Epic Brewing Announces Closure of Denver Taproom & Brewery
After nine years of operating as one of the pioneer breweries in Denver’s RiNo neighborhood, Epic Brewing will close its Denver location before the end of the year. Opening just a year after River North Brewery, Our Mutual Friend Brewing, and Black Shirt Brewery, Epic Brewing joined a groundswell of craft beer producers to transform the North side of Denver into one of the most heavily saturated craft brewery neighborhoods in the country.
Founded in 2010 in Salt Lake City, UT, by David Cole, Epic Brewing saw rapid growth early in its existence. In addition to opening its 19,000 sq ft Denver taproom and brewery in 2013, Epic had acquired Santa Barbara’s Telegraph Brewing in 2017 and became a regional contender could produce a wide range of styles from classics like Lagers, Saisons, and IPAs to more specialty expressions like fruited Sours and barrel-aged Stouts. However, a more saturated Denver market, combined with the onset of the pandemic, deeply cut into draft account sales, and inflation-related expenses around freight and material goods lead to the difficult decision to re-evaluate their Denver footprint.
“We were so heavily focused on draft accounts in Colorado, and the pandemic changed everything,” explained Cole. “We lost so many great draft accounts like Falling Rock during the pandemic and for us, it has just been challenging to see draft come back.”
At its height, Epic had grown to become the 99th largest brewery in the country topping out at over 28,000 barrels in 2017. However the brewery already began seeing a decline in production year-over-year beginning in 2018, continuing in 2019, and according to Cole, produced just 15,000 barrels in 2021.
“It’s also been tough on us in terms of the cost of freight, distribution, and overall cost of goods in general,” said Cole. “At a certain point volume has fallen off so much that the overhead in Denver just wasn’t possible anymore.”
Cole also noted that while the explosion of breweries in the RiNo Art District over the past decade actually didn’t attribute to the decline in sales, the wider influx of other bars and restaurants as well as consumer hesitation to return to on-premise accounts might
“Taproom sales were great for a long time, and as more breweries came we didn’t see a ton of impact,” said Cole. “But places like Federales and other bars and restaurants in the neighborhood put more pressure on drinking establishments in general.
“That said, it’s also hard to tell the impact of the pandemic as well,” continued Cole. “People’s behaviors have changed. We’ve seen less business for example during Happy Hour and I think that’s partially due to people’s reluctance to get back out to taprooms.”
Across its nearly decade-long presence in Denver, Epic Brewing became early adopters of the barrel-aged Stout movement with the introduction of Big Bad Baptist and subsequent adjunct variant versions of the beer. Epic also made a splash early on with its 50 Firkins Fiasco event each year during the Great American Beer Festival. The event showcased one-off single-firkin creations utilizing a range of adjuncts and often involving collaborations with breweries from across the country.
Epic will now shift its production fully back to Utah and keep its Salt Lake City taproom in operation while looking for another building in Denver to potentially re-open a smaller tasting room.