A procrastinator’s guide to Beer Camp Across America

Beer Camp Across America included a special 12-pack of beers featuring Sierra Nevada collaborations with different breweries. These are those ales.

Beer Camp Across America included a special 12-pack of beers featuring Sierra Nevada collaborations with different breweries. These are those ales.

It’s been more than 13 months since Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. led craft beer aficionados and brewers across the country to its new facility in Mills River, North Carolina. The Chico-based brewery organized several beer festivals under the Beer Camp Across America banner and invited as many craft brewers as possible.

I wasn’t able to make it to any of the festival stops, but I was able to get the next best thing. As part of the celebration, Sierra Nevada collaborated with several breweries on unique one-of-a-kind creations. Twelve of the collaborations were released in a special 12-item case. I waited too long to buy the special case and they were pretty much sold out when I tried to purchase one. Thankfully, I had a second option.

Living about a mile away from the Chico brewery means that I have easier access to some of Sierra Nevada’s releases. The cases were gone, but they had single bottles of each beer, so I could make my own six-packs. I quickly seized the opportunity and grabbed the bottles before they flew off the shelves.

And then I waited to drink them.

I know that I shouldn’t wait too long to drink most beers because they’re not made to stay on shelves and refrigerators forever. I was reluctant to crack open these bottles. I had already tasted some of them before, at the tap room, at festivals and elsewhere, but when I finished drinking these bottles and cans, they would be gone forever.

So over the last 13 months, these beers have been in a relatively cool, relatively dark place (my bedroom). They sat by me waiting for the moment … and now it’s here.

I have just moved and I’ve figured that it’s now or never for these beverages.

After I moved, I placed the bottles in the fridge. I resolved that the next time I took one out, I would drink it.  Over the next few days, I’m going to share some brief notes about each one.

These aren’t going to be full reviews — there are certainly some beer rating sites that have tasting reviews down to a science, putting my earlier attempt to shame.

Also, neither the fridge nor my bedroom are perfect storage places and that will probably affect how each of these taste.

Some of the beers may have held up better than others based on their style and preparation. I shared my tale with a fellow traveler in the tap room. He estimated a third of the 12 beers could probably have been safely stored this long.

Without further ado, here’s the first one I tasted:

1. Yvan the Great

Yvan the Great is a collaboration between Russian River Brewing Co. and Sierra Nevada.

Yvan the Great is a collaboration between Russian River Brewing Co. and Sierra Nevada.

(50 IBU, 6.3% ABV) A year ago, I wanted to save this for last, but now I want it to be first. If I can no longer save the best for last, I may as well start with a blast.

Brewed in collaboration with Russian River Brewing Co., Yvan is a Belgian-style blonde made to honor Belgian brewer Yvan De Baets, according to the label. He was a friend of Russian River brewmaster Vinnie Cilurzo and Sierra Nevada’s Brian Grossman.

On the pour, it looked like it had retained a lot of carbonation although the head quickly dissipated. I loved the light, golden hue of the cloudy liquid. I smelled a pleasant floral note.

I could also taste that note when I took a drink, although it also seemed a little pine-y. Repeated sips unveiled some citrus and It had a mildly tart finish. On appearance and taste, it seemed reminiscent of white wine.

I would totally agree with label notes that state the ale blends the yeast character of a farmhouse ale with the citrus taste of American hops. I definitely reminds me of some of Sierra Nevada’s more recent farmhouse ales, although those draw in elements from other nations.

On the bottle neck, it reads that “This hoppy Blonde Ale blends the dry, complex yeast character of Belgian farmhouse ales with the bright, citrus-like profile of American-grown hops.”

On the back, it notes “As longtime friends, Russian River brewmaster Vinnie Cilurzo and our own Brian Grossman are no strangers to brewing experiments. For this collaboration, they honored their friend and renowned Belgian brewer Yvan De Baets. This Belgian-American mash-up harmoniously blends Yvan’s penchant for yeast with Vinnie and Brian’s affinity for hops.” (opened Sept. 2, 2015)

2. Torpedo Pilsner

Torpedo Pilsner is a collaboration between Firestone Walker Brewing Co. and Sierra Nevada.

Torpedo Pilsner is a collaboration between Firestone Walker Brewing Co. and Sierra Nevada.

(45 IBU, 5.2% ABV)  My second selection was the hoppy pilsner brewed in collaboration with Firestone Walker Brewing Co. This is a slightly less bitter beer with lower alcohol content, so I’m a little worried that I may not enjoy the full flavor after Yvan the Great. However, I’ve cracked open the bottle so I’m committed.

The label states “This hoppy lager features intense fruity and floral notes from fresh New Zealand hops balanced against a crisp and clean malt body.”

I guess we’ll see how fresh hops fare against Father Time.

The golden color looks similar to Yvan the Great. Still a decent amount of carbonation.

I swirl the sample glass to get a better sense of the pilsner’s smell. I’m not detecting much, maybe a faint echo of the fruity note that it’s supposed to have.

After taking a drink, it feels lighter than Yvan, but it’s still flavorful. A lot of the flavor is toward the front of my palate. It definitely seems more flowery than Yvan.

I’m not totally satisfied by the finish. Overall, it may not be as balanced as it once was. It’s fine, but I was hoping for a little more oomph.

The back of the bottle states: “Torpedo Pilsner is a hop-forward take on the crisp, classic lager. We and the folks at Firestone Walker share a passion for New Zealand hop varietals, so we loaded our legendary Hop Torpedo with the southern hemisphere’s finest hops for a fruity, floral twist on the pilsner style.” (opened Sept. 2, 2015; bottled May 29, 2014)

3. Chico King Pale Ale

Chico King Pale Ale is a collaboration between 3 Floyds Brewing Co. and Sierra Nevada.

Chico King Pale Ale is a collaboration between 3 Floyds Brewing Co. and Sierra Nevada.

(45 IBU, 6.5% ABV) Chico King is a pale ale brewed in collaboration with 3 Floyds Brewing Co. I actually had a couple tastes of this about a year ago at a brewing festival. If I recall correctly, it was good but didn’t sing to me.

The bottleneck label states “This pale ale stacks plenty of bright, fruit-forward resinous hop varietals atop a robust malt body.”

When I opened the bottle, I definitely got a strong whiff of hops with a sweet scent slowly emerging. It makes me giddy to have a sip.

Tasting it, it definitely tasted like a pale ale. It doesn’t seem to knock my socks off, but it was pleasant with most of the flavor standing out on the finish. Put another way, I seem to taste the malt first and then the hops. There also seems to be a hint of heat from the alcohol.

Overall, it seems well balanced. Nothing seems to knock my socks off, but there’s a lot of flavor there.

On the back of the bottle, the label says “3 Floyds has a reputaiton as the Midwestern kings of alpha (hops), and it seems our flagship beer helped lure them down the lupulin-paved path. Chico King is a mash-up of our mutual passion for hoppy pale ales and we suspect you’ll find it fit for royalty.”

(Tasted Sept. 7, 2015; bottled May 15, 2014)

4. Myron’s Walk
Myron's Walk is a Belgian-style pale ale brewed with coriander.

Myron’s Walk is a Belgian-style pale ale brewed with coriander.

(38 IBU, 5.3% ABV) This is a Belgian-style pale ale brewed with coriander. It was made in collaboration with Allagash Brewing Co. The bottleneck label states “This Belgian-style pale ale combines the best of our two breweries. Intense piney-citrus hop notes counterpoint the complex fruity spice of Allagash’s Belgian yeast.”

It definitely sounds intriguing. When I poured it into the glass, it had a light amber hue. The scent wasn’t fairy strong, but it smelt a little of pine with a bit of spice.

When I took a gulp, it didn’t seem to make a huge impact on my taste buds. There was carbonation, but the head dissipated quickly.

After a couple of sips, I could feel a little bit of the spice. It seemed to blend well with the hops and kind of reminded me faintly of gingerbread.

It’s pleasant enough, but I don’t know if it did enough for me to select it as a standout.

On the back label, it states “This collaboration honors Myron Avery, a founder of the Appalachian Trail which spans our North Carolina brewery and Allagash’s home in Maine. We share a great love of the outdoors, and Avery and the AT are great reminders of the wild spirit of exploration that connects us both.”

(Tasted Sept. 9, 2015; bottled June 3, 2014)

5. Electric Ray

Electric Ray is an India pale lager brewed in collaboration with Ballast Point Brewing.

Electric Ray is an India pale lager brewed in collaboration with Ballast Point Brewing.

(70 IBU, 8.5% ABV) This India pale lager was brewed in collaboration with Ballast Point Brewing. The bottleneck label states “This nautically named India Pale Lager combines intense citrusy, floral American hops with the clean, classic male body of a blonde lager.”

Right out of the gate, I was a little worried about this one — there was some cloudiness on the bottom of the bottle, plus some suspended in the liquid. It’s probably fine, but I’m definitely keeping an eye on it.

When I poured it out, whatever was creating the cloudiness appeared like the burnt orange that I saw when I held onto my Bell’s Oberon for too long. It gave the liquid a pleasant, fiery appearance that made it opaque — probably the most opaque of the ales and lagers I’ve had so far.

My first impression was an oaky scent. It had a heat from the alcohol and it felt heavier than the Myron’s Walk. It seemed like the malt and floral accents had merged together.

On the back of the bottle, it states: “As ever, San Diego’s Ballast Point looked to the sea for inspiration. A play on the fish’s scientific name—Torpedo californica—Electric Ray pays homage to our Hop Torpedo, the source of much of this beer’s big flavor. Its massive grapefruit and floral notes deliver a high-voltage hit of hop flavor.”

I’m not quite sure I detect the grapefruit, but it’s certainly robust.

(Opened Sept. 9, 2015; bottled June 3, 2014)

One reason why I may go to Buffalo Wild Wings & one reason why I may never go back

Online trivia is probably the biggest reason why I'll go back to Buffalo Wild Wings, if it's available at the Chico location.

Online trivia is probably the biggest reason why I’ll go back to Buffalo Wild Wings, which appears to be available at the Chico location.

Buffalo Wild Wings completed its expansion to Chico this week. Judging by photos of early lines and posts in my Facebook feed, it seems a lot of people are happy about the development. Although I love saying “The game is on!”, thanks to the eatery’s unceasingly repetitive TV commercials, I don’t know if I would go back after a visit to the Natomas location in May 2014.

Why I may go back – While I was generally impressed by the huge bar area with a standing wall of giant TVs and the beer selection (although I think Sierra Nevada was largely missing), the food is pretty standard for this type of quick-service restaurant and the prices are higher than I think they should be (the Chico menu lists a wing combo at $16.79, otherwise fries and slaw cost extra). Ultimately, there was only one compelling reason why I could become a repeat customer and that’s online pub trivia.

When I dropped by the first time, I was pleasantly surprised to see the old familiar blue consoles of Buzztime trivia. I first played Buzztime when I was living in the Midwest from 2001-05, but no Chico tavern has offered it for more than a decade … until now.

With the blue console, a bar patron plays quick, 20-minute trivia matches with clues broadcast on one or two TVs scattered across the bar. The questions are nearly always multiple choice and the difficulty level is closer to the earlier rounds of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” than “Jeopardy!” After every question, you can see how you’re faring against other barflies. When the round ends, the scores are calculated across North America and you can see your nationwide rank.

There are multiple types of games in the primary trivia channel, but there are other channels including virtual poker. During football season, many sites offer QB1, which allows contestants to win points if they correctly guess the offense’s play.

During my visit, I was the only one really playing trivia (everyone else seemed to be focused on an MMA match featuring a fighter from Sacramento). Still, it was fun to play while I ate and had some soda.

I can get my fix through a number of online and smartphone apps that are available, such as QuizUp, but Buzztime can be a little more sociable as the pacing of the games aren’t rigorous. While you want to ring in promptly when there are questions, there are frequent breaks to continue conversations with your friends (if you have any) and to order more food and drink (which is what I’m sure B-Dubs and other bars want you to do).

Several of my friends and I have gone to live trivia at some Chico restaurants, which is generally fun, but can be quirky. Online trivia like Buzztime is generally available anytime, so it may be easier to get a bunch of friends and just go.

Here's why I may never go back to Buffalo Wild Wings -- the restaurant making Bud Light as its "Beer of the Month" in May 2014.

Here’s why I may never go back to Buffalo Wild Wings — the restaurant making Bud Light as its “Beer of the Month” in May 2014.

Why I may never go back – While I was generally uncomfortable with the prices, there was one incredulous discovery that baffled me. As I was leaving, I saw that the restaurant’s “Beer of the Month” for May 2014 was Bud Light.

I’m not a fan of Bud Light (although it’s not unpalatable), but that’s not the primary reason why I was turned off to the point where I may never go back. Bud Light is _the_ most popular beer in America by far. Although sales have reportedly dipped recently, a Vox chart shows it outsold its nearest rival (Coors Light) nearly 3:1 in 2013.

Given such market dominance, Bud Light doesn’t seem to really need to be highlighted as a “Beer of the Month.” It’s a default, go-to beer for a lot of people — you would expect nearly every bar in the country to offer this product. It’s like naming Christmas the Holiday of the Month for December, salt as the Seasoning of the Month or if Little Cesar’s named its ever-available pepperoni pizza as the Pizza of the Month.

One possible factor is that Budweiser’s owner Anheuser–Busch InBev advertises the brand quite heavily. Maybe there was an advertising consideration when Buffalo Wild Wings made such a banal selection for its beer of the month?

If you do choose to sample the exotic and unknown Bud Light, Buffalo Wild Wings offers these tasting notes for the American-style light lager — “Subtle fruity and citrus taste notes with a fast, clean finish.”

The price of this special brew was $4.25 in 2014, which wasn’t too bad, although one may find better deals on far more superior beers elsewhere in Chico.

Postscript – After writing all this, I checked the restaurant’s beer menu and found the _two_ beers of the month:

Here are  Buffalo Wild Wings' beers of the month, as seen on Aug. 10, 2015.

*sigh* Here are Buffalo Wild Wings’ beers of the month, as seen on Aug. 10, 2015.

It’s disappointing to see Bud Light nab this spotlight again. Buffalo Wild Wings also has an odd definition of “Import,” as Goose Island is a Chicago brewery. It’s worth noting who Goose Island’s owners are — Anheuser-Busch InBev. AB InBev _is_ based in Belgium, so maybe that was a criteria in defining “Import.”

On a slightly positive note, Sam Adams remains its own independent company. At least there’s that, although Sam Adams seems to have similar issues to Bud Light.

Taste Test: Sierra Nevada Nooner Session IPA

A bottle of Sierra Nevada Nooner Session IPA is on display next to a glass of the ale.

A bottle of Sierra Nevada Nooner Session IPA is on display next to a glass of the ale.

Last month, Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. released a variety pack called “4-Way IPA.” A co-worker and I agreed to split a 12-bottle case from the Chico brewery that included Blindfold Black IPA, Nooner Session IPA, Snow Wit White IPA, as well as the ever-popular Torpedo Extra IPA. To make the math of dividing the case easier (and to accommodate my co-worker’s beer aficionado significant other), I opted for a bottle each of the new varieties and three bottles of Torpedo.

First up for me was the Nooner Session IPA. This bottle was packaged Jan. 22, 2014 and I opened it March 11, 2014.

From the label on the neck of the bottle, Sierra Nevada writes “Nooner IPA is light in body but big in hop aroma and flavor. This session IPA delivers a dose of citrusy and grapefruit hop character from the use of whole-cone American hops.”

On the side, the label states “There’s no better way to start a lazy afternoon than with a group of friends and a few beers. Nooner IPA is a session beer that’s light in body yet big in hop flavor. By using intense, whole-cone American hops in our Hop Torpedo we pack this small beer with a hefty hop punch.”

With an ABV of 4.8 percent, this definitely seemed to be in line for casual consumption.

Sierra Nevada Nooner Session IPA looks amber and coppery when it is held to the light.

Sierra Nevada Nooner Session IPA looks amber and coppery when it is held to the light.

The pour didn’t give off a lot of head. This is probably an ale that would benefit from pouring directly in to the center of the glass instead of partially down the side.

The golden copper hue appeared to become cloudier as it rested in the glass. Initially, the ale’s smell was a pungent combination of citrus and pine, but it seemed to have diminished as time passed. Later, there were times I could smell it clearly and times where there was nothing.

On the first sip, it seems to open like Torpedo but the finish veers in a different direction. A citrus tang lingers on the palate. Through the cymbal crash of citrus, a faint bitterness reverberates like the waning echo of a tympani.

What little precious foam this beer did produce clung to the side of the glass in a satisfying fashion, but there weren’t any glorious rings.

This ale packs a lot of diverse flavor, but it isn’t heavy or overwhelming. There was no point where drinking it felt like an endurance challenge to survive an onslaught of hops or other factors.

Nooner Session IPA seems to live up to its name. Although I only have one bottle, I can easily picture sharing some with friends over a BBQ.

I’ll sample my two remaining new ales over the next couple of days. I’ll be saving the Snow Wit for last because I’ve heard good things about it and I love saving the best for last.

Utah’s state liquor stores — An outsider’s look at a unique booze wonderland

Over the summer, I spent my vacation in Salt Lake City. During a walk through the Sugar House neighborhood, I entered one of Utah’s State Liquor Stores for the first time.

Outside the state liquor store in Sugar House

Outside the state liquor store in the Sugar House neighborhood of Salt Lake City, Utah in July 2011.

I honestly didn’t know what I was expecting, but it was mildly interesting. While it appeared to be better stocked than a typical supermarket (minus beers modified for sale in regular grocery stores), it was considerably less than a Beverages and More. Call them a “BevLess.”

Although I’ve lived and visited Salt Lake off and on for my entire life, I never really noticed the nondescript stores until after turning 21. It’s kind of an odd oversight because there was one about two blocks from my great-grandparents house (it’s now closed in a cost-cutting move that may or may not be working).

On the other hand, the state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control says its mission is to make liquor available, but not to promote sales. Mission accomplished, based on my experience. The store’s red brick exterior is devoid of advertising and there are notices on the door saying no one under 21 allowed without a parent or guardian.

I was actually looking for an old bowling alley when I found the Sugar House liquor store tucked next to the roaring interstate. I was scouting some beer for a friend so I decided to go in.

Since I was looking for brews, I spent most of the time in the beer section and I was surprised by the relatively decent selection. There was a selection of Sierra Nevada (including Bigfoot!) and even the more rare Anchor Steam. I also saw the most variety of Molson outside of Canada.

Inside the store

A look inside the State Liquor Store in the Sugar House neighborhood on Sept. 16, 2011.

One thing I didn’t find was the specific brand of beer I was looking for. Fortunately, I later found it was widely available at many fine grocery stores, like the nearby Whole Foods or Dan’s.

The prices weren’t horrible as far as I could tell, but maybe that was by design. In another quirk, beer in the store is sold on a per-bottle basis. Based on the empty six-pack cases, I guess it opens up the possibility of mixing and matching your selection.

The pricing can be deceiving. A single bottle of Anchor Steam was $1.99, making a six-pack about $11.94 in Utah. That’s about $3 more than in Chico.

The staff and customers also appear to be nice considering that I pestered them with questions of Salt Lake of yore — namely that pesky bowling alley. I first asked the clerk if he remembered if there was a bowling alley where a 24 Hour Fitness is now. As a relative newcomer, he didn’t know. I turned to a slightly older woman who I (perhaps wrongly) assumed she would know. She didn’t, but they were both seemed nice about my slightly off-key questions.


Visiting the store with family

My sister poses outside the State Liquor Store during a return visit on Sept. 16.

Follow-up: I returned to the store in September. My family was buying some items for an impromptu memorial and stopped by, looking for wine. (BTW, my dad remembered the bowling alley.)

We settled on a bottle of wine and some Pimm’s liquor. My mother and sister appeared to be impressed at the selection available. In addition to Pimm’s, which I had never heard of before, there was also a wine that my sister’s friend distributes.

Although I’ve lived in places where the state strictly controls the sale of alcohol, Utah’s state-owned stores are something else — almost otherworldly. In a way, going into these heavily regulated spaces reminded me of going to a bar for the first time after turning 21.

We were impressed by the store’s variety, but we also joked at some aspects that seemed “off” — like an oddly constructed wireframe wine rack where a bottle tilted up for examination could slip through the frame and fall to the ground. That caused a bit of a surprise, but thankfully the bottle didn’t break.

I also thought it’s faintly absurd that the state government is selling alcohol. On my way out of the store, I joked that the cashiers should end transactions by saying “The state of Utah thanks you for your purchase.”

I don’t think the cashiers were very amused.

Top image: Outside the state liquor store in the Sugar House neighborhood of Salt Lake City, Utah in July 2011.

Petty thieves turn Sierra Nevada events slightly skunky

Enjoying Old Chico Crystal Wheat during Sierra Nevada OktoberfestIt was wonderful that Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. threw several events this year, including an Oktoberfest dinner next to its on-site hop fields and a 30th anniversary party in one of the brewery’s warehouses on Nov. 15. They also donated the beer for the Chico Chamber of Commerce’s Industrial BBQ. These soirées were huge and accommodated hundreds of people.

It’s unfortunate that some of the attendees were less-than-gracious guests when they started walking away with items. I don’t know if this would ordinarily be worthy of mention, but I was disappointed to see it happen at both events.

During Oktoberfest, there were large green metal buckets adorned with the Sierra Nevada logo filled with pretzels atop tables. There were tons of them throughout the tables under the gigantic white tent where the bulk of the event took place as well as outside in the beer-serving area.

As the night wore on, I started seeing people walking around with the buckets, presumably to take home. I also saw heaping piles of pretzels strewn about the tables where the buckets were.

I don’t know if the brewery intended for people to take the buckets or assumed that they might. In some situations, it’s common for guests to take home table centerpieces.

At the very least, I thought it was inconsiderate for people to merely dump the pretzels on the table, adding to the mess for people to clean. Also, the buckets cost $10 in the gift shop — not cheap, but they’re not priceless and immensely unique items either.

I thought it was a little telling that the table decorations for the brewery’s anniversary bash were less desirable as souvenirs.

During the anniversary celebration, the pretzels were set out in simple, shallow and utterly unremarkable baskets. The table decorations included trios of bottles of varying sizes with electronic tealights placed through holes cut in the bottom of each container. Perhaps more valuable were small, cylindrical vases about the size of juice cans filled with a modest bouquet of flowers and 30th Anniversary coasters used as cards.

I didn’t think these items would be worth taking, but some people proved me wrong. I saw people walking with the vases. Near a table, I saw an overflowing bag on the floor with a broken brown bottle of the same variety as the ones used on the tables. I have no idea why someone would take a common bottle with a hole cut in the bottom.

It seems people weren’t just content to take table decorations — someone stole my souvenir anniversary glass. This happened in the 30 seconds it took me to walk 15 yards to put my dinner plate in a compost bin. It was funny because I briefly thought about taking the glass with me, but I thought it would be safe in the sparsely populated part of the dining area in the short time I would be gone.

I don’t think it was an overly attentive staff person cleaning up my table — a newspaper I was reading was still on the table. I suppose someone could’ve assumed that I was leaving/left and didn’t want my glass (although a courteous person would’ve asked). However, I was gone for such a short time, I can only assume that someone swooped in and deliberately snatched their prize.

I was disappointed at this turn of events. Thankfully, one of the event staff was nice enough to give me a second glass when I told her my first glass “walked” away. She said it had been happening a lot that evening.

Needless to say, I did not let go of that second glass until I got home.

These incidents definitely speak more to the guests than to the hosts, who were absolutely gracious. I also wonder why people felt the need to scavenge. I don’t think money was a factor because each event cost about $30 to get in, but perhaps people felt they were entitled.

Aside from these minor moments, both events were great fun with wonderful food and fun music. Sierra Nevada’s events staff ran the events well, aside from running out of food toward the end of Oktoberfest.

Oktoberfest featured glass-blowing demonstrations of steins and other drinking implements. The anniversary celebration had 30 beers on tap, including several rare and unbottled varieties. I loved the dark and rich barrel-aged Life and Limb, but the author in me was partial to the name of the beer Writer’s Block.

Ultimately, a few bad apples were just a minor note on two extremely fun events celebrating a Chico landmark.

Photo: One of the buckets of pretzels at Sierra Nevada’s Oktoberfest celebration with a commemorative stein filled with Old Chico Crystal Wheat.

Farewell, Utah liquor law that never directly affected me

The "Lost" spike and the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad

The “Lost” spike and the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad

This is going to be a weird post because it’s about a liquor law from my homestate of Utah that I never really ran into, but I could have — before today. In the past, bars were “private clubs” where customers had to buy a “membership” before you could enter and buy a drink (or else be a guest of a member). It was an interesting hurdle for people who are used to something different (or normal).

The private club memberships went away at midnight MDT, and with them went my last chance to become a “member” under this unusual law.

In the end, I kinda wanted to get a private membership. Yes, it’s weird that I would want to get a private membership for the sake of getting one. Did I ever mention to you that I wanted to visit a Quizno’s in Seattle?

Don’t get me wrong, being a member of a private club in Utah was probably less cool than becoming a member of the National Geographic Society or Consumers Union, or wearing a Members Only jacket. It never came up when I was growing up (because I was obviously a minor). I’ve only been back a few times since turning 21.

When I visited Salt Lake City in July 2008, I thought I might need to buy a membership when tagging along with a friend who now lives in the city. Alas, the opportunity never came up in three chances.

  1. An evening concert in the park had a beer garden. They checked ID, but there was no membership requirement.
  2. On a separate day, we went to a brewery in Trolley Square. No membership was needed — apparently breweries could sell their wares without them.
  3. The last chance came when we went to get brunch on a Sunday. It’s a nice restaurant with a bar area. Surely, I would need to pay for a membership here. No dice, my friend knew a member on staff and we were admitted as guests.

While I may have missed my chance to become a “member,” it’s still not too late for me to become utterly confused by Utah’s new liquor laws. The private clubs are essentially gone, but will be replaced with “social clubs” and “dining clubs,” each with different, yet similar rules. On top of that are full-service restaurants and beer taverns which can serve alcohol but follow another set of rules. A short rundown is here.

These changes only address clubs. If you wanted to buy a six-pack of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale to enjoy in the comfort of your home, you still need to go to a state liquor store.

Photo: The photo behind the “Lost Spike” at the California State Railroad Museum shows the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad at Promontory Summit, Utah in 1869. Here’s a better look. I saw the workers holding up champagne and was intrigued that alcohol was used to commemorate this landmark event that happened in Utah.