Brewery Spotlight: Epic Brewing Company (Part I)
This week I’m going to start a new series of entries called “Brewery Spotlight.” These posts will look at multiple beers from a brewery’s portfolio with the hope of comparing, contrasting, and pointing out characteristics that are common among different beers, either because of water, house yeast, or preferential hop strains by the brewers.
Our inaugural spotlight will focus on Epic Brewing Company out of Salt Lake City. While Utah isn’t exactly a hotbed for all things alcoholic, you wouldn’t realize that by looking at its offerings. Encompassing three different product lines titled Classic, Elevated, and Exponential, Epic Brewing’s beers cover an extremely wide style range of beers and even some unique twists!
Brainless on Peaches combines the yeasty effervescence of a Belgian with the oakiness of wine, Brainless of Peaches starts as a golden ale before receiving a dose of peach puree. After fermentation, Epic Brewing funnels the beer into French Chardonnay casks from Sawtooth Winery for aging. I could recognize most of the base notes and the beneficial qualities of the peach and barrel-aging when I smelled this, but none of it exactly jumped out at me. Sugary peaches, Belgian yeast, oak, grape, and white wine all vie for position with bit of grain and breadiness to go around as well.
Much like the nose, the flavor doesn’t have one particular note that resonates above the rest. Even before the peaches hit I got a grainy yeast flavor, probably from the champagne yeast, which helps with the body but isn’t exactly a tasty flavor. Even the peach isn’t a front-runner, as it is content to sit back, reveling in its sweetness. The barrel is pretty noticeable, though, as the oak is subtle yet distinct, along with the chardonnay grapes which combine surprisingly well with the champagne yeast and has the added benefit of imparting a wonderful body and mouthfeel to this beer. B- / $12 per 22oz bottle
Brainless on Cherries has a similar life story to Brainless on Peaches in that it uses the same base Belgian golden ale base and undergoes secondary fermentation and aging within French Chardonnay casks. Obviously, this version substitutes the peach puree for cherries. This has the additional effect of giving it a nice, ruby appearance. However, similar to Brainless on Peaches, the fruit doesn’t take over the way I wanted it to, as the cherries give a pleasant tartness, but the smell is a combination of oak, cherries, grain, and even a touch of vanilla.
Usually when you think of cherries added to a beer, you expect a somewhat sour flavor, but don’t be surprised when this doesn’t taste like it. The cherry comes across more as earthy, as if the skin was mixed in with the puree. I actually think the Chardonnay grapes are the most distinguishable flavor in this beer, along with the barrel. As in the nose, I’m getting a fair amount of grain and malt, but unlike Peaches, not a ton of alcohol. B- / $12 per 22oz bottle
Hop Syndrome Lager is one of Epic Brewing’s summer seasonals and is brewed with the expectations of quenching thirsts while still delivering on the promise of big flavor and bold hops (unlike some lagers out there…). While the appearance isn’t too far out of the ordinary for a lager, consisting of a pale straw body, it does build a giant, clumpy head that lasts almost as long as the beer does. Not only does this look great, it gives the beer an ample springboard to release its aromatics. Epic Brewing got the name of this beer just right, as the nose is full of pungent hops that run the gamut from floral to spicy to fruity. I got a lot of black pepper, pear, and apple, and as strange as it sounds, even a touch of cinnamon.
On the palate Hop Syndrome is a little tamer, as a floral grassiness takes over that would make this beer seem like the perfect “lawnmower” beer, but it’s also complex enough to sit down with to enjoy the flavors. The fruits tend to fall away a little here as the hops become more bitter, but a kick of lemon zest helps cut through it. B+ / $8 per 22oz bottle
The Sour Apple Saison is a unique twist on the Saison style. Typically classified as yeasty, grassy, and dry, saisons can also bring notes of funk or spiciness. Epic Brewing crafts Sour Apple Saison in the latter fashion and loads it up with more kinds of spice than I have ever encountered within the style. The beer is officially brewed with coriander, grains of paradise, anise, nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon, cardamom, and ginger, and nearly all of these come across on the nose. Immediately after pouring, I could smell this beer and the copious amount of spices present. Coriander and ginger are easily the most aromatic of the group, with pinches of nutmeg and clove following. In a first for a saison, I actually am not getting a whole lot of grain or yeast in the nose, as the spices carry this from start to finish.
Despite the name, the taste doesn’t really have a whole lot of sourness to it… in fact I am hard-pressed to even say it’s tart. It does have a bit of apple to it which isn’t so apparent in the nose, but again, much of the flavor is derived from the spices. Here, the cinnamon seems to relax in favor of star anise, and the ginger is just as prominent as before. I am also getting more of the typical saison notes in the form of yeast and grain breadiness. I couldn’t really discern much of the other spices, but that’s probably for the best, as too much spice would’ve derailed this beer. A- / $12 per 22oz bottle
Smoked & Oaked is the off-spring of a Belgian beer after mating with a Colorado whiskey barrel. Even the appearance looks daunting, as a thick liquid with a small head slowly fills the glass as it’s poured. The nose brings a lot of different characteristics and it takes a few minutes to actually digest what they are. A mild yet forward smokiness comes out first, mixing with the whiskey to help cut some of the sweetness that wants to explode. This gives the effect of imparting a strong sweetness without it being cloying, so the yeast and caramel can develop without fear of overburdening the senses.
Epic hit the nail on the head by using adjectives for the name of this beer, because the flavors all relate to the smoked and oaked aspect. The initial tastes are almost exclusively smoked malts and wood which makes it enjoyable especially during the colder months as I just think of a warm, smoldering fireplace. There is a logical transition here as the whiskey brings a sweetness that leads to the more sweet malts and yeast, so you get a smoky, alcoholic, sweet fruit quality that exudes an alcohol-soaked raisin quality. All the while it is smooth and balanced so that one facet of Smoked & Oaked doesn’t define it, but rather it’s the sum of the parts. A / $12 per 22oz bottle