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You’ve likely seen Apple Beer on the menu at local favorites such as Cafe Rio, Brick Oven, Chuck-a-Rama and Bajio’s, but perhaps you didn’t know that Apple Beer has been a Utah local company since the 1960s. Its unique taste appeals to thirsty college students and Caribbean wedding guests alike.
Apple Beer first came on the scene when founder Larry Stillman was introduced to a German drink called Fassbrause, a non-alcoholic drink that had been in Germany for more than 100 years. He decided to bring the taste to the United States, so he acquired the rights to distribute the drink in North America. The company has sold the bubbly beverage under the name Apple Beer ever since, and it’s now known as Utah’s original gourmet soda.
The company’s local roots are what make it so successful, says Ashley Simmons, the company’s sales director. “Apple Beer Corp. is family owned and operated. We have deep roots in this region and long-standing business relationships, and this has been the key to our success.”
Local customers are fiercely loyal, she says, adding that Apple Beer understands its local customer base and appeals to their love of natural foods and non-alcoholic drinks. “We are proud of our identification with Utah as the state’s original gourmet soda,” she says.
For 30 years, Apple Beer was sold in its signature 12-ounce cans, but in the 1990s, the company began offering Apple Beer in glass bottles to preserve the natural flavor. For those who love natural foods, the all-natural version of the drink is available in bottles and can be found at natural food stores such as Whole Foods and Good Earth.
Part of Apple Beer’s all-natural appeal to locals is the absence of caffeine, alcohol and gluten. The lack of alcohol, in particular, is appealing since many Utahns refrain from drinking any alcoholic beverages.
Seth Oxborrow, a student at Brigham Young University, recalls being introduced to Apple Beer during his freshman year on campus. “I was always interested in root beers and was becoming tired [of] the same sweet flavor. Apple Beer isn’t as sweet as most [non-alcoholic] ‘beers,’” he says. “The taste seems more mature, casual and pleasant.”
While Apple Beer distributes mostly to the West Coast and the Intermountain West, it has a successful export business to the Caribbean, where the drink is popular at special events such as weddings.
The company has exciting plans for the future, including exporting to Europe and other international markets. It also plans to expand within the United States by connecting with new distributors and producers.
Overall, Apple Beer’s success can be summed up in two words: continuity and uniqueness, according to Simmons. Because it has been a family-owned business for more than 40 years, it has been able to ensure the quality of its product. As Simmons explains, “Apple Beer is absolutely unique; there are no other Apple Beers out there and nothing else like it.”