Brewing a Revolution in Uintah County
Vernal, Utah, is located on the northeastern border of the state—a land made rich in boom times by oil and gas with a healthy dose of tourism centered around outdoor opportunities and one of the most magnificent collections of dinosaur bones in North America.
But like the paleontologists who work the quarry wall at Dinosaur National Monument each day, Vernal visitors and locals often find themselves sifting through a vast array of fast-food chains to find the illusive gourmet meals and libations.
Enter Vernal Brewing Co. (VBC), which opened three years ago across the street from the Utah Field House of Natural History State Park Museum. “We love the location,” says VBC founder and owner Ginger Bowden. “The flow of the parking lot just seems to draw people over here from the museum across the street.”
The brewery is eye-catching for several reasons: elevated garden plots—which grow much of the produce the restaurant serves—sit beside a shaded patio that beckons to hungry visitors to enjoy chef-driven cuisine by Ashleigh Edwards and nine freshly brewed (on-site) beers in relative solitude.
Guests are in for an even more pleasant surprise when they enter the restaurant. Natural sunlight streams in from windows in two directions. A casual bar to the right offers convenience items like pre-made salads for a picnic, takeout orders, a peek into the kitchen or entrance onto the patio.
Gastropub Dining & Drinking
Quick inspection of the menu unearths high-quality gastropub fare deserving of careful consideration over a pint or two of brewer Mark Watson’s beers, crafted just behind the window of the restaurant.
Start with a sharable feast of the meat-and-cheese board complemented by beer jam and onion marmalade, plus pickles and olives. Fried Brussels sprouts studded with candied bacon are perfectly crisp with just enough fat for flavor. Or a healthier citrus salmon entrée glazed with sweet ginger soy satisfies summer palates with the accompaniment of fresh vegetables from the gardens. Combined with VBC’s Pilgrimage Extra Pale Ale that delivers moderate hops and a dry finish, this meal combo is a great way to explore much of what the restaurant and brewery have to offer.
After a long day of boating or fishing at Red Fleet Reservoir or river rafting down the Green River through Split Mountain Canyon, VBC can refuel even the hungriest adventurer, too. The hearty pastrami sandwich made with juicy house-cured meat paired with VBC’s tangy beer cheese soup studded with housemade Italian sausage really satisfies. Wash it all down with a malty Allosaurus Amber Ale with hints of caramel and floral characteristics.
Of course, no meal would be complete without dessert and VBC’s pastry chef Shayna “Shayner” Edwards dishes up several suitable for sharing. The skillet cookie is always a favorite topped with vanilla bean ice cream. Or get creative with the stout cheesecake topped with merlot cherries and, of course, paired with the high-point Not Your Mama’s Milk Stout—a creamy, dark-roasted barley beer expressing notes of espresso, chocolate and vanilla with bourbon undertones.
Our Cans Are Your Destination
Although the restaurant side of VBC’s business really picks up around spring break each year, it’s the beer that sustains operations throughout all the seasons and is now distributed across several states. “People drink all year round,” says Bowden. “We see peaks of certain beers at certain times, but the beer will always sell. The restaurant will always have ups and downs.”
It’s for this reason that Bowden went to great pains to market VBC’s craft brews to a wide audience looking for adventure. Each of the low-point beers—called the Destination Series—celebrates the Uintah Basin’s spectacular recreational opportunities and heritage. Little Hole Lager, a light, crisp beer popular in the summertime, pays tribute to the popular tourist area at Flaming Gorge, while Directional Smoked Porter depicts an oil field drill rig.
The high-point beers—named the Adventure Series—are a bit more risqué because they aren’t available in grocery stores where children might inadvertently see them. “There’s a gun label warning on the .50 Caliber,” Bowden notes. She herself is also the figure on the label holding a gun. “We have notes, tastings, pairings and a GPS point on the high-point series,” she continues. “We had a lot of fun with these.”
This summer, set your GPS to Vernal Brewing Co. in Vernal, Utah, and begin a new dining and drinking adventure. ❖