Bewilder, Utah’s 33rd brewery, opens with a little help from its brewing friends

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Bewilder Brewing, Salt Lake City's newest brewery and tavern, Thursday, Dec. 19, 2019.

As the owners of two beer supply stores, Ross Metzger and Cody McKendrick have shared their expertise with hundreds of home brewers in Utah.

The owners of Salt City Brew Supply stores in Midvale and Ogden have helped customers find ingredients, learn techniques and troubleshoot problems.

They have opened the stores after hours for home-brewing meetings, tastings and events.

And when home-brewing customers moved into the professional ranks and opened breweries of their own, they were there lending assistance.

That generosity came back tenfold last month, when Metzger and McKendrick ran into delays launching their new Salt Lake City brewery — Bewilder Brewing Co. — in the old Club X building at 445 S. 400 West.

The two had received a tavern license that allowed them to sell beer. But they couldn’t start brewing because the manufacturing license from the Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control had been delayed several weeks.

In a show of beer-brewing karma, five Utah brewers stepped up, inviting Metzger and McKendrick into their facilities to brew.

Bewilder was able to open in mid-December with these one-off collaboration beers made with 2 Row Brewing, Bohemian Brewery & Grill, Toasted Barrel Brewery, Strap Tank Brewing Co. and Kiitos Brewing.

“It was super nice of them to do that,” Metzger said, “and shows how cool the local industry is, to help a potential competitor open our doors.”

Bewilder, the state’s 33rd brewery, finally received its manufacturing license in late December and could officially start brewing Jan. 1. Until its official brews are ready to pour, though, it will continue to serve the collaboration beers — all 5% alcohol by volume — on tap.

The brewery has a menu that includes small bites — think Welsh rarebit and a pork confit crostini — and sausages made in house by chef Justin Field.

A brewery has been part of the business plan for several years, Metzger said. “We thought if everyone else is doing it, we could, too.”

But it was also time to diversify, as the popularity of home brewing in Utah has slowed. The increasing number of Utah breweries is one reason.

“Five years ago, if you wanted a sour blueberry porter, you had to make it yourself,” Metzger said. “But now, a lot of places are doing stuff like that.”

A good economy is a factor, as well, he added. “People tend to want to go buy a beer instead of make it themselves.”

Bewilder Brewing opened about six months later than the owners intended. The 2019 federal government shutdown held up their business loan, and later they ran into construction problems while upgrading the 7,000-square-foot space about a half block south of Pioneer Park.

The troubles, though, were the inspiration for the name.

“There are so many breweries out there and so many registered names, that it’s hard to find one that’s not taken,” Metzger said. The two mentioned how “bewildering and confusing” it was to open a brewery and the name was coined.

Bewilder Brewing • 445 S. 400 West, Salt lake City; 385-528-3840 or bewilderbrewing.com. Open daily at 11 a.m.