Lately it seems as if there's a brand new brewery opening up nearly every month, with a new selection of brews for sale. Not that we're complaining; it just means a wider selection of local beers for those of us who drink to indulge in. One of the most recent additions to the Wasatch Front is Talisman Brewing Company, which is currently busting out six different beers out of their Ogden-based brewery. Today we chat with the married co-founding duo about starting up the brewery and the awesome flavors they're making today. (All pictures provided courtesy of Talisman Brewing Co.
Dusty and Joann Williams
Gavin: Hey Dusty and Joann! First off, tell us a little bit about yourselves.
We are from California originally, but have been in Utah since 2001. Dusty joined the Air Force shortly after we got married. We got sent to Fairbanks, Alaska for our first duty station (Imagine a California girl and a surfer dude getting sent to Alaska in the beginning of winter... Yikes!). After nearly four years there, we were sent to Hill AFB. Dusty got out of active duty after two years at Hill and joined the Utah Air National Guard, where he spent the rest of his part-time military career and recently retired. We have been married for 20 years and have four children. Outside of the brewery, we both work full-time. Dusty works for Lockheed Martin on Hill AFB and I am a territory manager for Kimberly Clark
Professional. We both share a love for many things: our family, traveling, Utah (go Utes), craft beer, snowboarding, skiing, hiking, biking, just outdoors in general.
When did you meet?
We met in high school—actually, we met at a grocery store, but we went to the same high school. We got engaged over spring break of our senior year, and we got married in the fall after graduation. It will be 20 years this fall.
When did you first take an interest in homebrewing?
Not being Utah natives, we have been exposed to many different varieties of beer. Dusty really started taking an interest in home brewing many years ago when one of his friends introduced him to some of his homebrew. Dusty became intrigued by the brewing process and everything that it entailed. It wasn’t until a few years after this introduction to home brewing that Dusty decided to really start diving into his new found hobby. He became obsessed with homebrewing, trying new recipes and ingredients. Dusty says there is just so much you can do with four simple ingredients. It’s like a kid getting four huge bins full of Legos to play with. Over time, he crafted so many fantastic beers that friends and family started to encourage us to take it to the next level. So, here we are!
What were some of your first beers like? How was it for you learning the ropes of how to best produce?
From the beginning, the beers were pretty dang good, and they only got better with time. Dusty is very meticulous about the brewing process and is his own worst critic. He feels there are always ways to improve and get better. The learning curve on the home brewing scale was not too bad. The first beer we ever made was an American wheat—we called it “The Virgin.” We were shocked at how well it turned out. From there it seemed like a couple brews a month were happening in the household.
Scaling up from home brewing to commercial level was a bit overwhelming at first. I put in a lot of research and we visited an enormous number of breweries and picked brains. Many Utah breweries were very helpful in providing us some tips and tricks to brewing on a commercial scale. So far everything has gone great, and our first batches turn out well.
When did the idea come about to start up your own brewery?
Many of our friends and family told us we should seriously consider taking Dusty's beer to the next level. For a long time, we joked about it here and there when having some beers. We discussed how fun and exciting it could be. When Dusty decided to retire from the Air National Guard, this meant he would have more time on his hands, which in his mind meant more beer to make! So the fun and jokes slowly started to become a reality. We knew that Northern Utah (Ogden area) needed a brewery they could call their own, and we felt as though we could provide that. So really over the course of time, the idea developed into reality. I like to describe it as a hobby went wrong, or right—
depends on how you looks at it. I am just glad to have my kitchen back, haha. (Not that I am ever home to cook in it!)
Where did the name come from? And why did you decide to keep it as a small batch brewery?
A talisman is basically a good luck charm. They were common among the Celtic people and were also thought to hold magical powers and bring good luck. Dusty has a lot of Celtic heritage on his side. We chose the name because we felt that anyone undertaking a brewery opening, let alone in Utah, could use a little luck. We decided to keep it as a small batch brewery based on a few things: first, the size of our equipment, and second, because we want to be a brewery that’s growth is driven by demand. We want our customers to grow us, and their tastes to influence the direction that our growth takes.
What was it like gathering up the equipment needed to make this particular kind of brewery happen?
Insane! ... There are so many vendors to choose from, and the lead time from order to procurement is especially challenging. Knowing exactly what pieces of equipment we needed for our situation was very challenging considering neither of us had any commercial brewing experience. Not to mention all of the things that you need that you never realized until the big stuff arrives. In all reality, this was probably the most challenging out of the entire process to include actual brewing.
How did you find the location in Ogden, and what was it like converting the space?
We actually searched for space for a very long time. In Northern Utah, there were not a lot of places that were zoned for us. It basically left us looking in Layton or Ogden. We have always liked the vibe that Ogden brings, and feel as though the city has done a great job revitalizing. In our meetings with Ogden, they had so many resources available for new businesses, it made our decision easy. From there, we worked with the city planning department to determine the areas we could go with, and we were on the hunt. We struck out for a long time until our commercial realtor had a space
in mind that wasn’t up for lease yet; he put us in touch with the owner, and the space
ended up being perfect for us. The building required a lot of work, but we feel as though it is the perfect spot for now.
What was it like working with the state to get licensed and operational?
Working with the state was surprisingly easy. I know that Utah gets a bad rap for the liquor laws and such, but as far as getting licensed, they were the easiest. The federal portion proved to be more challenging. The TTB took forever to get working on our application. In their defense, there are a ton of breweries in planning and trying to get licensed, but 8-9 months for a review and stamp of approval is excessive, especially considering that you have to have your equipment and building procured before you can even submit your TTB application. It’s ludicrous. Ogden has been good to work with; they are very excited for us. As with any form of government—whether it be federal, state or local—there is always red tape and bureaucracy. You just have to grit your teeth, bear down and get done what needs to get done. Sometimes the learning curve is straight up.
What was the process like in deciding what kind of beers you'd be making first?
We really just wanted to open up with a very balanced lineup. We wanted to cover the beer spectrum from light to dark. Dusty really wanted to have some crazy different beers initially but we decided to save that for future releases. We wanted to keep traditional and have at least one beer for every palate. With our initial lineup, I think we met that expectation. If a group people come to the brewery, there will be something for everyone. We can also safely say that some of the traditional lineups have created some official craft beer converts.
For those who don't know about small batch brewing, how do you go about making the beer and deciding when the cutoff point is?
Basically, we are currently only producing in seven barrel
batches of each of the six initial offerings. The seasonal offering will be a limited release as well as some future project we are working on right now. The cut off on seasonal releases is based on the seasonality and for special release—when we are out, we are out.
What was the response like when you started up and got your beer out to the public?
We launched out social media and such about a year ago and the support has been amazing. As I stated earlier, the great people of Ogden and Northern Utah, in general, need a brewery that they can claim as theirs. There has been so much support from the community and even the whole state of Utah, it’s quite humbling. The feedback we are getting on our beers is great. People are out buying the product and giving us valuable feedback. Moving to commercial brewing is no small task, and we were expecting that for the first couple batches that we would do a little "dialing in," if you will. We plan to make minor adjustments to our product until it is where we and, more importantly, the consumer want it to be. Right now, only our low point beers are available to the public. Our beer store has been delayed on the high point due to a set back with our ADA ramp. We are on the tail end of resolving that, and the beer store will be open shortly!
As of right now you have six different beers available. Which ones do you take the most pride in or recommend to people when they want to try your product?
This is a super-tough question. The reason being is because everyone has a different palate. I've had some people say that their favorite beer is the one that I personally like the least. It's just mind-blowing to see all the different likes and dislikes. You never going to appease every person with every beer simply because they are so different. But to attempt to answer your questions, Dusty’s personal favorite is the Promontory Pale Ale. It is just very clean, crisp and well balanced. My favorite is all of them. I basically drink based on two things: my mood and the weather and we have a beer style to accommodate all. I really like the red ale and the Oatmeal stout. Our two low point beers (4 percent) are very sessionable,
and fairly light. I believe that any beer drinker can enjoy a few of these beers. For a good description of our beers, you can go to the website and look under the “our beers” tab for a description.
You recently opened up a beer store. How was the grand opening and what can people snag at the location?
Our beer store has all our product for sale to include Full Strength beer. It is open for business, check the website and or social media for hours of operation. We also have typical swag for purchase: hoodies, shirts, glassware and other items. We were awarded a Scientific and Educational Permit so we will be offering tours of the brewery. During this tour, you will be able to try all of our beers in about 3 oz. pours per beer. For dates, times and to schedule a tour you can go to our website and check it out.
Without giving too much away, do you have any plans for new beers or expansion down the line?
We definitely have plans for many more beers in the near future. One thing we want to do here at Talisman is put out a lot of beers for people to try. As we receive feedback on these beers we will contemplate putting them in our main lineup for year round access. Basically from here on out we want to let the consumer decide what beers we have at our brewery. As far as expansion, yes we hope this will happen. We want to grow and make our product more available. Again, this is decided by our beer drinkers.
What can we expect from you both and Talisman Brewing over the rest of the year?
You can expect us to bust our asses trying to get your some more quality craft beer! We definitely consider this a labor of love, and so far we are definitely loving it! We expect to introduce several seasonal beers and experiment throughout the year. We are focusing on growing the brand and making it more readily available. We are also going to work on building out our tasting room. We already have the space
for it, but we have put this project on hold for a while so that we can focus on production. Once we have our legs under us, we will refocus on this side once again. But you can definitely expect to see us out and about at community events and festivals this year. We are excited to bring Talisman to Utah!