Greg Schirf receives Hospitality Award
July 15, 2016
Greg Schirf, founder of the Wasatch Brewery, didn't invent craft brewing, but he gave it a big boost in Utah. Capitalizing on his shrewd marketing skills and irreverent sense of humor, Schirf has been on a 30-year mission to liberalize the state's antiquated liquor laws and spread the word that it is possible to get a drink in Utah. His efforts and generous contributions to a wide variety of local causes were recognized Wednesday.
Schirf was honored at the Park City Chamber Bureau's membership luncheon as the 2016 recipient of the Myles Rademan Hospitality Award, given annually to a local citizen who has made extraordinary contributions to the tourism industry and the community. Previous honorees include: Stein Eriksen, Nick Badami, Jan Peterson and Teri Orr, among others.
The award is given by the Park City Chamber/Bureau and named after its first recipient, Myles Rademan, who told more than 300 people in attendance on Wednesday that the list of other honorees is filled with "who's who of community leaders and visionaries … who were instrumental in creating Park City."
Among Wednesday's speakers was past award winner Jan Wilking, who recapped Schirf's diverse contributions to the community: as one of the founders of a local alternative newspaper in the 1970s, a former Park City School Board member and a past member of the KPCW board of directors.
Wilking said Schirf also played a pivotal role in helping establish Mountain Trails Foundation.
"Early on, before we started Mountain Trails Foundation, we always had an annual meeting with mountain bikers to talk about trail etiquette and trail development, and one way to get mountain bikers to come to a meeting is by offering free beer. It was Greg's generosity that, I think, contributed a great deal to the start of the Mountain Trails Foundation," Wilking said.
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Steve Dering, another longtime friend, recalled Schirf's determination to start a brewery in Park City and how he launched it into the national spotlight during the 2002 Winter Olympics.
According to Dering, Schirf defied Olympic organizers by advertising his product as "The Unofficial Beer of the Olympic Games." (The official brew was Budweiser.) The ensuing "David versus Goliath" dispute drew national and international media attention and positioned Park City as a fun-loving, creative town.
"When I think of Greg I think of irreverence, courage, loyalty and as Jan mentioned, I think of generosity… like everyone here I am grateful to Greg for what he has done for the town, and mostly for 40 years of laughs and a great friendship."
Another Schirf admirer, Paul Kirwin, recounted a series of amusing Wasatch Bewery beer campaigns that needled the state's dominant religious organization.
According to Kirwin, Schirf told his advertising team, "One thing I want everybody to remember: we are only going to sell to 20-30 percent of the people in this state and in order to do that I think we need to offend 70 percent of the state."
That led to a number of eyebrow-raising billboards and slogans including "Wasatch Beer: The other local religion" and the tagline for Wasatch Brewery's signature Polygamy Porter: "Why have just one?"
Beyond the humor, though, Kirwin said, "There were big questions about Utah and here comes this guy selling beer with a guerrilla marketing campaign with a smile and a wink. I think that did more for Utah than Utah ever knew."
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