Baxter, who spent years creating home brews, says that the creativity involved with running a brewery is his favorite part of the job. The pub has three flagship taps and four that rotate seasonally. Details on all of the company’s brews can be found at zionbrewery.com. “You have to pack a lot of flavor into the 4% alcohol beer, so that’s what we do,” Moyers says. “We make our beer tasty; it’s just not strong.”
Baxter started brewing kettle sours in the spring of 2015. Whereas traditional sour beers take a year or more to brew, kettle sours can be produced in a matter of weeks and allow the brewer creative control. He has made pomegranate, peach, and prickly pear cactus fruit thus far. These are perhaps the most distinctive beers on the pub’s menu, and customer response has been largely positive. He will be introducing a German-style pilsner this year. “Every style has its own parameters, and the beer can be very different from brewer to brewer within those parameters,” he explains. “All of our beers are one of a kind.”
Zion brews are not only poured at the pub, but several other restaurants in Springdale, Kanab, Hurricane, and St. George.
Approximately 80% of the pub’s customers are tourists visiting the park, Moyers says. The other 20% are Springdale locals and folks who drive out from St. George.
The pub sits at 95 Zion Park Blvd., only a quarter mile from the visitor center. “I don’t know if there’s another brew pub located so close to the entrance to a national park in the whole country,” Baxter says.
Unlike most restaurants in Springdale, the pub remains open all year long. There’s live music from local and nationally touring acts every weekend. Although they experience a lull when visitation to the park declines over the colder months, Moyers estimates that they serve 350 customers as a year-round daily average. That can peak at roughly 600 during a busy summer weekend. “We’re still beating last year’s numbers,” he says. “It’s just getting better all the time.”
The pub is open every day from noon to 10 pm. Call (435) 772-0336, visit brewpubspringdale.com or stop in and enjoy a pint while observing the wonders of nature in majestic Zion Canyon.