Here’s how to try Utah home-brewed beers at Saturday’s Real Salt Lake tailgate

Fans and judges both vote for the winners, and for $5, you can get a commemorative glass.

(courtesy Section 26) Real Salt Lake fans gather at the annual homebrewing tailgate party in March 2020. This year's party is set for Saturday, Sept. 17, 2022, from 5 to 6:30 p.m., in the parking lot north of America First Field in Sandy.

Real Salt Lake fans who arrive early before Saturday’s match against FC Cincinnati will get a bonus: A chance to sample the beers made by Utah’s homebrewing community.

Section 26, a fan-run collective that supports RSL, is set to hold its 13th annual homebrew tailgate party, in the parking lot north of America First Field (formerly Rio Tinto Stadium), at 9256 S. State St., Sandy. The tasting runs from 5 to 6:30 p.m., so fans are advised to land early (the game starts at 7:30 p.m.) and vote on their favorite brews.

“We’re kind of known for chanting, and being loud, and being at the games, and we try to get people involved,” said Krista Furse, a Section 26 member. “We invite homebrewers to come and bring their brew, because it’s kind of just a fun way to get everyone to come down and talk to people.”

Section 26 each year creates a commemorative beer glass, available for $5 at the party (cash or Venmo). Wristbands are free for anyone 21 or older; one must show their ID, and no one will be served without a wristband.

Nobody knows what beers will be served until the tailgate starts, Furse said. And the identities of the judges “are actually a secret,” she said. “We don’t tell the brewers who they are. Sometimes Real Salt Lake graciously sends down somebody from their front office. Otherwise, it’s the head brewers from Wasatch or Bohemian, who come and they taste everything. We’ve also had ex-players come and judge.”

The judges usually sneak in “after everyone has trickled out,” Furse said. The winners, both of the judges’ determination and the fan vote, are announced later on Facebook, she said.

The last in-person homebrewers’ tailgate was in March 2020, just before the COVID-19 pandemic started.

“Generally it’s held during the first home game of the year, and it’s an early game, so most of the stuff we’ve had in the past has been more breakfast-oriented, like coffees and chocolate,” Furse said. “But this year, with it being a night game, I think we’re going to have more of a variety of things.”

The winning entry last time, chosen both by judges and fans, was “Brewed To Perfection Bourbon Barrel Vanilla Stout,” a collaboration of Thomas Welker and Steve Furse (Krista’s husband).

“It had wood-soaked bourbon in it,” Krista Furse said. “It had coffee, with some vanilla. … We’ve had everything from ciders to oatmeal stouts to chocolates. Everything you can think of, right?”

One doesn’t have to be attending Saturday’s game to take part in the tailgate party, Furse said. “You can just come and hang out and chat with the brewers and, you know, get to know everybody and come have a good time,” she said.

The homebrewing tailgate isn’t the only event this weekend where Utah’s brewing community is letting people sample their creations. The first Mountain Beer Festival is set for Friday and Saturday at Deer Valley Resort in Park City, and the Utah Brewers Guild’s Collab Fest — which pairs brewing companies to create new beers together — happens Saturday afternoon at McCarthey Plaza in downtown Salt Lake City.