Rocky Mountain Brewing News October/November 2013 : Page 1
Beating the Odds in Utah Epic's "Tap-less Tap Room" at full capacity. PHOTO BY BRIAN MANTERNACH. By Brian Manternach ILLUSTRATION BY: HANS GRANHEIM W hich of the following scenarios describes you? A) You run into the liquor store, grab a 6-pack of your favorite beer and run back out. B) You peruse all the options looking for something new that you’ve never tried before, find that untapped gem, and grab it. C) You peruse all the options looking for something new that you’ve never tried before, but once again reach for the familiar. D) You don’t go to the liquor store because you’re always heading over to the brewery where you sit and drink pints of your favorites or sample everything they have. E) Your local bar worries if you don’t show up for your favorite drink. One of the dilemmas we’re faced with these days as craft beer drinkers is seemingly a very basic one…what do we drink? In 2011, small and independent craft brewers saw the industry grow 13 percent by volume; in the first half of 2012, volume grew by an additional 12 percent. With the hundreds of choices available in our local community, I thought it worthwhile to investigate how people decide just which craft beer they decide to quaff. Thus, I fired up the conversation with anybody who drinks craft beer that wanted to talk about their selection style criteria (and who drinks craft beer and doesn’t want to talk about it)? See Choices p.3 Calender....................2 Homebrew.................7 Beer Directory.....10-12 Utah.................5 Idaho...............6 Wyoming.........8 Montana..........9 Upper Front Range.........13 Central Peaks..................14 Western Slope.................15 Denver..............................16 Lower Front Range.........17 Four Corners...................18 “The DABC [Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control] said we were going to fail.” That was the prediction the folks at Utah’s Epic Brewing faced as they opened for business in 2010, according to cur-rent Communications Director Matthew Allred. With expectations set so low, the owners of the startup brewery joked that their experiment in the Land of Zion was bound to either be an epic failure or an epic success. “There was a lot of doubt that this could actu-ally work in Utah,” Allred says. y As the state’s “first brewery since Prohibition n to brew exclu-sively high-alcohol content en t beer,” it was e sure to be an uphill battle e given the infamously restrictive e local liquor laws. Hoping for the h e best, but preparing for the he h worst, Epic’s team mem--bers spent two months brewing up what they felt would be enough inventory to begin sell-ing to the public. They sold every last bottle in just two weeks. “Not only are people in Utah thirsty,” says Allred, “they want real beer.” Of course, this just confirmed the suspicions of founders and co-owners David Cole and Peter Erikson, who moved to Utah from California in the nineties to start an international aquaculture compa-ny. When liquor laws relaxed (slightly) in 2008, they saw their window of opportunity. Teaming up with veteran Utah brewer Kevin Crompton, they set to work pursuing their dream of opening a microbrewery for full-strength beer. Since occupying the former Vietnamese res-taurant at 825 South State Street in Salt Lake City, Allred estimates Epic has doubled its capacity at least three times. On pace to put out 12,500 barrels in 2013, (up from 8,000 barrels in 2012), it is com-mon for their staff of more than 35 employees to operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week just to keep up. By Amy Moses Epic Denver And as And a demand dem e an nd increased, inc a serious expansion took shape s in the form of a new brewery brewer r in Denver at 3001 Walnut Street. St t Brewing and dis-tributing tributin n locally since earlier this summer, s Epic Brewing in D Denver will be fully up p and running by the s of October. The start new facility’s larger space and additional Colorado See Epic p 4
What To Drink: A Plethora Of Choices
Which of the following scenarios describes you? A) You run into the liquor store, grab a 6-pack of your favorite beer and run back out. B) You peruse all the options looking for something new that you’ve never tried before, find that untapped gem, and grab it. C) You peruse all the options looking for something new that you’ve never tried before, but once again reach for the familiar.D) You don’t go to the liquor store because you’re always heading over to the brewery where you sit and drink pints of your favorites or sample everything they have. E) Your local bar worries if you don’t show up for your favorite drink.
One of the dilemmas we’re faced with these days as craft beer drinkers is seemingly a very basic one…what do we drink? In 2011, small and independent craft brewers saw the industry grow 13 percent by volume; in the first half of 2012, volume grew by an additional 12 percent. With the hundreds of choices available in our local community, I thought it worthwhile to investigate how people decide just which craft beer they decide to quaff. Thus, I fired up the conversation with anybody who drinks craft beer that wanted to talk about their selection style criteria (and who drinks craft beer and doesn’t want to talk about it)?
The first theme that emerged from these conversations is that the way people choose craft beer is different depending on where they’re purchasing it – from a brewery, a liquor store, or at a bar or restaurant, so we’ll explore each of these point of sale locations separately and also explore some common themes.
Knowledgeable staff can guide us to a certain beer or help us decide between two. Oftentimes you may be perplexed about what to purchase and a friendly, knowledgeable bartender, server or retail associate can help guide the decision.
The Craft Brewers Association reported that of all the craft beer styles available, the one with the largest percentage of dollar share in 2012 was seasonals. People are cuckoo for seasonals and regardless of the venue (brewery, liquor store or bar), their first question is always, “What seasonal do you have?”
Yes, seasonal selections as a style even beat out the widely popular IPA, which came in second, followed by pale ale. IPA may be a style of choice, but amongst the wide offerings of IPA…how do you narrow it down? ABV and IBUs may be determining factors, but what else comes into play?
Colorado alone had 29 new breweries open in 2012, (the second highest number of all 50 states), not to mention the new breweries that popped up in the rest of the Rocky Mountains. Thus now, more than ever, when craft beer drinkers are thinking about what they want to drink, they definitely start thinking, “Which brewery will I visit?” first and then, once there, ponder, “Which beer will I drink?”
One of the themes that emerged is that you’re going to drink what ever’s served at the brewery closet to your house. People want the convenience and safety of walking, riding, driving (or maybe hopping) over to a brewery close to home. Some of these people admitted to mixing it up once in a while by visiting other breweries in town, but many of them are loyal to the one down the street.
However, that being said…that brewery close to home has to have good quality beer in styles that the neighbors like or they’ll go elsewhere. Some people told me, though, that even if the beers aren’t their favorite, they’ll stick around if the atmosphere is welcoming and the staff is friendly and engaging.Like Norm and Cliff, people want a place that feels like home and where everybody knows their name… both the staff and other patrons. At a small brewery one of the people that may know your name is the owner or brewer, giving you a stronger connection to the beer you’re drinking - the human connection. All the sudden the brown ale isn’t just a brown ale, it’s the brainchild and backbreaking labor of “Sam/ John/Lauren.”
Amenities offered at a brewery also help tip the decision-making scale in one direction. You may be wavering on what to drink this evening, but if you know you can go somewhere and play cornhole, listen to live music, sit outside at a beer garden, or play trivia, then your decision will be made in favor of the brewery with the “entertainment” you desire. Once there, what beer you drink is a whole other process.
Many people I talked to noted that they’re willing to gamble with a style they’re not familiar with when visiting a brewery, as they can get a taste of a beer for free or for around $1.00-$1.50 – a small investment to determine if you’ll like a coffee porter or the barrel aged IPA. The taster tray (or sampler or flight) is another lure of a brewery. People know they can go to a brewery and try a little bit of everything… no initial commitment has to be made.
Nick Callaway, owner of Loveland Aleworks, noted that many people aren’t familiar with some of the lesser-known styles of beer, such as a tripel, so even though it’s a high-quality beer made by Aleworks (Callaway thinks it’s one of their best), patrons tend to gravitate towards the IPA, but one way to introduce them to the tripel is through the tasters.
What if you just want a 6-pack to enjoy while sitting on your deck? Enter the liquor store. One scenario I mentioned in the opening paragraph is those people who know exactly what they want when driving to the store. Another alternative is the consumer always looking for something new…be it a new beer in their favorite style or a seasonal that’s never graced the shelf before. A bunch of other strategies fall somewhere in between those two extremes. One shopper told me he will never pay more than $7.99 for a 6-pack. He drinks IPAs, so he’ll wander in the store and look for any IPA that’s on sale…or at least is at or under his price limit.
Of course, some people pledge loyalty to a certain brewery or a certain state. In Colorado and Montana it’d be a piece of cake to never drink anything but a beer brewed within the state boundaries for the rest of your life, even if you always wanted to try something new and different. Breweries have started series of beers, usually in bombers, such as New Belgium’s Lips of Faith series, that keep customers coming back for more, regardless of price point.
Using your 4-wheel drive to plow through the snow to the liquor store versus running there with your kayak on top of your Jeep certainly dictates what type of beer you’ll buy. The weather, the season, and your mood definitely play into the selection.
The packaging also comes into play…do you want cans to take hiking? If so, you may not be able to buy from your favorite brewery if they don’t can.Maybe you love beer from the local brewery but they only put it in bombers and you don’t want to drink that much beer by yourself (and don’t have a neighbor to gladly take the rest off your hands).
The point of sale display can also influence consumers. Is there a gigantic stack of a local brewery’s 6-packs right in front of you when you walk in the front door? Which beers are at eye level? Which ones have shelf talkers stating that they’re employee recommended or have been highly reviewed on ratebeer.com?
Imagine what a liquor store would be like if the beers were arranged by style instead of by brewery.Those IPA lovers could walk in, immediately go to a section devoted to their heavenly liquid, and stand in one spot and gaze at all the possibilities, instead of wandering down the aisle looking for which breweries currently offer an IPA.
Back to the marketing aspect we mentioned earlier…which packaging has a nifty logo, a catchy name, or a colorful description that draws you in?One beer drinker in Minnesota admitted that he was drawn to one of his now-favorite beers by the name…yep, you guessed it, Arrogant Bastard. He was fascinated by the name of the beer so tried it on a whim and really liked it…so now he buys it not for the name, but for the taste. This criteria is popular for wine. A lot of people select a wine style and a price point and then make the final decision by looking for a cool label or witty name. With beer the label design and name are more minor factors, but factors nonetheless.
When selecting a beer, the question of what you’re doing with it comes into play. Are you drinking it by itself or wanting to pair it with food? Are you drinking it alone or sharing with friends? Is it being used to celebrate a special occasion? Those are all questions that inform your purchasing decision.
The latter part of this article brings us to the bar/pub/tavern…what do you order when you step into an establishment of these sorts?
It seems this is the place to really gamble.Ready to try a new style? Order it here. Want to try the new sour that’s now on tap? Go for it! Never tried a beer by a regional brewery that just began distributing to your town? The time is now!
Although a beer at a bar can easily cost $5.00, consumers agree it’s the place to try something new.Why, I asked, when the price isn’t that much different - $5 (plus tip) for one beer at a bar or $7.99 for a 6-pack at the liquor store. It all boils down to guilt.Damn guilt – it gets us every time! People feel bad – really bad - for wasting beer if they buy a 6-pack and aren’t enamored enough with it to drink it all. Thus, instead of choking down the other five harmless bottles or cans, dumping them down the drain, or passing them off to unassuming friends, some people would rather not buy anything new at the liquor store and save the experimenting for the bar or brewery.
At a bar a tap handle may influence a decision, either because it’s a unique tap handle spurring you to order the beer or because the tap handle is recognizable, so you immediately order the familiar brew.
Oftentimes when going out, a common factor in deciding what beer to order is how you’re getting home. If driving home, people are more apt to opt for session beers, whereas if you’re riding shotgun or powering yourself home on your bike, you can engage in those high ABVs you delight in.
At a restaurant when you ask what beer is on tap you may hear the usual ramble of “Bud, Bud Light, Coors Light, Miler Lite, PBR,” and you’re like, “Woah, hold your horses…I meant what CRAFT beers are on tap?” To which, in the Rocky Mountain region, many restaurants reply something like “Fat Tire, Blue Moon” and a few other regional staples.This is the time to drink the beers you might never purchase in a liquor store or at bar…ones you’ve “grown out of.” Or, you could drink a Bud. The wonderful news is that the choice is yours!
Regardless of how we decide what to order, I think we can all agree that we’re amongst the most fortunate people in the country, living here in the Rocky Mountains where there’s always plenty of craft beer at the end of the rainbow.
Reaching Epic Heights
“The DABC [Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control] said we were going to fail.” That was the prediction the folks at Utah’s Epic Brewing faced as they opened for business in 2010, according to current Communications Director Matthew Allred. With expectations set so low, the owners of the startup brewery joked that their experiment in the Land of Zion was bound to either be an epic failure or an epic success.
“There was a lot of doubt that this could actually work in Utah,” Allred says. As the state’s “first brewery since Prohibition to brew exclusively high-alcohol content beer,” it was sure to be an uphill battle given the infamously restrictive local liquor laws. Hoping for the best, but preparing for the worst, Epic’s team members spent two months brewing up what they felt would be enough inventory to begin selling to the public. They sold every last bottle in just two weeks. “Not only are people in Utah thirsty,” says Allred, “they want real beer.”
Of course, this just confirmed the suspicions of founders and co-owners David Cole and Peter Erikson, who moved to Utah from California in the nineties to start an international aquaculture company.When liquor laws relaxed (slightly) in 2008, they saw their window of opportunity. Teaming up with veteran Utah brewer Kevin Crompton, they set to work pursuing their dream of opening a microbrewery for full-strength beer.
Since occupying the former Vietnamese restaurant at 825 South State Street in Salt Lake City, Allred estimates Epic has doubled its capacity at least three times. On pace to put out 12,500 barrels in 2013, (up from 8,000 barrels in 2012), it is common for their staff of more than 35 employees to operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week just to keep up.
And as demand increased, a serious expansion took shape in the form of a new brewery in Denver at 3001 Walnut Street. Brewing and distributing locally since earlier this summer, Epic Brewing in Denver will be fully up and running by the start of October. The new facility’s larger space and additional 40-50 employees has the potential capacity to brew as many as 30,000 annual barrels. Already with a presence in 14 states and Washington, D.C., Allred says the long-term vision of this expansion would lead to the Salt Lake City brewery serving Utah and the West Coast, while the Denver brewery would distribute to the Midwest and East Coast.
Denver's well-established craft beer community has been welcoming Epic, according to Allred, and is excited to see another option in town. He has found that since Colorado has such a significant craft brew market, customers have less brand loyalty and are always willing to try something new.
While most new breweries in Denver work to build a local following before expanding beyond the home turf, Epic went the opposite route by getting their beers on Denver store shelves and local taps first, building their credibility before building their brewery.
Epic's other new venture is a brewpub/gastropub called "The Annex by Epic Brewing" in the Sugarhouse area of Salt Lake City. The Annex will have a seven-barrel system for brewing familiar Epic varieties as well as specialty 3.2% seasonal drafts only available on site. As one might expect, the menu will be as intentionally eclectic as their beers and will suggest specific food/beer pairings. The Annex is on schedule for a late September opening.
Despite these two major expansion projects, Epic is still all about the beer. Allred emphasizes their aim to provide an "artisanal experience," and they strive to offer a beer "for every occasion." Standing in front of the cold case, he points out one beer that he feels pairs particularly well with fish and another that is a perfect "dessert" beer. Another variety he calls his favorite "lawnmower beer," for post yard work enjoyment, and even describes one (the Glutenator) as a "beer for when you're done drinking beer."
To get a specific difference between varieties, they have decided against the common practice of using a "base malt." Though bulk malts can be obtained relatively inexpensively, Epic hopes to avoid the "house flavor" that can give even beers of different styles a similar taste and character.
Additionally, they invested in an in-house water treatment facility that employs reverse-osmosis to further distinguish each of their 36 varieties.
These beers are divided into three series: Classic, Elevated, and Exponential. The Classic Series offers "not-so-basic" basic brews for those fairly new to the craft brew scene. This category includes Spiral Jetty IPA (gold medal, 2013 San Diego International Beer Festival) and Pfeifferhorn Lager (bronze medal, 2013 L.A. International Beer Competition) among others.
The Elevated Series seeks to be true to each style while also emphasizing the subtleties and nuances that change from batch to batch.Featuring varieties like the Hopulent IPA (gold medal, 2013, Denver International Beer Competition) and Copper Cone Pale Ale (silver medal, 2012 Denver International Beer Competition), Elevated beers provide a number on every label, allowing the history of each release to be traced through Epic's website.
The Exponential Series, however, is where Epic really makes its mark. Billed "for the accomplished consumer or the ever-curious," the 20+ beers in this category have earned more than 30 national and international awards as brewers push the boundaries of creativity.
Case in point: the Smoked and Oaked, Belgian- Style Ale (silver medal, 2012 L.A. International Beer Competition) is aged in whiskey barrels and, reaching up to 12.5% ABV, Allred claims it is "like drinking bourbon."
Another feature of the Elevated Series are the Brainless beers, including Brainless on Cherries (gold medal, 2012 North American Brewers Association) and Brainless on Peaches (bronze medal, 2012 Best of the Rockies/Southwest). Those who look askance at fruit beers may not want to write these off too quickly. Each goes through a secondary fermentation in oak wine casks and, brewed in the Belgian style, can top 11% ABV.
With so many particular varieties, Epic has not chosen one brand to market as its flagship beer.Rather, the brewers believe their vast assortment will allow everyone to find their own favorite while also giving ample opportunity to try something new.
Tap-less Tap Room
In order to better facilitate those who would like to sample the collection of Epic beers without investing in a 22-ounce bottle, they opened a cozy “Tap-less Tap Room” at the brewery. Offering various sized servings of their brews with (in accordance with Utah law) a purchase from the menu consisting of paninis, soups, and sandwiches, customers can get a real sense of just how different Epic beers are from each other.
To make this tasting room available despite the fact that space in their facility is at a premium, Epic had to research just how many seats were necessary to meet regulations and ensure that they could offer their beers for on-site consumption. It turns out the minimum requirement is four seats and an additional two handicapped-accessible seats, which is the exact capacity they managed to squeeze into their building.
Past Success, Future Vision
Epic’s quick success was not a surprise to its employees. Almost all of them are homebrewers, though they largely come with no previous experience in the professional brewing industry. Lead Cellarman Aaron Selya believes “consumers respect a lack of compromise,” as he highlights the Salt Lake community’s demand for local products made with craftsmanship and care.
Brewer Justin Hyde feels the “market was primed for this,” citing the public’s desire for a greater variety of options as well as the ability to buy cold, high-point beer at the facility (Utah state liquor stores sell all beer at room temperature).
Riding the wave of success, Epic just keeps brewing and adding new beers to their ever-increasing lineup. Including the Colorado brewery, Epic currently offers 39 different beers and early estimates see them pushing 50 brands by the end of next year.
But considering their aggressive expansion efforts amid a commitment to their founding principles of producing high-quality, hand-crafted ales and lagers, are they concerned about overextending themselves?
“We brew 39 beers. We’ve already bitten off more than we can chew,” Allred says with a laugh, adding, “It’s more beer for everyone!”
Of course, despite the dire initial prognosis, Allred appreciates the statement the Utah community makes with every purchase of an Epic beer regarding the kind of craft beer culture it will support. “The DABC and local government underestimated how badly people want to drink craft beer.”
Read the full article at http://rmbnonline.brewingnews.com/article/Reaching+Epic+Heights/1527067/178172/article.html.