Getting to know Epic Brewing Company
It is a mountain. Let’s call it Mount Epic. Despite its seemingly minute appearance from the street, the footprint of Epic Brewing Company’s Salt Lake City facility, a short stroll south from Downtown, is huge. Epic Brewing Company appears to have taken its cue from the nearby Wasatch Mountains in creating its own cavernous brewing facility. And much like the refreshing mountain streams that flow from their source at the apex of these peaks, Epic Brewing Company’s refreshing brews effortlessly flow from this monstrous cavern of a brewery.
However, not everything at Epic Brewing Company is of epic proportions. The small restaurant-cum-taproom is capable of accommodating five or six ‘diners’ – and that’s it. ‘Diners’, of course, is a nod to the Utah State law that prohibits drinking beer without food, unless there is a separate beer-serving licence. It’s almost no exaggeration to say the brewery’s coolers (refrigerators full of Epic Brewing Company’s delicious beers for off-site sales) is larger than the taproom. If your visit coincides with a packed taproom — which is likely — then grab yourselves a few treats from the cooler and drink them elsewhere, responsibly.
‘Taproom’ being a misnomer since there are no taps – another licencing quirk. Beer with your food is poured straight from the bottle.
But let’s return to Mount Epic. With a brewery of this size, it’s no wonder the brewery’s water treatment equipment and all its watery-alchemy is in constant use, feeding the insatiable appetite of the just-shy-of-20 fermenters. These are needed because the brewery’s portfolio of beers is substantial, albeit each beer is the result of somebody who gives a damn going through a rewarding process of taking a raw idea from experimental concept to test brew, from tasting panel feedback to full-scale production. The results, of course, are evident as soon as beer aroma meets nose, as beer taste meets flavour sensors.
Whoever said brewing was a chore has never met the brewing staff at Epic Brewing Company. (In fact, has anybody EVER said brewing was a chore?) Smiles abound at Epic Brewing Company, since it’s an environment of fun, laughter and games, demonstrated by the only draft beer system on the premises, which is not for public use — it is for the brewers and beer-professionals themselves to kick-off their boots after a hard day’s grind at the Mash Tun to relax with a delicious pint of their hard-grafted reward.
There must be a cabinet, somewhere, filled with Epic Brewing Company’s awards and trophies. And yet, seated high on a mountain outcrop perches a single trophy, surveying the activities in the brewing valley below, like a bird-of-prey waiting to swoop, waiting to strike any brewer seemingly not enjoying the art of brewing. However, anybody wishing to grab rope, harness and carabiner to scale the walls will presumably note that upon closer inspection it is not even a trophy for brewing, but a trophy for softball or some such sport.
Like Greek Gods inhabiting the top of the world, watching over the mortals below from Mount Olympus and issuing tragic and joyous events with a deft hand, the Gods of Mount Epic sit there, high up in the clouds. We see them. Tempting us. Promising great delights, yet remaining inactive; the hard-exterior belying the almost supernatural mystery happening inside. We see them, tempting us, the whisky-barrels aging the beer, creating the nectar that give us mere mortals superhuman strengths. That’s how it feels anyway.
It is not only whisky-barrel aging that is happening in the environs of Mount Epic, since a stack of wine barrels stand tall, like fallen rocks, creating the most delicious of barrel-aged beers: the Exponential Brainless Series.
Often overlooked by a brewery are the vegetarian and vegan credentials of its beers, but it’s an area that may prove a hard lesson to learn for breweries that fail to utilise more natural, sustainable and environmental-friendly alternatives in its filtering process. Thankfully, there are many breweries, such as Epic Brewing Company, who have ensured everything in their portfolio is vegan-friendly. It’s something that is of interest to consumers in most major beer-consuming regions of the world, not just in the USA, and many breweries with a history going back hundreds of years have adopted this type of environmental responsibility in their brewing mandates. Epic Brewing Company is rightfully proud, of course, to highlight its filtration system that uses a fossil-based environmentally-friendly filter.
A cave at the base of the peaks doubles as a walk-in chiller, which is filled with delights — the hop cooler. Row upon row of hops of every type, the tell-tale silver bags containing the dormant elixir of life for us beer-aficionados. Who can deny that a handful of fresh Citra hops does not create an aroma that conveys the aromee – if that’s a word – to another place, to another space, to another time. Even Alice during her adventures in Wonderland would struggle with the ‘eat me, drink me’ demands of fresh hops. They’re difficult to ignore.
A rocky outcrop nearby, which is a stack of malt awaiting its worty fate, confirms the presence of the malt mill, feeding the hungry kettle that sits proud in the plate-glass windows tempting the passing motorists to pop-in and pick-up something well-earned and epic to enjoy after a tough day at work. The unsuspecting passers-by, of course, see only a minimal frontage and a handful of fermenters, and even anybody entering the brewery with its epic-sized coolers — and its not-so-epic-sized ‘restaurant’ — would struggle to admit the possibilities that an epic, mountainous brewery exists to the rear. It’s a clever illusion. The substantial warehouse and brewery building at the rear is an add-on extension to the original brewery building, which is the façade most passing motorists are familiar with.
It’s wrongly assumed Epic Brewing Company’s home is Colorado. Yes, Colorado is the State containing the brewery’s largest concentration of consumers, but the Denver brewing facility itself was actually the second addition to the Epic Brewing Company estate. While Salt Lake City is proudly its historic home, the Denver facility is proudly the home of Epic Brewing Company’s wilder side. With its vast foeders and sour production, the Denver facility not only caters to Colorado’s thirsty and discerning beer-drinkers, but it also gave Epic Brewing Company an outlet free from the constraints of Utah State law. And Colorado has proven to be Epic Brewing Company’s most lucrative market, followed closely by Utah, then followed by the rest of the world. A presence in many States, mostly west of the Mississippi River, as well as overseas markets – Europe, Asia, Canada and Mexico, for example – is indicative of Epic Brewing Company’s success and global renown.
Behind Epic Brewing Company’s dominance and global position is a zealous and enthusiastic workforce who thrive in the environment and, perhaps most of all, love the beers with a passion. The excitement about the beers from within is clear and evident. Utah Sales Representative Jared Heffernan, for example, guided the writer through the Epic Brewing Company beer portfolio with an ease and fervour that can only be gained from an inherent respect and admiration for the art of the brewer. The pride in brewing something special is unmistakable.
With the recent purchase of Santa Barbara’s Telegraph Brewing Company, Epic Brewing Company is on the rise, on its mountainous ascent. With a new presence in California (another state claiming to be the home of great US Craft Beer) opportunities are opening-up for Epic Brewing Company; it shall be interesting to see what an already competent Telegraph Brewing Company can do with the combined talents of staff in Utah and Colorado. The first plan for Telegraph Brewing Company is to take some of the sour production away from Epic Brewing Company’s Denver facility, which means receiving a couple of foeders shipped from Colorado. Exciting times ahead.
Epic Brewing Company is one of the most recognisable US beer breweries on the global stage, so wherever the reader is based it may not be too difficult to seek and find one of their impressive beers. No mountain is too great to climb!