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Epic Ales & Gastropod

Creative, fun and playful

Food, beverage, pairings, it can all be taken so seriously. It can also be great fun and the perfect way to socialize and try new things. And that is why you should be heading to Epic Ales and Gastropod.

Epic Ales came first with a concept from Cody Morris (at right) to improve restaurant beer programs and create a brewery to specialize in small batch beer designed to go with food and sell to restaurants. "My first customers were boutique bottle shops and I had no time to cold call restaurants," Cody recalls. While doing his books one year, he looked at revenue with a tasting room vs. wholesale and realized he needed to sell more retail beer. But he wanted a different kind of tasting room. He contacted Travis Kukull, a chef he'd met several years earlier who wanted to open a brewpub. "I thought we could do it together. He had the experience and knowledge. My restaurant experience consists of working at Taco del Mar, a bagel shop and washing dishes." (Click here to see Cody's background.)

They started with a pop-up dinner and it went well. So they began doing two courses/two beers on Saturdays for a year, starting in 2011, in a room upstairs from the brewery. "We never did the same thing twice that whole year," says Travis. "It was basically free food and people paid a lot for the beer," laughs Cody. Lack of space and City issues slowed their growth in 2012, but eventually they removed a wall, turning the original brewery into a small kitchen and adding a communal table next to the kitchen, then a small room next door that holds two more tables. The room beyond is a prep area and the brewery has its own space down the hall. Cody was able to triple production. Their grand opening was in April 2013, the second anniversary of the pub and the fifth anniversary of the brewery.

"I thought the first year would be a real struggle," recalls Travis. "No employees, working but not paying ourselves, selling beer to make mortgage money. Five months in, I was so busy on the line and doing dishes, with a line of people out the door, and I'd be grinning ear-to-ear. Seeing your concept come to life is amazing."

They love to learn and change things up. "The quality of my beer gets infinitely better as I learn more and upgrade equipment," says Cody. "My goal was to brew beer that didn't taste like every other beer. Although it continues to be very experimental, as the pub grows, we have to have a steady stream of 'normal' beers that people like and know will be available. We do several IPAs, but not in the current trend of citrus- and hop-focused. I've used Slovenian hops and done an all-French-ingredient pale ale. The most important thing to me is to be distinct from other breweries. But you can't be too out there; people compare to what they know; being too different can be intimidating. You have to balance between different and approachable. I'm willing to do a few beers I don't find to be the most exciting, but what ultimately matters is if people like them."

Travis hoped to be a 'quiet little gem' in the neighborhood. "I wasn't sure people would like our service style. Our food isn't easy, it's all scratch. I make the bread and charcuterie, and am cooking on three burners. So food doesn't come out all at the same time, and we explain that to people. It's a challenging kitchen. My favorite thing is seeing peoples' reactions. We've created an environment where everyone can eat out and be themselves. It can be loud and rowdy sometimes, but fun."

Travis gets ingredients from all over: stores, local farms and foragers, and connections with day boats so he's using fish caught the same day. "We also get fresh items from the Santa Monica Farmers Market. During the boring winter, I'm happy to use things from California. It's not about convenience; it's about quality and price. One of the things I'm using now that I think will really catch on is a beef cut called Zabuton. It has lots of marbling and is a little gamey. You can grill it like a steak. We use the best product, yet at Gastropod, a couple can pretty much eat through the menu for $100, including beer pairings." (Click here to see Travis's background.)

Beer ingredients come from all over the world: blends of malt, hops from the Yakima area or overflow from larger breweries, spices from local merchants. Cody also wanders ethnic stores looking for different flavors. "I'm hoping I'll be getting malt from Skagit Malting after next harvest. It's grown in Skagit Valley and they do the malting."

Food and beer ingredients can overlap. When Travis gets wild watercress, nettles and mushrooms, Cody uses them to make beer. "I over-bought parsnips once and Cody made parsnip beer. It was good," laughs Travis. "It's all about what's coming in fresh." Cody and Travis talk every day about food and beer. "Beer is a fast turnover," explains Cody. "When mushrooms are fresh, I can make a mushroom beer right away and pair it with our mushroom dishes."

From their original fixed ideas, they've learned to bend with the wind, not fight it. They always said 'no wine,' but that's changed. But as you'd imagine, their wines are a bit off the beaten track. They've started Tuesday night three-course dinners for $30 (pairings separate), and Wednesday $1 food item nights.

Upcoming plans are big: a brewpub in South Lake Union called Mollusk, planned for August 2015. 5000 square feet, seven-barrel brewery, 100 seats. As Travis explains, "We want to create a community for the people in the building; sometimes you have to create a neighborhood. We'll have lunch and dinner daily and Cody will sell wort for home brewing. Mollusk will have the same Gastropod feel."

Epic Ales and Gastropod *
3201 1st Ave S, Ste 104
Seattle, WA 98134
206-351-3637
www.epicales.com

Mollusk (planning for August 2015)
803 Dexter Ave N
True North apartment building
Seattle, WA 98109

*Mollusk opened, and with that primary focus, Gastropod closed in late 2015.

 

Connie Adams/April 2015


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