*All pictures are courtesy of Talisman Brewing Company
"I've got a great idea. We should open up a brewery." How many times has this phrase been uttered among friends while tossing back a few cold ones? If you're being honest, probably a few too many. Hell, it happens almost every time my friends and I are chilling on my back patio. More often than not though, this light bulb moment is merely a joke that is never really taken too seriously.
This however is certainly not the case regarding the husband and wife duo who own and operate Talisman Brewing Company in Ogden, Utah. When it comes to putting your money where your beer is, Dusty and Joann Williams are clearly people of action. What started as a joke of home brewer Dusty giving Joann her kitchen back when he opened his brewery has turned into one of the more recognizable brewing operations in all of Utah.
Talisman Brewing originally launched as a small operation in 2016. Since that time they have gained serious notoriety in the state and beyond. Heavy involvement in their community of Ogden which includes the local ski resorts, Snowbasin and Powder Mountain, has enabled Talisman to become a highly popular, yet laid back place to chill for locals and skiers alike. On top of that, one of their beers, the Iron Age oatmeal stout recently won a gold medal at the Best of Craft Beer Awards competition in Bend, Oregon. Notoriety like this among the big boys gave them clout outside of Utah, a state that most don't associate with beer brewing prowess. Talisman, however, is well on their way to changing that stigma growing to the point of expansion in just two short years while producing some delicious brews. With that in mind, we recently caught up with co-founder Joann Williams to find out how hard work, dedication to their craft and a little bit of Celtic luck has made Talisman Brewing Company a favorite locals and beyond.
Rich Stoner: What is the inspiration behind the brewery and how has that helped define your path of development?
Joann Williams: The brewery originally started as something we joked about. Dusty has been brewing at home for years and would joke about giving me my kitchen back when he opened a brewery. He said when he retired from the military he thought it would be a fun adventure. Over time the jokes became more serious as and eventually turned into Talisman over the years.
RS: Why was it important for you to open in Ogden? What unique qualities does that location offer?
JW: Brewing in Utah presents some unique challenges. Not many cities have zoning for beer manufacturing. Since we were not looking to be a brew pub, we have only a handful to choose from. Ogden has the most to offer. The city is doing so much to attract new businesses as well as visitors. It’s close to home for us, and the vibe of the emerging community is just awesome. The city also offered some great programs and assistance to start up like ourselves. The resources and support they offered as well as the closeness of the community made Ogden a perfect fit.
RS: On your website, you talk about the significance of the Talisman in Celtic culture and how it relates to you and your brewery. Why is it important to draw on your cultural heritage as it pertains to running a successful brewery?
JW: Neither one of us had any industry experience coming into this. Dusty’s background is military( retired air force officer) and IT. Mine is in finance, HR, sales and marketing. So many people thought we were crazy coming into this (ourselves included). Dusty’s heritage is celtic in nature and sometimes it’s good to draw on your roots. A Talisman is a good luck charm from that culture, and so we figured what better to represent such a crazy undertaking in a state that is still learning to embrace the beer culture.
RS: I saw that you offer the brewery as an event space. Do you ever partner with local restaurants to offer pairings with your beer?
JW: We have done several events here and at local restaurants. We LOVE to do pairing events. I enjoy nothing more than pairing our beers with some of the magical food offerings that local restaurants have. It’s always amazing to me how food and beer can bring out certain flavor profiles together that are missed when enjoying them independently. We have also hosted a number of private functions and events as well as our wildly popular beer yoga on site. We have put that on hold recently as we just opened a tavern this weekend, and now have reconfigured our space to allow for a place for people to come an grab a pint.
RS: Does how your beer pairs with food ever play a role in what you brew? Do certain food styles or dishes inspire the creation of certain beers?
JW: We have a pretty diverse beer offering. We tout that we basically have something for every pallet to enjoy. From light to dark, hoppy to malty, we are sure there is a beer in our lineup for every beer drinker. We don’t brew specifically to pair with food. However, we do spend a good amount of time consulting with local restaurants and vendors to create suggestions of what beers pair well with their menu offering, and what flavors profiles compliment specific dishes on their menu’s.
RS: I like your yoga and beer events concept (although I’m pretty sure I’d fall over drinking and yogaing). Can you explain the relationship between the two and why it is important to offer an event like this at the brewery?
JW: Yoga has been SO popular. We started with class sizes of roughly 15-20 and now average closer to 30-40 attendees per session. We offer a 1 hour all levels yoga class followed by a 5 beer tasting. I think that it has been a great way to draw in a crowd of attendees that like both the health aspect as well as the ability to taste 5 beers of their choice following it. We were the first brewery in Utah to offer Beer Yoga, and many in the industry have followed suit. The atmosphere for the class is a fun and non intimidating one. We offer it right in the production space and you get to hear some cool things like beer fermenting and smell that beer while taking the class. People love it. It is relaxing and inviting and a good time for all.
RS: Is there a relationship between your après ski crowd in Ogden and the beers that you brew? If so, can you explain?
JW: There is not a direct relationship, but both of the local ski resorts carry a pretty broad range of our beers throughout their resorts. We make an exclusive beer each season for Snowbasin for skiers and boarders to enjoy apres ski. But our location is also right down the mountain and on the way back into town or out to the freeway from both resorts and so we see a lot of traffic after they close for the day. This was part of the reason that we chose to open the tavern. A lot of visitors come in every year to ski Snowbasin and Powder Mountain, and expect that because we are a brewery we offer a tap room. Up until this weekend we did not due to licensing hold backs etc. But we now have a place where you can come and enjoy an apres ski beer without having to dine (required commonly in Utah). We are SO excited to be able to accommodate this for the 2018-2019 ski season!
RS: Why is Talisman special when it comes to après ski? Do you do anything different to attract a good crowd post pow?
JW: Pretty much the same info as above. Next year we will do more with the Tavern to attract people in after their pow sessions, but we don’t really have a gameplan yet.
RS: How would you describe the vibe of Talisman as a brewery? How about as it pertains to apres (ski, bike, hike, etc)?
JW: Talisman is a very laid back brewery. We decided to open Talisman to cater to the average beer drinker. For many, craft beer can be intimidating, and sometimes even scary. We didn’t want it to be that way. We wanted to foster a sense of community, give back to the community and make good beer for all beer drinkers. (and even convert some who weren’t already beer drinkers). We have a very welcoming, approachable environment. We know our regulars by name, and have an intense following by our loyal supporters. It’s so awesome. We have sponsored and participated in so many events: marathon beer gardens, bike races, bike tours, you name it. We want to be the place that people come after the ski, hike, climb, bike and either take beer to go or stay and enjoy one.
RS: What is your relationship like with the mountains that you are near? Do they feature any of your beers? Do you collaborate on events with them?
JW: Yes, we work with both Powder Mountain and Snowbasin. We sponsor events and try to be as active as we can with what they have going on. We participate in their beer festivals, music festivals, charity events, private pairing dinners, you name it. We also make an exclusive beer for Snowbasin in their Cinnebar each season. We love to collaborate with them and be the best local support system that we can.
RS: What is your flagship beer? What makes this beer special?
JW: We actually have a flagship line up of 6 beers. They are unique because many of them were styles that other Utah breweries were not already offering when we released them, and there is something for every pallet in them.
We offer a Krystallwiezen (Kreation) that is a different take on a Heff than other local beers because it is a german heff, so has less of a wheaty profile and more banana and clove. It is, light crisp and refreshing. What makes it unique is that Dusty replicates the german water profile when brewing it to have a very similar taste as it would if you were enjoying it in germany. We offer an 80 shilling Scottish Ale (Uplifted) this is a wonderful unique beer and actually took the Gold Medal in the 2018 Best of Craft Beer awards. The label artwork depicts Dusty’s family tartan (kilt color). Our Promontory Pale Ale is a refreshing well balanced, mildly hoppy Pale Ale. The artwork on the label depicts Promontory Point, a local landmark where the transcontinental railroads were joined just north of us. We offer several IPA’s but the flagship is the Dagda. Named after the Celtic Good God, protector of the crops. We get a lot of great compliments on this beer as it is well balanced and slightly malty with a great hop profile. We also offer a Red Ale (Bel’s Fury) that surprised us with how popular it was right from the get go. The final offering in our initial 6 is the Iron Age. It is a creamy, and delicious Oatmeal Stout. It won the Gold in the 2017 Best of Craft Beer awards, and the Silver in the 2018 Best of Craft Beer awards. The artwork on the label is Dusty’s family crest.