If you ask a Minnesota beer drinker what their first taste of craft beer was, odds are they’ll tell you “Summit Extra Pale Ale.”
It’s no secret Summit Brewing Company is a giant in the Upper Midwest brewing community. We brew beer with a Midwest focus on tradition, quality and a hint of experimentalism. But before we were lucky enough to share our brews with our surrounding states, Summit got its start in Minnesota. It was born on University Avenue and first grew thanks to St. Paul pallets.
It’s also where our flagship beer, Summit Extra Pale Ale was created.
As you may know, when Founder and President Mark Stutrud first set out to open a brewery he wasn’t exactly encouraged to do so. In fact, he was told he’d probably not succeed. But Stutrud wasn’t one to follow the crowd. So, in 1986, open Summit Brewing Company he did.
As was his MO, when it came to the first beer Summit would release, Stutrud didn’t want to follow the status quo. He knew another American Light Lager would get lost in the market, and he wasn’t interested in trying to replicate imports. He wanted something for the audience in between. The drinkers who wanted something bold but not elite, drinkable but flavorful and balanced. After years of research prior to opening, Stutrud also knew that there weren’t many (if any) authentic ales being produced in the Midwest.
So, he decided he was going to make the first.
Extra Pale Ale was born. And in September 1986, the first keg was sold to Johnny’s on University Avenue.
That year, combined with Great Northern Porter Summit’s second-ever beer, the brewery sold 1,300 barrels.
After 34 years, EPA is no longer the only beer we sell but it’s still by far the most popular both in Minnesota and out making up more than 50% of our retail beer sales.
Throughout the years as Summit’s outward appearance has grown and evolved, so too has the look of EPA.
When the brand first launched its package donned a golden yellow color, evoking thought of the amber waves of grain used to create the brew. The first Summit logo sat at the forefront of its label.
Twelve-years later, with the release of an updated logo, EPA received a makeover. Still wrapped in a golden color, the packaging now consisted of a sketched colonial St. Paul complete with a capitol building. The new logo sat atop a new lock-up of the EPA name.
Finally, in 2013, with the release of another updated logo came the EPA we know and love today. A new digital logo showed images of the St. Paul High Bridge and downtown skyline. The 2013 rebrand brought St. Paul imagery to all of Summit’s line-up as a way to tell the story of where the brewery came from. It was no mistake the flagship ale received the iconic skyline of its birth city as well as the iconic bridge showing its ability to travel and translate to markets across the Midwest.
While its appearance has changed, the liquid inside it has not.
With the same caramel malts, citrus hop and balanced bitterness is possessed back in 1986, EPA has only gotten better with age. And we’re not just saying that. Its first medal was in 2007 where it took bronze at the Great American Beer Festival®. In 2016, EPA received gold.
As head brewer Damian McConn put it in a 2016 Thrillist article, “[EPA] is a hugely influential beer that continues to set the standard in terms of consistency, complexity and balance.”
Now, if you ask a Midwest craft beer drinker what their go-to, tried-and-true beer is? There’s a good chance they’ll say, “Summit Extra Pale Ale.”