“A level crossing is an intersection where a railway line crosses a road or path at the same level. We all have traveled a path of the knowing or unknowing. Just look for a sign and enjoy the journey.” — Level Crossing Brewing Company, Jan. 22, 2019
It took Mark Medura a full year to find the perfect home for the brewery he’d conceptualized a decade earlier.
But when Medura, owner of Level Crossing Brewing Company, finally found the 10,000-square-foot structure (formerly an HVAC shop), his search ended immediately.
The South Salt Lake brewery, which opens to the public on March 30, is seated beneath the city’s iconic water tower on West Temple.
“You can’t ask for a better location,” says Chris Detrick, tapped early on to be Level Crossing’s head brewer.
Even more, Katie Flanagan, the brewery’s sales and marketing manager, sees South Salt Lake as a city that “really wants to get better.” And part of that, she says, is welcoming businesses such as breweries and distilleries with open arms.
“I think the city sees we can (help fill) a much-needed” void, Flanagan says.
Bonus: Subscribe to the Utah Beer News Podcast and listen to the full interview with Level Crossing Brewing. Hear Mark Medura, Katie Flanagan, and Chris Detrick discuss the joys and challenges of starting a brewery. Learn what you can expect to see on tap when the brewery opens. Get their thoughts on the booming craft beer scene in Utah. And more!
A Focus on Hospitality
Though still under construction when Utah Beer News visited the facility in January, Medura’s vision is very much ready to roll.
“The space focuses on hospitality,” says the former High West Distillery executive, who grew up in Pennsylvania. “My personal upbringing is family oriented and driven around big family events.”
His eyes light up when he talks about the 2,500-square-foot taproom and its half-moon bar that frames a wood-fired pizza oven, making it a natural gathering spot.
His thoughts fast-forward to warmer months when the building’s back lot could play host to classic car shows and farmers markets and other community events. Out front, he imagines folks from all walks of life casually chatting with friends over a pint on one of the brewery’s two patios.
Medura walks through the brewhouse and envisions tour guides educating wide-eyed beer lovers on the brewing process, complete with sensory — hops, malted barley, etc. — elements.
And then there are the views.
Stepping onto the brew deck provides a close-up look at the massive stainless brewing vessels that make up the 15-barrel brewhouse. A prime seating area atop a 1946 Chevy farm truck — when it’s not being used as a live music stage — offers guests a panoramic view of the taproom and brewing operations.
“I think it will be the hottest seat in the house,” Medura predicts.
A Dream Realized
Building a brewery from the ground up is 10 years in the making for Medura. He and Flanagan, a former colleague at High West and the one credited with coming up with the brewery’s name, began talking seriously toward the end of 2016 about turning his idea from dream into reality.
“People say you’re born to do something,” says Flanagan, a liquor industry veteran who, for a time, owned a craft spirits and wine distribution company. “Yeah, booze is born to be with me.”
As construction at Level Crossing Brewing enters the home stretch, the team hopes the finished product will create an “emotional connection” between the brewery and its guests.
To do that, they’re unpacking their personal core values — honesty, integrity, hospitality, benevolence — and extending them throughout the company.
“That’s the basis of everything we try to do,” Medura says.
But it’s one thing to establish tenets for success and another to put them into practice. In the last year, Medura and his team estimate they’ve visited 100 breweries to see how their vision would translate to a fully operational brewery.
They sought to see what worked and what didn’t. What breweries did well and what could be improved. Medura admits he’s maniacal about details. It’s an admirable — and vital — quality in the hospitality industry. He points to High West and its dedication to customer experience as something “that grew on me.”
Owner, Meet Brewer
While Medura and Flanagan are comfortable creating a top-shelf hospitality experience, they knew they needed someone to produce Level Crossing’s primary product.
Enter Detrick, a renowned homebrewer, who up until April 2018 worked as a photojournalist for The Salt Lake Tribune.
A High West colleague connected the two, and from the moment Medura first marveled at Detrick’s homebrew setup, he knew he had his guy.
“I was pretty much immediately hooked,” Medura says. “I never interviewed anyone else.”
For Detrick, after about “minute two” of his first homebrew batch 16 years ago, he said to himself, “OK, we’ve got to figure out how to be a professional brewer.”
The award-winning homebrewer jumped at Medura’s offer. He proved to be a key piece needed to get the dream off the drawing board. He hit the ground running. Though, that’s not to say Detrick’s new gig didn’t come with a bit of a learning curve.
Planning and building out the brewhouse was “overwhelming” at times. Yet, it allowed the brewer to become intimately familiar with each piece of equipment. And while amping up to 930-gallon batches from his customary 12-gallon homebrew output is exciting, it also creates a unique set of challenges. Ingredient procurement alone can be daunting.
“Logistically getting the raw ingredients for these batches is quite a bit different than going down to The Beer Nut or Salt City (Brew Supply) and buying 20 pounds of grains and a few ounces of hops,” he says.
A year’s worth of test batches have helped Level Crossing dial in its initial offerings (see the beer lineup below).
“We’re very happy where we’re at right now,” Detrick says. “The challenge is to execute them on a much larger scale.
And that should be starting right…about…now.
‘A True Leap of Faith’
It’s not lost on Medura that Detrick and Flanagan left their careers to take a chance on his vision. While “level crossing” is a railroad term, as noted at the beginning of this article, the definition signifies much more.
“The deeper meaning for me is a crossroads kind of thing where the three of us have met and have taken this leap of faith with each other,” Medura says. “Katie and Chris both left what I would consider their promising careers to join a start-up. It’s a true leap of faith they took in me.”
It is scary, Medura concedes. “But the fun outweighs the stress by tenfold,” he adds. The three agree when Medura says: We’ll fail together as a team and cry. We’ll succeed as a team and celebrate.
It appears the team’s carved a path toward success. Unable to settle for mediocrity and refusing to cut corners, Level Crossing Brewing aims to be a premier food and drink destination. From the handcrafted beer to the lively atmosphere to the overall customer experience, the brewery is setting a high bar.
After all, when it’s a dream 10 years in the making and something in which livelihoods are on the line, you want to do it right.
“You ask yourself, what do you want to do with the rest of your life,” Medura says. “This is it. Fortunately, I have the luxury of making that true. I wake up every morning thanking a lot of people for allowing me to do this.”
Beers of Level Crossing Brewing
Level Crossing expects to open with four draft beers on tap — all of which feature local malt. Craft beer drinkers will be able to enjoy the following brews — 4% ABV per Utah law — on-site and at various watering holes around town. Beer descriptions provided by Level Crossing Brewing.
- Amber: A well-balanced amber ale featuring Solstice pale ale malt and Willamette, Cascade, and Centennial hops. 18 IBU, 4% ABV
- American Wheat: A hop-forward wheat featuring Solstice red wheat and Solstice pale ale malt. Citrus and fruity hop aroma from Amarillo and Centennial hops. 20 IBU, 4% ABV
- Oat Pale Ale: A silky-smooth pale ale featuring Solstice pale ale malt, flaked oats, and golden naked oats. Hop flavor and aroma is dank and tropical with a combination of Strata and Bru-1 hops. 32 IBU, 4% ABV
- You-Tah Uncommon: A complex and incredibly drinkable Kentucky Common-style beer featuring Solstice pale ale malt, flaked corn, flaked rye, and Black Prinz malt. Galena and Crystal hops provide bitterness and earthy hop flavor. 24 IBU, 4% ABV
Two high-point beers are formulated and ready to brew but are currently sitting in limbo. The recent partial government shutdown created a backlog for federal label approvals. Once the government catches up, Level Crossing expects to offer the following beers in 16-ounce cans.
- Dallas Alice: An easy-drinking blonde ale with pilsner and white wheat malts. Meridian hops give the beer moderate citrus and berry flavors and aromas. 20 IBU, 5.2% ABV
- Suss it Out: A complex and hop-forward rye IPA with three types of rye and a blend of hops to give the beer a resinous and spicy hop bitterness and a grapefruit, berry, and piney aroma. 80 IBU, 6.9% ABV
About Level Crossing Brewing Company
Level Crossing Brewing opens to the public on March 30. The 10,000-square-foot building features a 7,000-square-foot brewing facility, which includes a 2,500-square-foot taproom. It’s located in South Salt Lake, next to the city’s iconic water tower on West Temple.
The plan is to be open Tuesday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., 21+ only.
- Founded: March 30, 2019
- Address: 2496 S. West Temple, Salt Lake City, UT 84115
- Notable: A 1946 Chevy farm truck — named Dallas Alice, from a Little Feat song — is positioned in the northeast corner of the taproom. It will serve as a stage for live music, cowboy poetry, and other entertainment. The cinderblock wall behind the truck will feature a mural painted by famed artist Jann Haworth. She and Peter Blake designed the The Beatles Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album cover (and won a Grammy for Best Album Cover, Graphic Arts in 1967).
- Website: https://levelcrossingbrewing.com/
- Social Media: Facebook, Instagram