Beer, Coffee, and Religious Demography

Our family recently moved to Ogden, Utah, whose history as a railroad depot, racial and ethnic diversity, artsy vibe, seedy pockets, and relatively smaller Latter Day Saint population (about 60%, as opposed to parts of Utah were more than 80% of the population is Mormon) has given rise to the motto “Keep Ogden Sketchy.” Unlike the place where we moved from, which is perhaps the driest state in the nation, you can buy beer without traveling across the county line—including the 3.2 stuff you can purchase right in the grocery store.

LDS teachings prohibit or discourage alcohol or stimulating beverages such as coffee, and the state is one of 17 that organize alcohol sales through a state board. Other efforts to control alcohol sales include the “Zion Curtain,” which separates bartenders from patrons so that they cannot see alcohol being poured (and presumably protects the eyes of children who might be dining at the restaurant). Though, as everywhere, cheap booze, probably mostly bought by people with alcohol addiction, dominates sales, local breweries and wineries are doing brisk business in the state while poking a bit of fun at LDS culture with products such as Polygamy Nitro Porter (“Utah’s Second Favorite Vice”) out of Wasatch Brewery, which has pubs in Salt Lake City and Parky City, and Bishop’s Daughter Pie Cherry Wine from The Hive Winery in Layton.


But my favorite bit of LDS teasing is currently Jack Mormon Coffee Co., a little place in Salt Lake City that roasts their own. A Jack Mormon, as I learned from a neighbor who considers herself one, is a Mormon who doesn’t follow all the standards of worthiness. (A Molly Mormon, or MoMo, as my friend Laura told me when she introduced me to Jack Mormon’s Coffee Shop on a recent visit to SLC, is a goody-two shoes Mormon.) Those Jack Mormons are likely driving up the numbers of reported LDS folks in the state who are labeled “in-transit” by LDS researchers, who consider everyone who has not removed themselves from the church record to be a member until they are 110 years of age or are identified as deceased.

Though I’m not a Mormon, I’m also not a coffee, wine, or beer drinker. Still, Utah has had a lot to offer. Turns out the state is a leader in ice cream sales. And, of course, there is a lot of religious culture to learn about.

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