Where can you get a good craft beer on tap in this town? Before the founding of Squatters Craft Beers more than 30 years ago, the answer to that question probably would have been a bewildered shrug and a free copy of The Book of Mormon. Now, you can’t throw a dart without hitting a new microbrewery or taproom full of tasty ale on tap. But business partners Peter Cole and Jeff Polychronis started Squatters way back when the idea of opening up a Utah brewery bucked any kind of conventional wisdom. They realized Utah had a definite dearth of craft brews after a year-long pub crawl across the Pacific Northwest, and they (along with Greg Schirf’s Wasatch Brewery in 1986) made some of the first steps to changing all of that.
Indeed, a lot has changed in 32 years since the doors of Squatters first opened in downtown Salt Lake City on Sept. 5, 1989 with the slogan “Good for What Ales You.” The ales in question were Emigration Pale Ale and City Creek Pale Ale, which were served on tap that very first day. The ales on tap nowadays have cuter names, like Chasing Tail, a crisp golden ale, and Full Suspension, a smooth pale ale, but they always did love labels that poked fun at Utah’s conservative culture. (Remember the Provo Girl Pilsner labels?) But the biggest changes happened behind the scenes, on the business side of things.
In 2000, Squatters merged with Wasatch Brewery to form the Utah Brewers Collective, and in 2017 that collective became part of CANarchy, yet another, larger, collective, and Cole and Polychronis walked away. Five years later, they’re back. This January, Monster Beverage Corporation—yes, the energy drink people—made a deal to acquire CANarchy for $330 million. But the Monster deal only included the labels and production, not the seven restaurants, brewpubs and cafés under the Squatters and Wasatch brands, leaving the future of the local favorite brewpubs in question. Then came the announcement that Cole and Polychronis had returned to reacquire Salt Lake Brewing Company (SLBC), which holds the locations.
That means a big piece of local history is back in the hands of locals. The restaurants will continue to sell all of the beers currently produced by the breweries and operate under the Squatters and Wasatch brands (but they’ll have to buy those beers from Monster now). It also means the 300 people who are currently employed by SLBC will keep their jobs.
• Squatters Downtown Pub in Salt Lake City (the first location, open since 1989)
• Wasatch Brew Pub in Sugar House
• Squatters Roadhouse Grill & Pub in Park City
• Wasatch Brew Pub in Park City
• Wasatch Brew Pub in Salt Lake International Airport
• Squatters Pub Brewery in Salt Lake International Airport
• Craft Café By Squatters & Wasatch at Salt Lake International Center
Sidle up to the bar, grab a cold pint and an old-fashioned burger. It’s still good for what ales you.