During lockdown, bored with working at home, Mary Rydman and Greg Evans met up for games of lunchtime pingpong.
Sometimes they talked about beer.
“We both love beer, but we find it challenging to get consistently good beer in Ogden,” Evans said.
The conversations turned serious on the road back from Las Vegas last fall. “We talked about a business plan, got to work, applied for our business license, applied for our liquor license, started ordering coolers and making relationships with distributors and vendors… and here we are,” Evans said.
The result is Salt & Hops, a 500-square-foot “beer boutique,” at 443 27th St. in Ogden’s historic district. The business opened in February, selling more than 150 kinds of craft brews — many of them hard to find — along with mixers, cocktail ingredients, chocolate and salty snacks.
The pair’s goal is to support such Ogden breweries as Rooster’s Brewing, Cerveza Zólupez Beer Company, UTOG, Talisman, and Ogden River. They also have strong relationships with Salt Lake City breweries, like Kiito’s, Epic, Level Crossing, Shades and Fisher.
“There’s really nobody out there trying to put together all the fantastic craft brews that are being made in Ogden and Salt Lake,” Rydman said. “It’s hit and miss unless you go to the brewery itself, and that’s hard to do all the time. So we thought, well, for some of these beers that are hard to find that we like, and these fantastic brands that are out here locally, there’s a real niche here.”
Evans and Rydman also want to support Ogden’s creative community. The shop is the exclusive stocker of the Ogden-based queer art zine The LQ, and often collaborates with Lavender Vinyl record store. Last month, when Level Crossing brewed a sour named after Frank Zappa, Salt & Hops invited Lavender to come in and sell its inventory of Mothers of Invention records.
One of the first products they stocked was gluten-free beer — because Rydman’s wife, who has celiac disease, had a hard time finding it. The business serves Kiito’s gluten-free golden ale, as well as hard kombuchas, hard seltzers and some lower-alcohol ciders. (Everything in Salt & Hops’ inventory has 5% alcohol by volume or less; ciders tend to have higher ABVs.)
The “hops” part of the name is obvious, but the “salt” part, surprisingly, isn’t a reference to Utah’s Great Salt Lake.
“Mary and I would drink beer on Fridays after work, and we kind of always had this same joke that we needed salty snacks to go with beer,” Evans said. “We just kind of grew from there.”
Just like the beer, the snacks are a far cry from the usual gas station fare — including spicy habanero-dusted potato chips, spicy toasted corn, fruit snacks made from rescued “ugly produce,” a vegan version of Cheetos, organic chocolate bars, and hot sauces and mixers from such local companies as Bitters Lab and Z’s Original Bloody Mary Mix.
The shop also accommodates people who don’t drink. “We have a very good selection of nonalcoholic beers, whiskey and gin,” Evans said. “If you add up all the nonalcoholic sales, it’s probably equal to our best-selling beer.”
That beer is a seasonal one: Kiito’s green glitter beer, brewed for St. Patrick’s Day. Evans said they expect Ogden River’s Becker’s Best pilsner to overtake it soon as the most popular beer, at least until people get their hands on Kiito’s Big Gay Ale, brewed for Pride Month in June; it features pink and silver glitter.
But Evans and Rydman don’t just stick with the bestsellers. They bring in at least one new beer every week, and often five or six.
Rydman said the best way to find out what’s in the coolers is to check the shop’s Instagram mid-week, when they announce new arrivals. Sometimes that’s also where they post about cheeky, short-term collaborations, like pairing Mountain Donuts’ lemon bismarks with Epic’s Lemon Bomb.
Drinking good beer is important, but so is having fun, Rydman said.
“We’re always playing really good music in the front,” Rydman said. “We just want people to think it’s a really cool space and to want to come in. You can bring your dog in if you want. It’s just a fun place to come. That’s what we wanted it to be about from the beginning.”
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