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Helper wants to be more than a pit stop. A new brewery could help

Helper Brewery, courtesy photo
Courtesy Amy Anderson
A new craft brewery, Helper Beer, sits on Main St. near Hwy 191 in Helper, Utah. April 2, 2023

Helper, Utah, nestled in the heart of Carbon County, wants to be known as more than just a quick stop to fill up a gas tank between Salt Lake City and Moab.

For Amy and Jaron Anderson, it was a town they quickly fell in love with after making several trips to visit friends in the early 2010s. At the time, the Andersons were living in Salt Lake City, but after a trip to Idaho to see the solar eclipse, they were inspired to make a change.

"We realized, life is short. Time to chase your dreams a little bit," Jaron said.

And the idea for Helper Beer was born.

It was around the time the Andersons took notice of revitalization efforts happening within Helper City, a cause Mayor Lenise Peterman is passionate about.

"We've really built what I call positive proximity, where the blue-collar railroader and miners have come to appreciate the artists and the things that they bring and add to the community. So they see value in each other at this point. And I think that's really made a huge difference in our community," said Peterman.

With just over 2,000residents, coal mining and railroads have been central to its identity. The goal of The Helper Project is to renovate historic buildings and preserve a sense of community, while embracing new art and culture.

Getting their brewery built came with its own set of challenges for the Andersons. After moving to Helper in 2018, it took two more years to approach the bank about getting a business loan, and that was delayed further by the COVID-19 pandemic.

"They had other loans they needed to prioritize first. So, we were put on the back burner a little bit," explained Amy Anderson.

In 2022, after another two years, construction finally began on the brewery. As of April 8, 2023, Helper Beer is now open and joins an already established gastropub in town. The Andersons feel there's room for both to thrive.

"I think people are hungry and thirsty,” Jaron said.

And Amy added they expect to pull from neighboring Emery County, as well, “I mean, we're serving more than just Carbon County.”

There’s reason to be optimistic. Craft breweries like Helper Beer are thriving in rural cities across the country. A 2018 study found in cities with populations under 2,500, the industry grew by 129% between 2013 and 2018.

"When we were initially putting together our plan, we did a lot of research on small towns with breweries and how it can affect the economy and some pivotal revitalization effort. In almost every case, it completely changed the town and for the better," said Jaron Anderson.

The brewery will hold its official grand opening May 6.

Curtis Booker is KUER’s growth, wealth and poverty reporter in Central Utah.
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