What do Olympic ski jumping and craft beer have in common? The answer sits behind an inspired menu, wood grain bar, and shiny taproom at the new Heber Valley Brewing Company.
Ski Jumping, Coaching, And Big Ideas
Owners Greg Poirier and Clint Jones enjoyed a speedy, high-flying life before making beer their primary focus. Poirier moved out west in the 1980s to start coaching ski jumping and cross country skiing. 2002 found Poirier living in Utah while he coached athletes for the Salt Lake Winter Olympics. His coaching career took him to several Olympic Games, where many of his athletes proudly medaled. Jones started ski jumping at age five. During his competitive years, Jones enjoyed many podiums and top finishes. He competed in two Olympic Games, including our own 2002 Winter Olympics, and is one of only five American athletes to have flown over 200 meters. Clint jumped from skiing competitively to coaching in 2007, eventually landing in the Heber Valley, where both he and Poirier have ties with USA Nordic at Soldier Hollow. Poirier and Jones spent years on and off the snow developing their friendship, and one can assume their taste in beer.
From Gold Medals To Liquid Gold
Realizing that they shared more than just a love for skiing, Poirier and Jones decided to team up for a new adventure — opening the first craft brewery in Wasatch County. Home beer brewing is a fast-growing trend across the nation, and not every homebrewer can take their liquid gold to the next level. However, these two know what it takes to work as a team to achieve success. It is believed that they are also the only Olympic athlete and coach to have teamed up, off the course, to create a craft beer business together — making Heber Valley Brewing a one-of-a-kind brewery.
Poirier said he and Jones had talked about opening a brewery before and thought the Heber Valley was ready. At first, it was just talking, then one day, Greg texted Clint saying, “If you and I don’t do this, someone else will, and we will kick ourselves, so why don’t we open a microbrewery?” From there, the search for a place began. “We started looking in 2018, but there are strict rules about being too close to churches, schools, and parks. We’d thought about a location that was more geared to distribution, but we thought the first brewery needed more attention to the locals,” Poirier says. They took possession and began renovating the building located at 501 N Main Street in February 2019, spending nearly every day trying to get things ready while working other jobs. The red tape to open a brewery isn’t for the faint of heart; the two jumped in and got to work. Poirier and Jones poured everything into their brewing dream. They even had to sign a lease before the permit was approved. While things didn’t go exactly according to plan, they were able to open with a better than expected start.
The taproom is every start-up brewer’s fantasy. Poirier and Jones take pride in the process, and the beer speaks for itself. “I’ve tasted beer from all over the world. I married a Belgian woman, the beer culture there is the best. In Belgium, there are religions based around brewing. It’s respected with a different level of thoughtfulness. Many beers have special glasses designed by the brewer to bring out the best flavor. If the glass isn’t available, neither is the beer. They take beer very seriously,” Poirier shares.
“The American craft beer movement opens up creativity and allows the creation of unexpected flavors. We have the philosophy of sticking with the traditional styles and adding a twist. We draw inspiration from the community. It’s a humble group, and the more you learn, the more you realize, the less you know. There are a lot of homebrewers in the Heber Valley, and the beer culture is good,” says Jones.
Heber Valley Brewing uses local ingredients where possible. Looking towards brewing an entirely locally sourced beer, they have planted a hops crop. “People have been offering to bring in hops they’ve grown. We’re hoping next year we can organize a day when everyone can bring in their harvest to contribute to a community beer,” Jones says.
Although the brewery is a new addition to the Heber Valley, it feels like it’s been a part of the community forever. The atmosphere is warm and welcoming, and if you don’t know where to start, they offer a flight of the beers on tap — it’s a great way to experience the range of flavors. In addition to their food menu, there are food trucks on the weekends. The vibe is relaxing yet exciting, a welcoming place for the perfect pint after a day on the slopes or the trails. Clint says, “Some of the best decisions happen around a good beer.” Poirier and Jones’ brewery is proof of that — cheers to the great ideas and conversations taking place at the Heber Valley Brewing Company.