One of the first things that I bought when I moved to Utah was a Polygamy Porter baseball cap. The Wasatch Brewery label had an additional layer of humor for myself, seeing as my surname is Porter and the Porters from which I hail are Mormon polygamist stock. Even without the personal connection, Wasatch’s Polygamy Porter, which launched more than two decades ago, was at the forefront of what is now a trend: brand and product names that subvert Utah’s predominate religious culture. I say “subvert” because most of these products are forbidden for members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to consume.
For the creators of these spirits and brews, however, it’s about more than having a bit of fun. They want to make a good product while tapping (pun intended) into an alternative culture, creating a community for the non-religious, united by more than their love of liquor, coffee and beer.
“I really care about the community, which is something that a lot of people lose when they leave the church,” says Melissa Anders, a former Mormon who runs Apostate Coffee. Apostate’s labels feature roast names that reference LDS teachings (Choose The Light roast instead of “Choose the right”) and the Word of Wisdom (Iced “Hot Drink” roast). Apostate also posts customers’ “I’m an Apostate” stories, inspired by the LDS Church’s past “I’m a Mormon” campaign. “I think a lot of people feel they are alone after leaving, so hearing other people’s stories can be affirming,” says Anders.
Chris Vines of Temple Grounds Coffee Co. says making reference to Mormon culture was a way to instantly connect with their community of Utah coffee drinkers. Their coffee blends include The Holy Roast and, their most popular, Outer Darkness and Celestial Blend. It was also important to her and husband Ben to find a way to thread the needle. “We wanted it to be funny, but not rude or disrespectful to members of the church,” says Chris, whose family still belongs to the LDS Church.
But, at the end of the day, that’s not who these products are for. “These are hot drinks for the people who drink them,” says Ben.
In another reference to Utah’s polygamist past, there’s Five Wives Vodka. “It’s a message in a bottle,” says Mark Fine, President and CEO of Ogden’s Own Distillery. “Our spirits are telling the stories that the church might want us to forget.” In fact, pretty much all of Ogden’s Own labels fit that bill (e.g.: Madam Pattirini Gin). Now, with Five Husbands, Ogden’s Own is telling the stories of members of Utah’s LGBTQ+ community who appear on this year’s label (and a portion of the profits of Five Husbands Vodka is donated to support LGBTQ+ causes). They are people who are “authentically themselves,” says Fine. “These are not just ‘Five Husbands’, but truly ‘Five Stories’ that I hope people will relate to and support who one is or who one wishes to be.”
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