Until somewhat recently, the great state of Utah had fairly strict liquor and beer laws—only beers under a certain ABV were permitted to be brewed. But when the laws changed in 2008, entrepreneurs David Cole and Peter Erickson were able to pursue their longtime dream of opening Epic Brewing—a strong beer microbrewery in Salt Lake City, Utah like those found in their home state of California. Having started an international aquaculture company in Utah in 1992, Cole and Erickson were no strangers to food and drink (and the art of making them well), so when they teamed up with acclaimed brewmaster and fellow beer geek Kevin Crompton, the trio immediately set to work brewing a carefully curated collection of strong ales and lagers, with over 30 now in production.
Epic splits their beers into three general series: Classic, Elevated, and Exponential. For this tasting we sampled the Rio's Rompin' Rye Ale and the Elder Brett: Saison-Brett Golden Ale, two of Epic's Exponential Series beers.
Made with a precise mixture of seven malts and three hop varieties (including a whole leaf hop back), the sixteenth release of Rio's Rompin' Rye Ale offers a hazy, clementine color. Fine carbonation and a quick head give off clean aromas of hay and wet undergrowth along with tropical hop scents. Upon taste, this Rye Ale really lives up to its name with a honey malt sweetness that immediately conjures up rye bread and earthy hops. This incredibly well balanced beer leaves a slightly dry, pleasant mouthfeel.
The latest barrel-aged beer from Epic, Elder Brett came out of a brewing collaboration with Crooked Stave Artisan Brewing of Fort Collins, Colorado. Made with wild yeast and aged for almost a year, this saison pours clear and golden with a quickly dissipating head. Near-cider aromas of malt and apples with just a hint of a vinegar kick hit the nose. Interestingly enough, the Elder Brett's taste departs slightly from the scent with sweet and tart flavors balanced by a touch of acidity with a fairly dry, white wine-like mouthfeel.