Serious Eats: Drinks
On the Beer Trail: An Epic Beer Tasting in Salt Lake City
Editor's Note: Ethan Fixell tours the country as a comedian—and as a beer drinker. Can he sip a local beer in every state? Watch him try. Got a local brewery you want him to check out? Let Ethan know in the comments section.
Though I seem to have somehow inherited Dean Martin's liver, no one else in my immediate family is much of a drinker. So when I took a ski trip with my Dad and brother to Utah, a drop-in at Epic Brewing Company in Salt Lake City wasn't an easy sell. Still, aware of my priorities while touring on the road, my travel companions were willing to make the concession in exchange for my committing to the hotel pullout that night. And unidentifiable stains notwithstanding, sleeping on that terrible cot was totally worth it.
The brewing processes described during our private tour at Epic mostly provided a refresher course for my brother, whom I had dragged to many a brewery before. But my Dad, a financial consultant, seemed especially interested in the output this small but mighty brewery was capable of. He barraged our unflappable guide with questions:
"Hey Ty, how many barrels would you say you produce in a year?"
"How many bottles does a barrel yield, Ty?"
"Ty, what's the amortized profit margin on the value of each hop nugget in any given fiscal quarter?"
It was at this point that Ty suggested we give some of the beer a taste.
For those who have never imbibed in Utah, the state's drinking laws are Draconian, if not insane. With the specific liquor license they were able to obtain (and not easily, might I add), Epic's "Tap-less Tap Room" is the tiniest non-bar I've ever seen, seating only six dining customers at a time: you may only drink if you eat, and you may only have two samples in front of you at any given moment. Thankfully, these tasters cost 40 cents each, permitting patrons to try close to twenty beers if they have the time and patience.
Highlights include Epic's well-balanced Hopulent IPA made with Mosaic hops; their sweet, snappy, Imperial Red Ale; and their rich Smoked and Oaked, a ballsy Belgian style ale with cherrywood smoked malts, aged in bourbon casks for a result that's—surprise!—smoky and oaky. My favorite, though, is their Utah Sage Saison, which, brewed with sage and thyme, is nearly reminiscent of a flavorful gruit.
My blissful tasting was only interrupted when a drunk middle-aged guy and his drunker father stormed the tiny tap room. Apparently, every native Ute has an opinion on how, when, and where to ski. Some are more annoying about it than others.
"DON'T GO TO SNOWBASIN!" shouted Drunk Guy in my ear upon learning of our plans the following day. "YA GOTTA GO TO ALTA. ALTA! ...NOW LET'S DRINK!"
Thankfully, they left quickly when our bartender firmly explained the rules.
"I GOTTA ORDER FOOD?? I'M SO FULL, I COULD S---!" overshared Drunk Guy.
And we were left to enjoy the rest of our samples in peace.
The journey to Epic was a successful one on multiple counts. Back at the hotel, I cracked open a 22 ouncer of their Mid Mountain Mild Ale I had ordered to-go. Before taking my first swig I asked (just to be polite) if anyone else wanted a taste. To my surprise, both my brother and father affirmed yes.
"Is that too much for you?" I asked my Dad after pouring a healthy amount into his hotel room cup.
"Nope," he responded. "I'm into beer."
About the Author: Ethan Fixell is a writer and comedian from New York City best known as one half of comic "dating coach" duo Dave and Ethan. He is also the creator and editor of ActualConversation.com. For more on Ethan, visit EthanFixell.com.