Utah’s best home brewer lives in Ogden, where the beer scene is booming

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) Landon Jeffery began brewing beer when he was a teenager and got this tattoo inked on his arm 10 years ago to celebrate that fact. Jeffery was named Utah's "Best Home Brewer" during the 2019 Beehive Brewoff. Jeffery earned five gold medals, three silver and a bronze, including the "best beer." The win is good news for Ogden beer drinkers. Jeffery will become a co-brewer at Ogden River Brewing, when it opens early next year.

From a beer-making rookie to an award-winning home brewer to a full-time paid gig — Landon Jeffery has seen what a difference a decade can make.

“It never crossed my mind [when in his early 20s] to make beer at home,” said the now 31-year-old Ogden resident. After seeing a friend’s beer-making kit, “the whole idea of it seemed really magical.”

He bought his own kit and a few how-to books and dived “headfirst” into his new hobby. His first beer, an IPA, turned out. The second — an oatmeal stout with chocolate malt — proved a disaster.

“I put in a pound and half of chocolate, about 10 times more malt than I needed,” he said. “It’s the only beer I’ve ever dumped down the drain. I learned you’ve got to know what you’re doing before you get creative.”

He clearly reached that point last month, when he was named Utah’s best home brewer during the 2019 Beehive Brewoff. Now in its 11th year, the state’s largest home-brewing competition attracted 161 home brewers who produced beers in 31 categories from ales and lagers to bitters and meads.

In all, more than 400 brews were submitted for judging.

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) Landon Jeffery pours himself one of his homebrewed beers while his children Xander, 7, Vivienne, 4, and Byron, 5mos., play on the couch, Sept. 12, 2019. Jeffery listed his children as co-brewers on his contest entries in the 2019 Beehive Brewoff where he was named Utah's "Best Home BrewerÓ. Jeffery earned five gold medals, three silver and a bronze, including the "best beer." The win is good news for Ogden beer drinkers Ñ as Jeffery will become a co-brewer at Ogden River Brewing, when it opens early next year.

Jeffery — a member of the O-Town Hop Heads home-brew club — won nine medals (five golds, three silvers and a bronze). In addition, his gold-medal Alienator (Doppelbock) won “Best of Show.” (See the list of his winning beers below.)

On his entry forms, Jeffery listed two of his children — 7-year-old Xander and 4-year-old Vivienne — as his co-brewers.

While their father brews, the kids, along with their 5-month-old sibling, often hang out in the unfinished garage that doubles as the family brewery and taproom. Their father has them help with the mash and other tasks. “It’s good family bonding,” Jeffery said, noting, of course, that “they never drink the beer.”

Second place in the Best Brewer contest went to Zachary Belles, the 2018 winner, and Nick Gray, both of the Lauter Day Brewers Club. Rob Rutledge, of ZZ Hops, was third.

While Jeffery is savoring the victory, he also is ready to make the next step in his beer-brewing odyssey. He has accepted a job as co-brewer at Ogden River Brewing, when it opens in early 2020.

(Photo courtesy of Ogden River Brewing) The Ogden River Brewing Co.'s new production facility and pub, shown in this artist's rendering, is expected to open in early 2020.

Founder and head brewer Pat Winslow broke ground in August on the new 5,800-square-foot production facility at 358 Park Blvd., about a block from where Utah’s historic Becker Brewing and Malting Co. was founded in 1890.

Winslow hired Jeffery for his keen sense of beer-making chemistry. “That’s his strong suit,” Winslow said. “Landon really understands the science of brewing and makes really great beers.”

That knowledge has helped in recent months as the duo reformulates some of Ogden River’s recipes from 4% alcohol by volume to 5% ABV. Beginning Nov. 1, beer with the higher alcohol content will, for the first time, be sold in Utah grocery and convenience stores as well as on tap in restaurants and bars.

“There’s just a lot more you can do with beer at 5% ABV than at 4%,” Winslow said. “We’ll be able to have a lot more fun out of the gate.”

Winslow, a former railroad conductor turned home brewer, has been working for two years to get Ogden River Brewing off the ground, raising $31,800 from a Kickstarter campaign. He has since partnered with the Lotus Craft hospitality group, which includes real estate developers Bryan Wrigley and Sean Steinman, and veteran food and beverage operators Doug Hofeling and James Soares, who had been at the helm of Squatters and Wasatch breweries for the past 19 years.

The brewery is part of a growing industry in the northern Utah city. In the past year, Ogden has doubled its beer-production facilities, rising from two — Roosters Brewing Co. and Talisman Brewing — to four.

Last December, Roosters B Street Brewery opened in the new Trackline development off Avenue B and, in March, UTOG opened at 2331 Grant Ave.

Javier Chavez Jr. also launched a super-small microbrewery — called Cerveza Zólupez Beer Co. — in the back of Javier’s Authentic Mexican Food, the restaurant his family owns at 205 W. 29th St.

“There’s still quite a bit of room in this market,” Winslow said. “We hope to see more brewers in the future.”

There might be a few home brewers interested in the job.

The medal count • Participants who enter the 2019 Beehive Brewoff earn points for each medal they win — five for gold, three for silver and one for bronze. Here’s the breakdown for Jeffery’s nine medals.

Best of Show gold • Alienator (Doppelbock).

Gold • A Pils To Remember (German Pilsner); Helen’s Delight (Kellerbier); Alienator (Doppelbock); Rocky Mountain Dragons-Breath (Specialty Wood-Aged Beer) with co-brewer Zach Katsilas.

Silver • I See Your Schwarzbier Is As Big As Mine (Schwarzbier); The MacHine (Baltic Porter); and I Still Mead You (Dry Mead).

Bronze • Kinda the Same But Different (Czech Pale Lager).