Distillation equipment at the Moab Distillery is ready for use. The company began distilling vodka in 2017. [Courtesy photo]

For more than 20 years, the Moab Brewery has provided, as the company’s website proclaims, “an oasis in the desert.” During that time, the restaurant and its attached distillery have attained iconic status among all of Moab’s distinguishing legacies. The place, especially during the tourist season, is always hopping.

“It’s not a boring place,” Moab Brewery Manager Teresa Petitti said.

Petitti easily identifies one of the features of the Brewery that make it a perpetually popular place.

“I think, one, it’s very diverse,” she said. “The menu is diverse. The scenery is diverse. Our staff is very diverse. We have a lot to offer.”

The menu is a good example: a little bit of food from many of the cuisine traditions from across the globe — many somewhat Americanized and a few stylized in either name or recipe, or both, to give them a little Moab pizzazz. For instance, there’s the Brew Quesadilla, the Fiery Furnace Wings and the Moab Burger.

But good food isn’t necessarily scarce in Moab, so what else accounts for Moab Brewery’s big draw?

“Our beer,” Petitti said. People who consider themselves connoisseurs of beer and ale like microbreweries. “That’s going to draw people in, just for the beer.”

The beer has been drawing people in since the Brewery opened in 1996, a venture of business partners John Borkoski and Dave Sabey.

Since then, again as the company’s website states, “The beautiful and unique landscape in and around Moab provides inspiration for our fresh, handcrafted ales.”

Here again, local culture and attractions inform Moab Brewery’s products. There’s Dead Horse Amber Ale, Moab Pale Ale, Moab Especial Golden Wheat Ale and the very intentionally named, “FMU.” No, the acronym doesn’t stand for a phrase that uses a curse word and means “mess me up.” Here, it simply means, “From Moab, Utah.”

The beverages are made with about 9 percent alcohol by volume, giving it a significantly higher alcohol content than the 3.2 percent state law allows for most other beers.

In addition to being served in the bar and restaurant, or sold in the brewery’s retail section, the brews are distributed to stores in four surrounding states.

And they’ve won some awards, too — by the website’s count, 18 of them, or so.

“We don’t enter too many contests,” Moab Brewery Brewmaster Jeff Van Horn said. “Only one or two contests per year. It is excellent for promoting the brand outside of our hometown. We enter to see what our colleagues think, and it definitely gives a calibration for the style and quality of the beer.”

Moab Brewery began selling vodka from its own distillery, Moab Distillery, in 2017.

Sales of gin just began in March, and more is in the works: Whiskey is being distilled now, and then barreled for aging.

Petitti said, “We’re working on whiskey. Our shelf date for that is, we’re hoping, 2020.”

In January, the Moab Brewery was named as Ground County’s Rural Utah Business of the Year by the Grand County Council, by an initiative of the Governor’s Office of Economic Development.

Grand County Council members gave many kudos to the establishment.

“They’ve become an anchor in Moab,” Grand County Council Member Curtis Wells said.

He noted the brewery’s efforts to expand distillation products, and said, “They’re really headfirst in the community. They’ve been that way for a long time. I don’t think they often get their due, and I think this award would be doing right by them. They are a great success story for Moab.”

Grand County Council Member Mary McGann said Moab Brewery is able to retain employees in an industry that has a much higher employee turnover rate generally.

“They keep the same employees, which to me says a lot,” McGann said.

Wells said Moab Brewery had been a strong promoter of Moab, but that it had also managed to balance the tricky space between catering to tourists and providing service for community residents.

And the Moab community supports the brewery right back.

Petitti says locals tell people about Moab Brewery, giving valuable word-of-mouth advertisement.

Moab Brewery says “Thank you” with its No. 3 burger night, held between November and February during the slower travel season.

“We try to take care of our locals in the best way for them. We like to take care of them because they do like to take care of us as well,” Van Horn said.

“Rural Utah Business of the Year” serving up locally made vodka, whiskey and gin

Where: Moab Brewery, 686 S. Main St.

When: Open daily at 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.