Alright, well summer has flown by, and Oktoberfest season always keeps me busy with Oktoberfest Tampa so it hasn’t been easy for me to keep up. But we’re past all that and I’m excited to get back into the swing of things and share some of my beer adventures here on the site that I didn’t get a chance to write about before my busy season began.
It’s no shocker that I am a fan of EPIC brewing. I’ve been known to host a few hand sales for them to help out their solo, man-of-awesome, Colorado beer rep: John Turk; a good friend who I often co-host the Colorado Craft Beer Show with. It’s not complicated, I like EPIC because they make great beer. 25 taps, 3 on nitro and they all show an incredible amount of skill and respect to their styles, with some seriously added hopped flare that is always pronounced, but not overwhelming. I consider it, EPIC-style.
As I gear up for this Crafty Ladies tour and help EPIC get ready for the rush of women about to arrive, I take a moment to reflect at how each of the brewery tours that I get to participate in is different. One would think that once you’ve taken a few dozen brewery tours, they are all the same, right? Well, no. Last I knew, there are over 500 members of the Crafty Ladies Beer Club so each time I attend a tasting at HTB, or go on one of their field trips like this tour to EPIC, I see new faces! It’s an incredible group of ladies that are genuinely interested in learning more about beer in order to make smarter ordering and purchasing decisions. Additionally, the space, service, timing, and product all differ from one brewery to another, so it all comes into play.
The Crafty Ladies Beer Club has done a nice job of engaging the breweries in advance and collaborating with the breweries to develop unique tours and experiences for the ladies. I’ve been around since the foundation of this particular ladies beer club, and EPIC did ask me for a few pointers, which I was happy to share. Jennie, their tap room manager, is a blast to work with!
Back to the good stuff – the BEER!
We started off our 2-hour event/tour by getting settled in and trying a beer or a taster as we were waited for all the ladies to arrive. What was my go-to-brew? HSL, of course -Hop Syndrome Lager. On draft, it’s just right. It starts off like a light and crisp lager with gentle hop notes that are not overpoweringly bitter. It’s a very complex and balanced beer. HSL is often compared to Firestone Walker Pivo Pils, or Victory Prima Pils, neither of which tickles my tastebuds like the HSL. I was happy to introduce the beer to some of the other ladies as well!
Since there were upwards of 40 women participating, the plan was to split us up into two smaller groups, to get a more hands-on experience. There were approximately 20 ladies per group.
One group would stay in our special section of the tap room, and talk with “Ant” (Anthony) about the origins of Epic Brewing and the sizable barrel program that they have created., and the other group would travel with Taylor for a tour through the brewery and production facility.
I started out in the tap room with Ant, talking about the barrel program. At the time of our tour during the summer, Epic had already reached 648 barrels (a mix of white & red wine as well as bourbon barrels) in their collection and they were on track to have around 1,000 in house before the end of the year. In addition to the wine and whiskey barrels, Epic also purchased three foudre barrels from New Belgium Brewing. As many breweries do, they also named their fourdres: Ellen, Molly & Stacey, respectively.
Sitting in the tap room you can see into the brew house area and brewery production space where the fermentors stand also. You can just barely see the walls of barrels behind that. We were adjacent to the railing separating the tap room and brewery space, right next to the three foudre barrels.
We organize our group into a large circle and were given two small tasters of a delicious Brainless Golden Ale to start. (This was the first beer that I’ve ever had out of the Epic foudres. Super exciting!)
Taster Comparison #1: Brainless Golden Ale
Our first sample was of the Brainless Golden Ale, finished with “lacto” (lactobacillus – a bacteria many brewers use) which gave the beer quite a tart finish as it produces lactic acid during it’s lacto-fermentation process.
The other sample of Brainless Golden Ale we were given was finished with “brett” (Brettanomyces/a wild yeast), which is all the rage in sour beers these days. As it is a wild yeast and not a bacteria, Brett will finish beer different than lacto. Brett specific yeast enzymes are known for tearing through complex sugars that most other normal yeasts cannot, leaving us with a more dry and lower acid beer. Eventually, Ant tells us, EPIC will be blending both of the beers with “pedio” (Pediococcus/bacteria) as well. Many lambics across the world are made with pedio, and I’m curious to go back and try all the beers again in a few months. Unlike making beer with other yeast strains, sour beers can take 2-3 years to before they are finished.
Taster Comparison #2: Imperial Stout
The second round of tasters out of the foudres barrels was a 12% imperial stout comparison. EPIC makes a pretty amazing stout called “The Big Bad Baptist.” The beer we sampled started off as that recipe, but instead of being finished with coffee and cocoa to become Big Bad Baptist, this beer was put inside two different barrels, for a different beer ending! The beer on the left was put into a first use barrel, and the beer on the right into a 3rd use barrel; the latter will ultimately get mixed with fresher batches. Again, this is un-finished beer, but you could definitely get strong bourbon and oaky notes from the barrels in this young, beer.
We got the chance to ask Ant some more questions about everything we had just learned and wrapped up our barrel session. Full of new knowledge and history of one of Denver’s newest breweries, it was time for our groups to switch and for my group to get the production side brewery tour.
As a lady in the industry, I was definitely pleased to find out that we would be getting our official brewery tour by one of EPIC’s only back-of-house, or production side, female staff members, Taylor! Taylor is fantastic and is the first female that I know that started in production at EPIC. She now puts in time and works hours in the tap room, in the front of house, but she started by assisting with bottle production, and has quickly progressed to assisting with their expanding canning and kegging operations and anything else that’s needed.
Taylor tours us through the brew house section, fermenters and the large walls of barrel-aging beer! The barrels are a mixture from multiple sources, but all clearly marked with a sign up above, which marks each beer style inside.
As we walk to the back part of the warehouse that is not open or visible to the tap room, we pass the grain storage and mill closet and enter an area which now hosts their full time kegging operations. For a few months, EPIC was utilizing Mobile Canning to bring their beer to the marketplace, but they have since purchased their own canning line as well as a palletizer from Ska Brewing to meet the demands of their customers and can more beer!
Here is Taylor showing us their 100,000 can of Escape IPA that they’ve already produced on their new canning line since May!
We couldn’t of course continue our brewery tour without a beer. So Taylor was sure to give all of us a tasting of Escape IPA fresh from the finishing tank. Below is one of my favorite pics of the night…this is our group in action! Tasting beer as fresh as you possibly can, talking about it, sharing it and enjoying the moment.
After our quick respite learning that EPIC can successfully can 7 bbls and hour and that their Escape is absolutely delicious straight from the fermenter, we completed the last part of the building tour with a quick session in the beer cooler. One of my favorite places. This is where we get to smell fresh hops and see the massive stacks of market-ready beer!
The final, and last part of this really fun event was with another beer tasting, and this time with a chocolate pairing!! YUM!
Two different beers each with their own unique and custom chocolate pairing. First off was a special Imperial Black Saison, which was a collaboration beer with New Belgium titled”Eternal Consequences.” That beer was brewed with black peppercorns, ginger and juniper berries. Effectively so, it was paired with a delicious ginger chocolate. So good, it went by so fast! I didn’t even get a picture! haha
Here’s a photo of our last pairing which was of the Brainless IPA with a citrus and pink pepper chocolate pairing. Definitely a good match!
So, as you can see, the Crafty Ladies sure do get some special treatment. If you’re a lady living anywhere in the Denver metro area who enjoys learning about beer, I certainly suggest you try out any of their events.
This was certainly one of the most insightful and entertaining tours I have been on and am very thankful for EPIC Brewing and all of their efforts hosting our group of ladies. What a fantastic experience!
I’ll be sure to post updates on any barrel beers that I get to try again.
Until next time,