Rio Connelly

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What’s your current position at your brewery, and how did you get started in the craft brewing industry?

I handle 100 percent of brewery operations at Utah’s smallest craft brewery (Avenues Proper Restaurant & Publick House in Salt Lake City), brewing, doing cellar work, removals, and cleaning. I had been a homebrewer for about five years and was working at a homebrew supply shop when I was lucky enough to get a job at the then-new Epic Brewing. I worked hard and became head brewer Kevin Crompton’s right-hand man. He taught me most of what I know, and I eventually left to start my own small project where I am now.

What’s new at Avenues Proper?

We brew draft beer in Utah, which means it can’t be above 4 percent ABV, so we brew session-strength ales and lagers. I use a rotating cast of yeasts and brewed more than 20 unique beers in our first year. My newest beers are an India Vienna Lager (IVL) and a Saison brewed with rice, wheat, grains of paradise, and Nelson Sauvin hops. I’m really excited to have gotten my hands on some malted blue corn from a micro-maltster to make a Mexican-style lager. That should be out in August.

What’s the best part of being a part of the craft brewing community?

Being inspired by what other people are doing. I handle the entire beverage program at the restaurant in addition to my brewery duties. Seeing the way that chefs, bartenders, farmers, and brewers are coming together all over the world to create new and unique experiences really keeps me motivated. Since opening, we added a house beer/local spirits pairing flight, a handful of beer cocktails, and are underway on our second pairing dinner with another local brewery. I read the industry magazines and see what others are doing and just have to participate.

What do you like to do in your time away from the brewery?

I play drums in a band, enjoy camping, hiking, and cycling, and I still do a lot of homebrewing, especially cider lately.

Name a favorite food and beer pairing.

I’m a huge fan of pairing cheese with beer. One of my favorites is a classic Ploughman’s Lunch: a soft roll filled with a slab of very sharp cheddar, thin red onion, and mango chutney or Branston pickle. I pair it with a rich stout or a roasty porter. The beer cuts the richness of the cheese and plays off the vinegar and acid from the chutney. All the flavors are there: sweet, bitter, sour, savory, rich, nutty, spicy, and salty. A perfect lunch for a brewer!

What’s your biggest accomplishment unrelated to brewing?

I was very happy to be employed as a writer at SLUG magazine in Salt Lake City. I think what they do for the local scene is fantastic. I contributed regularly, including helping out with several editions of their annual Beer issue.

What’s your favorite beer that your brewery does not produce?

I could drink Orval all day, every day (if I could afford it). I’m also a huge fan of Odell Brewing in Fort Collins, Colo. Their IPA is one of the best.

What’s the most memorable travel destination at which you’ve had a chance to sample the local beer?

My trip to South Korea was kind of a let-down as I found plenty of people enjoying beer, but almost all of it was the large local macrobrews of Hite and OB. I heard that craft brewing might be getting started there, but I didn’t see it. I did enjoy several local breweries during my semester abroad in Edinburgh.

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