The price of a pint at 115 bars in Salt Lake County

There’s nothing dads do better than telling you about the good old days.

Last weekend I had a chat with the father of a friend of mine – and specifically about the heyday of beer prices in Utah. In the ’60s, I’m told, you could buy a six-pack of Fisher beer for as little as $1. Used Fisher beer cans on eBay seem to confirm this.

Of course, we’ve seen decades of inflation since then, so $1 is worth around $10 today. It checks out. But it got me thinking about overall rising beer prices. Like everything else, beer just costs more than it did two, five or ten years ago… but how much more?

But instead of paying attention to the cost of a six-pack, I’m more interested in the beer prices at the drinking establishments than the beers I can take home. I decided to take a look at Salt Lake County’s list of bars and compare beer prices for as many as I could.

This is high-value journalism, folks. Which bars sell beer at what prices? Where can you get a cheap pint? Continue reading.

collecting the data

With great optimism, I vowed earlier in the week to raise beer prices for every bar in Salt Lake County. There are about 200 liquor bar licenses issued by the county’s Department of Alcoholic Beverage Services, and I wanted to find out the price of a pint on tap at each bar.

I started by scouring every bar website I could find for beer prices. I also checked the Yelp and Google pages for menu photos. I have accepted everything that has been done in the last 3 months. This only got me prices for about 30 to 40 bars. Then I called the rest of the bars on the 200 list, many of them multiple times. If you’re the bartender who got an annoying phone call this week asking the price of a pint of draft beer, then that’s me.

But in the end, reality hit me hard. In the end I only had information from 115 bars. That’s 57% – an A in some schools but an A in most. What happened?

• Many bars just won’t answer the phone. In the age of spam calls, I can sympathize. I can also understand if bartenders were busy serving real customers instead of making sure they were talking to me. Some don’t post their phone numbers online – they may not even have a phone.

• Many bars on the DABS list were not open when I called this week. Although I’ve called at all hours of the day and night, many bars are only open on weekends – especially nightclubs and dance clubs. Some are licensed for venues, private clubs, military clubs, or country clubs that are rarely or never open to the general public. The bars in the ski areas are usually closed in summer. Hotel bars can have extremely limited opening hours.

• Some bars do not sell draft beer at all, such as some cocktail bars, wine bars or cider bars. Also note that bars with restaurant licenses would not appear on my DABS list.

Still, 115 is a lot of bars. I am proud of my failed grade.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Beer prices have risen above inflation since 2014, such as at Lucky 13 in Salt Lake City.

At every bar I went to, I asked for the cheapest pint on tap and the price of a typical locally brewed beer. I’ve sorted these in the table below by ‘cheapest pint price’ and ‘good beer pint price’ – my apologies to the national conglomerate Anheuser-Busch, locally brewed beers just taste way better in my opinion than the cheap lagers like Bud Light and Muller. In many bars, the cost of all draft beers was the same.

It’s also worth noting that some bars don’t have pint glasses, instead serving their beer in pints (roughly 17 ounces), imperial pints (20 ounces), or other odd shapes. Where possible, I’ve tried to match this odd serving size to the beer cost per 16 ounces. The bars were also inconsistent when it came to telling me their prices before or after tax. That is how it goes.

It’s possible, even likely, that I made a mistake somewhere – a website had outdated information or a bartender told me something wrong. If you have a bug to correct or just want to add a Salt Lake County bar that I wasn’t able to get to this list, email me and I’ll work it out.

The list of beer prices

At the end here is the list of 115 bars, sorted alphabetically. Click through the pages or use the search function to find a specific bar:

Of course, you might just be looking for the cheapest pints. You can sort by this column if you want by clicking on the column heading.

Ultimately, the cheapest beer I got on tap was at Bongo Lounge, about 2965 S. Highland Dr. The bar, said to have been around since 1950, sells domestic beers for $2.50 a pint, while a premium beer will set you back $3.50 a pint. (The bar saves in part by avoiding credit card fees; it’s a cash-only bar.) Willie’s Lounge, about a half-mile south of Smith’s Ballpark, has the cheapest local beers for US$3 dollars a pint.

Some of the most expensive beers were at the Thirsty Squirrel Bar at the top of Solitude Mountain Resort – a bit unfair as I couldn’t find pint prices at the other ski resort bars due to their closures. They charge $8 for most pints, but offer Pabst Blue Ribbon for $4.50 a pint. The hotel bar at the Salt Lake City Marriott in the Gallivan Center, Lofte’s Bar and Grill, and the chic Lake Effect in downtown Salt Lake City also charge at least $7 a pint on tap, while the Marriott also charges $9 for some. Dollar demands beers.

As expected, draft beer prices in Salt Lake County generally follow a bell curve. The most common were $5 and $6 beers, with prices in between being less steep.

Finally, it was difficult to obtain data on changing beer prices in bars. The only way to find this data locally was by using user-posted images of bar menus on sites like Yelp and Google. However, many bars do not have budget menus for photographing. Most bars full of regulars don’t take a lot of photos of menus either – honestly, it’s the more tourist-popular bars that end up seeing those menus online. Finally, only a large percentage of Salt Lake County bars are relatively new and would not have a history to sift through even if it were online.

In the end, I decided to look online at five bars in Salt Lake City that had such a history. Then I compared their rising prices to the rate of inflation. A $4 beer in 2014 would cost $4.98 in 2023 due to inflation alone.

Lucky 13 saw the largest price increases of the bars in this sample – the bar used to have a large selection of $3 beers before it was down to bud light-style beers in the second half of the 2010s $3 and eventually increased the price of it to $5.50 in the last year. In fact, Squatters has seen the smallest jump of the bars listed here – but there’s a catch. Their beer glasses increased from pint sizes (just under 17 oz) to 20 oz imperial pint sizes, which they now sell for $7.50. That’s $6 per 16 ounces of beer, but you still end up paying a lot more for “a beer,” so to speak.

In summary, we simply saw prices at these bars rise above inflation in the rest of the CPI. It’s difficult to scientifically extrapolate these five bars to the rest of the Salt Lake County market, but from this beer drinker’s perspective, beer prices seem to be outpacing inflation almost everywhere. That makes some sense given how above-inflationary house price increases have changed rents and how the labor market has experienced a shortage of service workers.

But even if something makes sense, we don’t have to like it. On behalf of Salt Lake County beer drinkers around the world, kudos for rising beer prices.

Andy Larsen is a data columnist for The Salt Lake Tribune. You can reach him at

Editor’s Note • This story is available only to Salt Lake Tribune subscribers. Thank you for supporting local journalism.

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