The final leg back from our Labor Day weekend in Florida last month landed us at the Salt Lake City Airport, where we had a layover for several hours before catching our final flight home. Before we even started traveling, I had made notes on which airports we’d be visiting had craft beer represented (you know, as you do when a beer geek), and while I hadn’t had high hopes for Utah—it being a “3.2″ state with an alcohol cap on beers of 3.2% by weight (4% by volume)—surprisingly the SLC Airport had more to offer than Houston (which had nothing).
SLC has both the Squatters Pub Brewery (one of the native craft breweries to Utah) and a Vino Volo Ale House, which offers a variety of both wines and craft beers and sounded promising. While I would have liked to have checked out Squatters, it was in a different concourse entirely from where we were, and I didn’t feel like crossing the airport in the opposite direction of where we needed to be, so we opted for Vino Volo which was perfectly convenient.
Good choice! I had mentioned previously that this was the best airport beer stop of the trip, and it really was—made all the more impressive in that it worked really well within the Utah limitations.
The draft list was impressive, with 10 or 12 beers focusing exclusively on Utah breweries, and further bolstered by a wide variety of bottled Utah beers, many of which are actually over the 4% abv limit, interestingly enough. We asked about that, of course, and whether we could buy bottle(s) to take with us on the plane home.
Surprisingly, the answer is “no.” You are allowed to buy a bottle of a high-alcohol beer but it has to be consumed on the premises: that’s the quirk in the Utah law that on the one hand does in fact allow you to buy and drink higher alcohol beers, but you cannot take them with you. Something to keep in mind before you drop $15 on a 750ml bottle of something strong from Uinta’s Crooked Line beers.
But the beers on tap were all 4% (or less) and Vino Volo has a great way to sample them: beer flights that consist of any three beers in 3.5-ounce samples for $6. It was a great opportunity to try some Utah beers that I hadn’t seen before so of course I took advantage of it.
For the first flight I selected Desert Edge Latter Day Stout, Wasatch Pumpkin Ale, and Wasatch Apricot Hefeweizen, all 4% abv. On the one hand, they were noticeably lighter than I’m used to, but on the other they were still full-flavored and very drinkable beers, and the 3.5-ounce sample size is generous. Of these three I first tackled the Pumpkin Ale (of course), finding it to be brewed in the “classic” sense with spices and ample caramel malts. The Apricot Hefeweizen was pleasant and light, perhaps needing a bit more fruit. The Latter Day Stout was dry and roasty in the Irish Stout tradition.
Notice the little cards below the beers? That’s something else Vino Volo does right: an info card giving the color, malt, and hops profile, a short description, category, awards (if any)—basically the info any beer geek would be looking for in a pinch. Well done. (The Pumpkin Ale was too new and hadn’t had any printed up yet.)
For my second flight I opted for Bohemian Viennese Lager, Red Rock Amber Ale, and Squatters Full Suspension Pale Ale. Again all 4%, well-brewed and flavorful representations of each respective style. This grouping was more malt-forward, with the Full Suspension Pale Ale having a nice crisp American hop presence and the other two trending toward caramel and toasty malts.
Of course any place with “Vino” in the name is primarily going to be a wine bar, and indeed it is, and they give wine the same full treatment as the beer, with colorful info cards to accompany each wine and an impressive selection to choose from. My wife opted for the wine, of course:
The white is a 2011 Toscana Bianco Trebbiano/Chardonnay blend from Il Fontino in Italy, and the red is a 2008 Puglia Sangiovese/Merlot blend from TraVolo also in Italy. My wife really enjoyed both.
I also had some food while we were there, a veggie burger that paired well with my first beer flight:
It was tasty, the sliced vegetables were fresh, and it was a step above the airport fast food and quick deli cases you often see.
Overall I can’t recommend Vino Volo highly enough if you find yourself with some time in the Salt Lake City Airport. I would hope the other locations in the chain (all located in airports, interestingly enough) all offer equally good beer and wine selections and service; they would definitely be worth seeking out if so.