Colorado City, Arizona • Jokes and stories.
The brewery in the heart of once-polygamous Colorado City, Arizona is teeming with both.
At the Edge of the World Brewery, in an area once dominated by the fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, tourists from overseas and across the United States mingle with locals — both polygamous and monogamous — to catch up and try craft beer. and tell stories.
At first glance, it seems that beer and polygamy are as compatible as Mormons and coffee. But locals say what would be an oxymoron elsewhere works pretty well in a city once ruled by disgraced FLDS prophet Warren Jeffs, who is now serving a life sentence in a Texas prison for assaulting two underage girls.
Alchemy works wonders in a brewery
It’s a strange beer, admits brewer and business co-owner Ray Hammon, but he said the alchemy at World’s End keeps the brewery buzzing, and his hired assistant jumps in to quench the thirst of all the newcomers and old-timers who flow through the brewery. doors.
And it’s not just about the beer. The brewery also produces giant Bavarian-style pretzels, pizzas, calzones, salads and desserts, all sourced from Berry Knoll, a neighboring business with which the brewery shares a building.
“It’s easy to think of Colorado City and the surrounding area as an isolated community of FLDS fundamentalists or Mormons,” said Hammon, who is not part of the polygamous community. “But many of us grew up outside of it or in different sects. That was the bulk of the clientele here.”
This customer base is complemented by tourists traveling along Arizona State Route 389 between Zion and Grand Canyon National Parks, and Utah residents from nearby St. George and Hurricane seeking refuge from Utah’s liquor laws that forbid breweries from serving draft beer. with a strength of more than 5% alcohol. volume.
“Utah’s liquor laws force people to come here for stronger beers,” Hammon said. “Here on the Arizona side of the border, there are no restrictions on the beer we serve on tap.”
Craft beers available at the brewery include Belgian pale ales, peach-apricot wheat beers, porters, and higher alcohol IPAs. The brewery has 12 taps, eight of which dispense Hammond’s craft beer, while the rest serve Arizona brewery signature ales.
When asked about selection and quantity, resident brewer Jedd Dockstader joked that he had seen and tasted better before adding for the record, “It’s actually a damn good beer.”
All in all, Hammon and two assistants brew enough beer each week to make six 31-gallon barrels, for a total of about 372 gallons. It’s a far cry from producing 15 gallons of beer in an apartment or garage, as Hammon and his friend Nick Dockstader started their business many years ago after graduating from the city’s El Capitan High School.
“YouTube, trial and error,” said Hammon, describing how he learned the art of brewing. “We never had any disasters, although some of our beers were less desirable than others. But after a couple [beers]you wouldn’t notice the difference.
The story, Hammon says, is that he and Dockstader started bottling beer and serving friends at keg parties. They then teamed up with Nick’s uncle, Levi Williams, who invested some money in brewery equipment. In 2016, the partners rented their current building on Central Street and began refurbishing it into a brewery.
The mayor speaks poetically about the dangers of alcohol
Getting a liquor license in Arizona was relatively easy, but the state did require Hammon and his business group to request non-mandatory information from the Colorado City Council, which at the time consisted of FLDS members.
Colorado Mayor Joseph Allred didn’t have the authority to ban the business, but he wasn’t about to roll out a red carpet for budding brewers. Instead, at a council meeting, he read a poem—written anonymously but often quoted—on temperance:
Bar to heaven, door to hell
Whoever called it, called it well;
Bar to masculinity and wealth,
The door to need and broken health.
Bar for honor, pride and glory
The door to sin, grief and shame;
Bar for hope, barrier for prayer
A door to darkness and despair.
Bar for an honorable, useful life,
A door to a fight, a pointless fight;
A bar for all that is true and brave
The door to every drunkard’s grave.
The streak of joy that the house gives
Door to tears and sick hearts;
Bar to heaven, door to hell
Whoever named it named it well.
Allred resigned as mayor in July after nine years in office. However, the poem lives on. Future Brownings and Wordsworths from nearby Mojave Community College often gather at the brewery for poetry evenings and read aloud from Allred’s tribute.
Hammon joked that the “fight” in the poem is particularly exaggerated.
“We never even had a bar fight,” he said with a laugh. “We are pretty bored. I think that’s the most remarkable thing about us.”
In addition to having to listen to several sermons from city leaders, Hammon said the city was kind enough to provide all necessary licenses and building permits. Since Edge of the World officially opened its doors in 2018, the brewer says he hasn’t heard any complaints.
Fundamentalist views on alcohol
One reason for this tolerance, locals say, is that many fundamentalists have more liberal views on drinking than their mainstream Latter-day Saints.
“FLDS members are not completely against alcohol,” said Christine Katas, who is an advocate for fundamentalists living in the area. “They use rum if they make homemade medicine. I know some FLDS who make house wine. But, as a rule, they don’t drink much.”
Members of Centennial Park’s polygamous community, who share many of the FLDS’ beliefs but are not committed to Warren Jeffs, are even more relaxed about alcohol.
“Drinking is a big part of the culture,” said brewery manager Margie Williams, a former member of Centennial. “You can drink and still be in the favor of the church.”
Many Centennials are repeat customers in Hammon’s business. However, FLDS members stay away from the brewery, though not out of any aversion to alcohol.
Locals say all homes and businesses in Colorado City and nearby Hildale on the Utah side of the border were once part of the United Efforts Plan, a trust created by the FLDS Church in 1942.
They explain that in response to Jeffs’ sex crimes and personal misuse of trust money, the state of Utah seized the trust and put former FLDS members in charge of the UEP in 2015 to sell the property.
FLDS members who paid taxes and paid $100 monthly for living expenses could stay in their homes.
But instead of paying for what they saw as church property consecrated to God, many FLDS members left the city or were evicted. The World’s End building was once church property vacated as a result of the eviction.
“Once a building is evicted, the FLDS generally don’t go there,” Katas said.
Over the past few years, many local FLDS members have moved to Cedar City, Kanab, and neighboring cities. Katas estimates that FLDS members now make up less than 15% of Colorado City residents and just 3% of Hildale’s population.
This is a big change from when the FLDS church controlled every aspect of life in the two cities.
Raised in the area and not part of the FLDS, Hammon said he was often treated as a second-class citizen. However, he said he was not interested in talking about the city’s polygamous past or humiliating polygamists. In addition, some of those who once shunned him are now among his legions of friends.
Checking religion and politics at the door
Indeed, it’s hard to find anyone – regardless of their religious or political beliefs – who would say anything bad about Hammon.
“I love Ray. He is a wonderful addition to our community, he is always so kind and willing to sit and visit and be a friend,” said Hildale Mayor Donia Jessop, a former FLDS member.
Well, Jedd Dockstader’s brother Marion points out that Hammon is a liberal Democrat in the city who supports Donald Trump. But that’s his right. We still love him,” he said.
What Hammon says he likes about the brewery is that the patrons check their politics and religion at the door. He said it’s nice to see the brewery become a neutral meeting place for people who have been separated to put aside their differences and get to know each other again.
“Were they sent [FLDS] church authorities or disillusioned with religion, I try not to comment,” he says. “I consider it a privilege to watch these encounters and moments.”
And if beer-sipping tourists want to tell a couple of anecdotes from the city’s past, Hammon said there are always a few locals at the brewery filling their glasses and refilling them.
At least that’s his story, and he sticks to it.
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