One Beer At A Time: The Birth Of A Microbrew Scene In St. George | KUER 90.1

One Beer At A Time: The Birth Of A Microbrew Scene In St. George

Dec 20, 2019

ST. GEORGE — Craft beers and microbreweries are a staple along the Wasatch Front and around the West, but that hasn’t been the case in this fast-growing city. Until now. 

The city’s first microbrewery Silver Reef launched earlier this year, and St. George will soon see the grand opening of its first true bar — a place where patrons can get beer, wine and spirits without buying something to eat — in early 2020. 

The business behind the bar is Springdale-based Zion Brewery, which operates a brewpub near the south entrance of Zion National Park. They named their St. George location “Station II” as it will operate out of the city’s former firehouse. 

The two businesses represent a big shift for this predominantly Mormon corner of the state. City officials and the two business-owners say that the new ventures would not have been possible without Washington County’s rapid growth. The county’s population has ballooned from roughly 26,000 in 1980 to nearly 200,000 in 2019. But the opening of a bar still comes as a surprise to some longtime locals, including Station II’s co-owner Chris Pace.

“I still can’t believe it’s happening,” he said, reflecting on his childhood in St. George. “We know we’re part of something special and we just don’t want to let ourselves or the town down.”

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Zion Brewery attempted to preserve as much of the firehouse's history when creating Station II, Pace said. That includes details like photos of the station's past crews, which line the walls of the third-floor pool room.  

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Though customers at “Station II” will not be required to buy food with their drinks, they will still be able to order meals from local food trucks and restaurants, Pace said.

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The one standalone watering hole in currently operating in St. George is aptly named. Known as the “One and Only,” the establishment holds a pub license, which means it can only serve beer and wine.

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Silver Reef Brewing Co. is the only microbrewery in St. George. The company began operations in Jan. 2019, and its products are sold in over 200 stores across Utah and Nevada.

Credit David Fuchs / KUER

At its fullest, the cavernous walk-in freezer at Silver Reef Brewing Co. has stored over 5,000,000 cans of beer.

Credit David Fuchs / KUER

A Los Angeles native, brewmaster Michael Key transplanted to St. George to head up the company’s brewing operations. He said that he was nervous about how the company would be received before moved but has been overwhelmed by the positive response.

“I’ve got so many people driving by every day, going, ‘When are you guys gonna open? When are you guys gonna open?,’” he said. “Even the people that don’t drink are like, ‘It’s about time this is happening.”

For non-alcohol consumers, Silver Reef makes an in-house root beer. The brewery also plans to open an on-site taproom and restaurant in the near future.