Will Hamill: Brewing success in the Beehive State

Will Hamill first got the beer-brewing bug while he lived in Portland, Maine. He went on to study the craft in college at UC Davis, and later toured the Anheuser-Busch facility near the central California campus. But it wasn’t until he moved to Salt Lake City in 1992 that he cast his professional die and created Uinta Brewing Company.

“I thought that if I could make a living from brewing beer, which is my passion, I’d be a happy man,” he says.

It took him about a year to set up his operation in a renovated mechanics garage on 1700 South.

“It started in a very small way—3,000 square feet, just a few employees, and with modest goals,” he says. “When I wrote my business plan, I had the goal to produce 5,000 barrels of beer by year five. We did that in year two.”

Hamill says the company’s success defied what a lot of naysayers told him about starting a brewing company in the heart of Mormon country.

“I chose Utah because it’s near and dear to my heart in so many ways,” he says. “Powder skiing, mountain biking, river running … no one thought a Maine boy could have success starting a brewery in the least beer-consuming state in the nation.”

Coupled with that decision was another he made—to be first and foremost a brewery, without a commercial restaurant operation to help support it. While other local brewers such as Squatters and Wasatch had restaurants, Hamill says his model was purely production. “I love manufacturing—the craft of building a factory and of course making beer. I wasn’t finding any beer I wanted to drink. So I thought I would bring a fantastic beer to the state of Utah—something unique like the state itself,” he says.

He’s certainly done that. Today, Uinta’s state-of-the-art plant on Fremont Drive occupies a five-acre site and 90,000 square feet, and produces over 200,000 barrels a year. The company’s line of 28 beers is now sold in 35 states, and Uinta is the 40th largest brewery in the nation.

“It’s been amazing to watch how the number of breweries in the country has grown since we started,” Hamill says. “There were 225 in the U.S. in 1993. Today, there are more than 5,000. All of that growth has come from craft brewers, and two or three new breweries are opening each day in the country.”

Hamill emphasizes both training and the company’s environmental efforts.

“A lot of my time has been spent training people in Utah about craft beer, pairing it with certain foods, creating a phenomenal product line,” he says. “We’ve been a community builder since day one and feel an environmental stewardship. We’re the first in Utah to be 100 percent wind powered, and our delivery trucks run on biodiesel fuel. Our plant uses solar-generated energy as well. We take that stewardship very seriously.”

Innovation has always been at the forefront of Hamill’s mind. He has a huge development team that, he says, “keeps our consumers on their toes. We have limited-release beers, and a lot of new products coming out in the future. And because we have visitors from throughout the world coming to our plant, we’ve added a restaurant just for them. We sell hamburgers from cattle fed with grain from our own system.”

Success has brought Uinta Brewing many awards and accolades from national and international beer competitions, including the Great American Beer Festival and the World Beer Cup. Hamill plans to continue expanding Uinta’s sales territories as well.