Bottoms Up

Beer and wine in the Bay Area and beyond

Polygamy Porter: Utah’s Finest

By William Brand
Tuesday, October 5th, 2004 at 9:32 pm in Uncategorized.

SALT LAKE CITY _ During a two hour layover in Salt Lake City Saturday night, I visited a pub at the airport,which offered a number of standard American lagers and a single craftbrew _ a porter.

I ordered the porter, took one look at the bottled and started laughing.
Here’s the label:

That’s right: Polygamy Porter showing a nearly nude guy and several women with the slogan: “Why Have Just One’’.

In Utah? Whew. Great advertising.
I remember from my days as a kitchen worker long ago in Yellowstone Park, that friends from Ogden and Salt Lake City told me that if I could bring a case of beer and a carton of cigarettes with me to anywhere in Utah outside urban Salt Lake City. I’d have instant friends.

Both tobacco and beer were impossible to obtain outside Salt Lake in heavily Mormon Utah.

I was only 18 and looked about 12, so I had no chance to see if they were right _ but it did make me realize that Mormons and beer had an uneasy relationship.
‘ So when I saw “Polygamy Porter’’ I laughed out loud.
Turns out that this porter and its fey label are old news in Salt Lake. According to the Associated Press, Wasatch Brewing founder Greg Schirf came up with the name in 2001; it was part of a plan to draw attention to his craft beer in an increasingly competitive market.

It worked; a billboard company refused to put up a Polygamy Porter billboard and beer sales went through the roof, sending shudders through the Mormon community, which has long had an uneasy relationship with polygamy. The church officially banned polygamy in 1890 _ as part of a deal to grant Utah statehood.

According to an AP account in 2001, “Seventy percent of Utah’s 2.1 million people are members of the Mormon church, a church which shuns alcohol. And the state’s liquor laws reflect that.

“Utah law requires bars, called private clubs here, to sell individual annual memberships of at least $12 before a person can get a drink. Liquor stores must be state-run and are not open on Sundays,’’ the AP said.

Now, Schirf Brewing has merged with Salt Lake Brewing, maker of Squatter’s beers, and Polygamy Portert’s a regular.

By the way: It’s a great porter: creamy chocolate nose, roast malt taste, fine dry follow. I give it Three Stars *** — William Brand

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  • Pete Kilvert

    On a recent trip to USA (I live in Manchester, UK), I bought a 6 pack of Polygamy Porter in an Ogden, Utah, supermarket and spent a few happy hours drinking it (not all at once of course because I was driving the next day). I’m very pleased to say that it was most enjoyable. (I usually drink Guinness in UK, and also occasionally Fullers London Pride). I too was amused at the label, but being a open minded person, I did not see it as a go at the Mormons! Please continue to brew this delightful beverage.
    (PS – you wanted my website, so I’ve included it. Please pass it on to the ladies in your life. It could save their life).

  • Paul

    You can buy the polygamy porter shirts here.