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Home / Articles / Food / Food & Drink /  Epic Brewery
Food & Drink

Epic Brewery

Rocky Mountain High-Point: Epic Brewery’s “heavy” beers a hit.

By Josh Loftin
Posted // June 1,2010 - The empty coolers in the Epic Brewery store should erase any doubt about Utahns’ thirst for high-quality beer.

A three-month supply sold out in almost a week, co-founder David Cole says. Luckily, the brewery continues to roll out new beers daily will, hopefully, have those coolers fully stocked again by mid-June. It also has four more stainless-steel fermenting tanks on order and, by midsummer, will have more than doubled its brewing capacity.

Epic Brewing, which officially opened its store May 17, is only brewing so-called “heavy” beer—meaning it contains alcohol above the 4 percent by volume (3.2 percent by weight) alcohol limit for “Utah beer.” Epic did so because the challenges of brewing Utah beer are different.

“There are other breweries making great 3.2 beer, so we want to focus on making great high-point beers,” Cole says.

Indeed, its lowest alcohol beer, the Cross Fever amber, is 4.8 percent by volume. Its highest, on the other hand, currently, is the 9 percent Hopulent double IPA, although Cole says the next bottling of Hopulent is going to be at about 9.7 percent.

That’s right, different batches of the same beer are different, which Cole says is to be expected with many beers. Along with higher alcohol, the second Hopulent batch is hoppier because it was dry-hopped with locally grown dried whole hops. Also, the next batch of the 825 State stout will feature a different yeast strain.

That experimentation means that drinkers will continually be surprised, but it also means higher costs. Thus, all of Epic’s beers—bottled in 22-ounce bottles—start at about $3. However, Epic beers are more like a nice bottle of wine, meant for sharing and savoring with friends. You’ll have to take your beer home to share, as Epic currently only sells beer to go. It is not licensed to serve beer on premises.

Experimentation will be most noticeable with Epic’s “Exponential Series,” where the brewers take an ethos developed as home brewers—try anything, just for the hell of it—and translate it on a commercial scale. On May 28, Epic began selling the first three Exponential beers: A surprisingly nutty, full-bodied Brown Rice Ale, an Imperial red ale and a Sour Apple Saison.

Enough about the philosophy—how are the beers? Personally, I jump straight to dark beers—especially stouts—to garner a first impression of a microbrewery. I first sampled Epic’s 825 State stout and Galloway porter on a beautiful spring evening at The Beerhive following a long (and sadly, alcohol-free) day at the Utah Republican Convention. That kind of insanity demands a drink with serious body—and thankfully, those beers did the trick.

The 825 State is one of the better stouts I’ve ever had, ranking (in my mind) with other favorites like Rogue’s chocolate stout. It’s relatively dry, and while there are hints of chocolate, it’s not overly sweet. At a recent Epic tasting party, the stout was perfectly paired with chocolate truffles. The porter, meanwhile, is sweeter than many porters and would work well with a hearty stew.

On the other end of the beer spectrum, three beers will be guaranteed crowd-pleasers, especially during the summer months. The Intermountain Wheat is an American hefeweizen that is not nearly as sweet as most hefeweizens, and sour enough that a squeeze from a lemon wedge isn’t necessary. The Cross Fever amber ale is more citrus-y than many ambers, making it a great outdoor beer. Finally, Epic’s Capt’n Crompton’s pale ale—probably my wife’s favorite beer at the tasting—is a classic American pale, dominated by Cascade hop aromas and malty sweetness.

All in all, Epic is further proof that, despite Utah’s reputation as a beer-impoverished state, brewing in the Beehive is flourishing.?

EPIC BREWING
825 S. State
801-906-0123
Open Monday-Thursday 11 a.m.-9 p.m.; Friday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-11 p.m.
EpicBrewing.com

 
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REPLY TO THIS COMMENT
Posted // June 4,2010 at 01:17

Lots of great comments. Thanks everyone for reading. I'll try to answer some of the questions and address concerns.

1. I think the "3 month supply" was conservative business planning. They could've invested before opening in more fermenters or waited longer to open to build their stock further, but this got their doors open quickly with low risk. Better to look foolish by running out then go bankrupt because you have too much.

2. Not only do I agree that Utah beer is good, I wrote a lengthy article for the Deseret News in 2002 about 3.2 beer and the myths. One is that no beer is 3.2 unless forced, when in reality there are great beers brewed to 3.2 by choice, Guinness being best example (and, on a side note, almost any "light" beer is under 3.2 everywhere, so buying it in another state to get a better buzz is foolish). Second, brewing 3.2 beer can be a lot more challenging because alcohol can hide a lot of flaws (most ice beers are proof of this). Utah brewers have mastered the art of 3.2. When it comes to lower alcohol styles, I'd pit Utah microbrews against anyone.

3. However, 3.2 has limitations and some beers cannot be brewed to style. Many Belgian styles, winter/Christmas beers, Scotch ales, anything "imperial," and real IPAs need alcohol above 5 or 6 percent. Utah brewers have started to do this, and there are some great high-point beers coming from the Utah breweries. That's great. The more beer there is, the merrier I am.

4. Epic's Cole told me that they are not making "session beers," i.e. the lighter beers with less alcohol that you can drink a few without getting bloated or wasted. Instead, they are primarily making big beers meant for slow sipping, more like wine or whiskey. And he's right. Most of their beers, one shared with a friend over the course of an hour is plenty. Not only because of alcohol content, but for many of them, the hops. Epic is targeting a niche crowd, those who love experimentation in their drinking. Some of their beers will fail, and their prices make it difficult to justify buying Epic beers for daily drinking. But overall, I think they will be an impressive brewery.

5. As for the experimentation, to me, it's a lot like a small restaurant where the chef never serves the same dish twice, even if it's named the same thing. They are making small tweaks to their beers, not major changes. I'll be personally disappointed if they decide to brew the same recipe every time.

6. As for the local media ... you're mostly right. I would attribute that more to the lack of beer snobs in the media than anything else. But I would say that, at least at City Weekly, we are trying to focus our Drink coverage on beer a little more. I've written articles about the high-point beers at other breweries, and we spotlighted The Pub's beer school in a recent article. I think that just as Utah's high-point beer brewing is still maturing (even though some breweries have done it for years, Uinta in particular), so is the beer media.

6. Finally, to end this lengthy response, watch the blogs. In the next couple of days, I'll post my thoughts on the three Epic beers released last week. Hayduke, I'd love for you to post on that one your thoughts on the Saison.

 

Posted // June 14,2010 at 11:38 - Well, I'm pretty vocal about my experience and quitting. It's the people who are alcoholics and either unaware of the frog-in-the-pot-on-the-stove slowly coming to a boil-story or have adapted their personal and professional lives to accomodate a major drinking problem that I worry about. They are living in denial even as alcohol slowly overtakes them.

 

Posted // June 4,2010 at 14:32 - Sounds like the drink treated you badly Mamba. When the booze seeps from your liver to your soul, bruising both, you know it's time to quit. So good on ya.

 

Posted // June 4,2010 at 14:19 - My ex-experience with Utah craft beers is 10 years old, so I know things have improved, but there was a time when Utah beer was a total joke, craft or not. I don't care how clever the locally-infused name or enhanced graphics on the packakging, it still tasted like carbonated water filtered through dirty cardboard. I wish these guys all the good fortune and luck they can handle, honestly. If I still pounded my soul with ethanol, a good, strong craft beer at 4% would hit the spot.

 

Posted // June 4,2010 at 09:31 - Really great comments, Josh, and I agree with what you've said here. Thanks very much for posting them. Hope you don't mind my starting a fire over here on your article (can't help it sometimes. I've read your beer related blogs and have been appreciative of them. I'd be happy to contribute to your beer reviews when I see them.

 

REPLY TO THIS COMMENT
Posted // June 2,2010 at 08:38

I'm glad Epic has fans and am glad they're here.

As I've said before, I wish Epic well. But that won't stop me from judging them on their merits. If I seem too critical, so be it.

I know beer and am interested in our brew culture. What bothers me most here is not necessarily Epic, which all of you seem to have missed, but the way in which the local media has inferred that, until now, Utah has been lacking in good beer. That notion has always bugged me as it is ignorant and false and yet is perpetuated by Utah's denizens and press.

If I do have an axe to grind it would be because I've seen too many comments (from Epic fans, family, friends, etc) that Epic has the best beer in Utah, that Utah finally has good beer because of Epic, that there are finally full strength beers in Utah, and so on. I disagree and for good reason.

And so, I'll take the other side of this argument and will take Epic to task for their product and the way in which they handle their business. It's good for them, anyway, as it's just more press. This type of conversation serves to fire you guys up and get your butts into Epic's shop to buy more of their product. Go, say hello, buy their beers!

Epic will have my respect when it is earned. Of course they don't care about that. I'm sure they'd prefer I drown in a vat of chicken guts. But when I hear they've got the best beer in town and whatever, I'll sure as hell put that to the test and will address that issue honestly, which I have done. I wish now I hadn't said a damn thing because I feel guilty, but at least I was honest.

In closing, I'd request that any one of you, for the hell of it, give me a review of Epic's Sour Apple Saison. Break it down for me, for us, and let's compare notes. I'll write further if so. If not, I'll just slink back to my hole.

Cheers.

 

Posted // June 4,2010 at 13:19 - Dammit, Kib. Can't you just let dead dogs rot? There are maggots all over that carcass, son! I think Mamba and I throw people off sometimes because we're both sarcastic. Unless you, too, are sarcastic, it sometimes doesn't translate well on paper, flies over the head a bit. That doesn't mean we aren't trying to make points with our arguments (even while being sarcastic) and I think I've pretty well run mine into the ground here. I think there have been some really great, well-rounded comments here. People have been prompted to think about a couple things and have put their thoughts down for you to read. It's been fun and informative and if I worked at Epic I'd be very interested in this thread and proud to have such fervent fans. I'd also hate Hayduke, hoping he'd choke to death on his own tongue. But Hayduke's used to pissing people off. Yes, Hayduke's referring to Hayduke in the third person. Take care, dude, and come on back sometime.

 

Kib
Posted // June 4,2010 at 11:23 - There are few parallels between a $250 million/year, fast food chain, in business for over 50 years, with hundreds of locations, headquartered in California and a small, locally owned, boutique brewery dedicated to using high quality ingredients, that has been open for business for all of two and a half weeks . And the pet rock? Are you agreeing with Mamba that beer is beer is beer – it’s just in how you package it? The way I see it, these guys just risked a ton of money in a seriously bad economy, most likely employing Utah architects, contractors, laborers, etc.. I don’t know how many permanent jobs they’ve created, but in today’s world anything is stellar. Then there is the tax revenue they are generating for the city and state AND, being locally owned, most of the profits get injected back into the Utah economy. All this and they put out a great product! I guess I just don’t understand the need to immediately jump in and call their pint glass half empty. Why not give Epic a chance to settle in and get a footing before bashing their business model – you can’t possibly even know what it is yet.

 

Posted // June 4,2010 at 09:28 - Kib, you just gotta learn to understand verbal parallels. Then and only then will you get what Mamba just said here. Made good sense to me and I think he's right.

 

Kib
Posted // June 3,2010 at 16:14 - BlackMamba - that's a nice story, but why is everyone talking about In-N-Out Burger when this article is about Epic Brewing?

 

Posted // June 3,2010 at 16:02 - Although I quit pouring ethanol into my body years ago, I never liked beer and I didn't like being around people who consumed beer at a high rate. Bloated bellies, blood-shot eyes, incessant burping, impaired everything and farts that could kill at 20 yards, headaches, face-pulse, pubic thatch, God, what a mess. But I do get where you're coming from on the promotion and pr side. Remember Pet Rocks? Lots of exposure, lots of sales, fad on fire...over a f*cking rock packaged in a clever box. It was a rock. Off the ground. My pet rock-peeve with the local media fawnign over ho-hum items, is In-And-Out Burger. Both KSL and KUTV, the number one and two news organizations in town, had actaul news stories not about new In-And-Out stores, but that there was a rumor that I and O had purchased a lot in the south valley and there was WILD specualtion that htye were going to open...Another location! Oh my god, look at the video footage of people eating a goddam simple burger and fries! Oh, the humanity! In-And-Out makes the best bad food since The Last Supper! I cannot believe that they are going to "consider" opening another location! Look at that line out the door and around the block! My god,it's the Second Coming of In-And-Out Burger! They don't do that for any of the burger chains in town. Ever. Not for any of the home grown, family owned burger joints, either. Why In-And-Out? Do they just have better PR people? Possibly. Is their food THAT much better, Naw. In fact, it's not as good as what's already available, just better PR.

 

Posted // June 3,2010 at 08:37 - Good response, Kib. Points taken. I feel I've outlined my position well enough and won't do it again but still, nobody's addressed it yet. Not that it matters... I can't help but solicit public opinion on certain things, like beer, but I like what you said regarding that and will keep it in mind. Take care.

 

Kib
Posted // June 2,2010 at 23:38 - Hayduke-- I can understand taking Epic to task for their product but what do you have against the way they 'handle their business'? Just as some Utah brewers have chosen to focus brewing beers at or below 4% ABV, Epic has chosen to brew above 4%. Nothing to complain about - there's room for everybody here. The fact that Epic has received a tremendous amount of positive press while your breweries of choice have flown under the radar tells me that Epic handles the PR and marketing aspects of their business quite well. Perhaps instead of complaining about all of Epic's good reviews, you could suggest to other breweries that that they up their marketing budgets. That they sold out of product so quickly should not be held against them either. As a start-up company, how could they possibly know how well their product would be received? As a small business owner myself, I think Epic was wise to brew conservative amounts rather than risk sitting on too much product. True they have to deal with the embarrassment of empty coolers for a while, but most start-ups that I know of don't have a ton of cash left after build out to blow on a massive inventory. Now, as for the Sour Apple Saison, I do not like it and I'd guess you don't either. It's not a great beer and I would not buy it again. That being said, there are a lot of craft beers out there that I don't like and wouldn't buy again. At least Epic has put the word out that they want feedback and are willing to tweak things in the future. Every other Epic beer I've tried has been excellent. Sounds as though you disagree. If that's true, (and if you truly wish Epic well), don't solicit other peoples' opinions - just do your own critique so that they can consider your opinion and possibly better their product.

 

REPLY TO THIS COMMENT
Posted // June 1,2010 at 20:14

Hayduke -- it sounds like you've got an axe to grind. Of course the press is all over Epic -- they just opened and they are doing something different then other breweries. Why take it personally?

I think it's great that there is a new brewery in town. More the merrier. And as for the 3.2 beer, I think there are some really good beers brewed here but I'd rather the brewer not be constrained by some silly law written by someone who has never touched alcohol in their lives (as far as the bishop knows).

 

REPLY TO THIS COMMENT
Posted // June 1,2010 at 12:29

I think comparing an independent Utah brewery to a massive corporate restaurant is what is “short-sighted” here. The fact that Epic ran out of beer says volumes about Utahns and their desire for a brewery of this sort. Yes, we have a plethora of great breweries already, and yes, they have been brewing higher alcohol content beers for a long time, but, have we ever had an brewery that brews all it’s beer the way the beers were intended and traditionally brewed? No. Epic is a 100% new concept for this state, so of course everyone is going to try them out, and of course they are going to run out of the different beers from time to time. Supply and demand will keep people coming back. It is also “short-sighted” to imply that Epic is only brewing traditional strength beers for the sole purpose of adding alcohol. I think I speak for a lot of craft beer lovers when I say, I want to try new things, experiments if you will, and I want ever changing options. Another sign of a great brewery: thinking outside of the box and allowing it’s customers to try, and probably weigh in on, the different outcomes of a beer; this is a good thing.

If you would rather do and sample your own experimental beers at home, I say do it, that just means more beer for those of us that appreciate what Epic is trying to do.

Oh, and by the way beer guru, it’s GABF, not GABC, it stands for Great American Beer Festival.

Keep it up Epic, I’m glad you’re here and look forward to my next visit.

 

Posted // June 1,2010 at 16:40 - 4.8 % ABV is a massive 0.8 % above a 3.2% ABW Utah Beer = 4.0% ABV that is not much and American Ambers are in that range. "Epic's beers come heavy with alcohol whether it should or not." Hayduke come on get real!!!

 

Posted // June 1,2010 at 13:40 - You're right. It is GABF, not GABC (DABC and GABF shouldn't be confusing acronyms but it happens). Red Rock is a locally owned start-up brewpub, not a massive corporation as you said. I only brought them up because they won such a huge honor and received very little press for it when compared to the press Epic is getting for simply opening their doors. It's not about comparison, anyway, but about paying attention. Epic, with the help of several press releases, created a buzz over their endeavor. And that's fine. I'd have done the same thing and, like others, I was excited to see what they could do. My question is why is there so much attention for this brewery but not the others? Sure, Epic is new and this is to be expected but still...we'll see how they do in the long run, especially as the other breweries introduce their own "Big Beer" lines. I completely disagree that Epic brews all its beers the way they're supposed to be brewed. As I stated, many beers are supposed to be brewed to a lower ABV for several reasons, like being able to enjoy a couple without passing out. So when you take a "weaker" style and jack it with alcohol, you're just brewing big to brew big. Anybody can do that. Research seasonal beer styles if you aren't familiar with this concept. Epic didn't only run out of beers "from time to time", they ran out of every beer they had except the wheat. That's a poor reflection on their business model and further proof, in addition to some less-than-stellar beer I've tasted from their brewery, that they weren't ready to open yet. First impressions count for something, even today. You gotta be kidding me with that customer weighing in on the brew experiment thing. That's ridiculous. If a brewer isn't capable of deeming his or her own beers to be acceptable, to be exceptional or not, they may be in the wrong profession. As a craft beer fan, I stand by everything I wrote and invite Epic to bring their "Big Beers", if they have any left, to Idaho this coming Monday. If they're ready to serve their product to customers, they're ready to enter their product in competition. If they win something, I'll sure as hell congratulate them on it. I play this end of this conversation because of the way Epic has come onto the local scene and the way in which they have been stroked by the local media. I apologize that I'm not doing cartwheels just because every one of Epic's beers come heavy with alcohol whether it should or not. Just my opinion though, man. Just my opinion.

 

REPLY TO THIS COMMENT
Posted // June 1,2010 at 10:14

Just a bit short-sighted to run out of beer within the first week. Obviously, the "three month supply" wasn't anywhere near the amount needed. This is akin to In-N-Out running out of burgers because they're busy.

I think that it's silly when people equate strong beer to good beer. I've had loads of strong ales and lagers that were crap. Many beer styles are supposed to be brewed to a lower alcohol content and when they're brewed for strength only and not balance, it shows.

It takes a lot of skill to brew every style to 4%, especially those that are supposed to come in higher than that. There is no room for mistakes as there isn't the alcohol there to cover them up. Consequently, I think Utah's brewers are better skilled than many others.

Many Utahn's and others consider Utah to be some backwoods place where the beer is weak and watery. I'd point out that Utah has garnered more than its fair share of awards in every beer competition, national and international, including the GABC and World Beer Cup. Red Rock was recently (2008?) honored as large brewpub of the year at the GABC, meaning it was honored above all others in the USA.

I think it's odd that beer fans in Utah haven't noticed that many of our brewers have been brewing at full strength for years with excellent beers available at their breweries as well as the liquor stores.

What gives?

 

Posted // June 2,2010 at 07:21 - Hayduke: Epic may not impress you, but hundreds of others (including me) are impressed! And, since you aren't impressed with their product, why should you care whether they sold out (what does that tell you?) or whether they tweak the recipe a little? BTW--Epic just won a couple of awards in San Diego. They must be doing something right. Have fun at your monthly Naysayer's Club meeting!

 

RSB
Posted // June 1,2010 at 12:23 - I think comparing an independent Utah brewery to a massive corporate restaurant is what is “short-sighted” here. The fact that Epic ran out of beer says volumes about Utahns and their desire for a brewery of this sort. Yes, we have a plethora of great breweries already, and yes, they have been brewing higher alcohol content beers for a long time, but, have we ever had an brewery that brews all it’s beer the way the beers were intended and traditionally brewed? No. Epic is a 100% new concept for this state, so of course everyone is going to try them out, and of course they are going to run out of the different beers from time to time. Supply and demand will keep people coming back. It is also “short-sighted” to imply that Epic is only brewing traditional strength beers for the sole purpose of adding alcohol. I think I speak for a lot of craft beer lovers when I say, I want to try new things, experiments if you will, and I want ever changing options. Another sign of a great brewery: thinking outside of the box and allowing it’s customers to try, and probably weigh in on, the different outcomes of a beer; this is a good thing. If you would rather do and sample your own experimental beers at home, I say do it, that just means more beer for those of us that appreciate what Epic is trying to do. Oh, and by the way beer guru, it’s GABF, not GABC, it stands for Great American Beer Festival. Keep it up Epic, I’m glad you’re here and look forward to my next visit.

 

Posted // June 1,2010 at 11:24 - I just have to say a couple more things here and I hope Epic pays attention. Shouldn't Epic have completed their experimenting before bottling? I'm not very appreciative that I am buying their experiments, some of which have simply sucked. If I want home-brew type experiments, I'll dig out my gear and do it myself. Not only do I think it's odd that many Utah beer fans haven't noticed that several Utah brewers have been putting out excellent "high-point" beer for years, I think it's ridiculous that the local media hasn't noticed and given them the same attention they're now giving to Epic. Quantity over quality in this matter, I guess. Sorry, Epic! You'll have to do better to impress me. I look for more in a beer than just alcohol.

 

 
 
 
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