Whether you’re planning to ski or visit family, winter provides an opportunity to warm up with some craft beer. And Idaho is the perfect place to do so.
Idaho’s brewery scene has seen heady growth over the last few years. Boise, the state capital and Idaho’s largest city, and the surrounding area are home to more than 20 breweries.
While Boise is known for Northwest IPAs made from hops grown in Oregon and Washington, local brewers like to experiment with new styles and flavors, so there promises to be something for everyone. On two recent visits, I found citrus-infused ales, chocolaty stouts and interesting flavor profiles using Hibiscus, Vanilla and tea.
Here are seven craft breweries I visited and liked, but there are many more to try:
Boise Brewing, 521 West Broad St., Boise
Founder Collin Rudeen sources ingredients sourced from local farmers. Its November beer list included 15 choices – from Golden Trout Pale Ale to Black Cliffs (Stout) to cider. Boise Brewing has received four medals from the Great American Beer Fest and Black Cliffs one a gold medal at the 2018 World Beer Cup.
Visitors will see large ceramic mugs lining the walls of the downtown Boise taproom. They belong to Idaho residents who are part owners of the brewery. I like that it’s one of a handful of community-owned breweries across the country. In fact, 6-year-old Boise Brewery is in the midst of a third Idaho Public Offering to raise capital to make improvements to its downtown Boise taproom and possibly open a second taproom.
Mad Swede Brewing Co., 2772 South Cole Road, #140, Boise
Owners Jerry and Susie Larson spent 30 years home-brewing and experimenting before deciding to open the brewery in 2016. Its early November tap list of 14 options includes Lollygagger Lager, Naked Sunbather Nut Brown Ale (winner of a 2018 silver medal from the North American Brewers Association) and Sunstone Hazy IPA (New England style). Located near the Boise Airport, the taproom has a laid-back vibe and features live music, trivia nights, games and Comedy Open Mic Nights on Mondays. You can order from a food truck.
Woodland Empire Ale Craft, 1114 West Front St., Boise
Is there a better combination than beer and pinball? That’s what you’ll find at Woodland Empire, which specializes in IPAs with its “Mixtape Series” and twists on classic styles like its current Thunder Chicken (smoked Porter) and Count Chocula (chocolate cereal milk Stout). Its Mixtape offering in November was Twined & Twisted (Kristall Haze IPA). Former Austin, Texas, musician and homebrewer Keely Landerman, her husband Rob, and Tom Dolan started making artisan beers in small batches in 2014. They started amassing medals in 2015: winning five medals through 2018. At the downtown Boise taproom, you can play on retro pinball machines order tasty food from Manfred’s Kitchen next door for delivery to your table.
Payette Brewing Co., 733 South Pioneer St., Boise
Founder Mike Francis left his Boeing engineering job to study brewing at Chicago’s Siebel Institute of Technology. He first worked at Seattle’s Schooner Exact Brewing before opening Payette Brewing in 2010. He named the brewery for French Canadian fur trader François Payette, whose moniker graces many Idaho landmarks. It offers many year-round and seasonal brews, such as Flyline Vienna Lager, Pistolero Porter and Sofa King Juicy Mango Hazy IPA. Its all-ages taproom allows well-behaved pets. Customers can order from rotating food trucks and take a free brewery tour on Saturdays.
Barbarian Brewing, 5270 Chinden Boulevard, Garden City, and 1022 West Main St., Boise
Husband-and-wife team James Long and BreAnne Hovley started the brewery in the Boise suburb of Garden City with help from Kickstarter in 2015, Two years later, they opened a second taproom in downtown Boise, which draws a hip, youngish crowd. You won’t find its beers outside of the two taprooms, which adds to the allure. Using Old World-brewing styles, the brewery specializes in limited batch sours, Bourbon barrel stouts and barley wines, but it also makes traditional beers, Belgian ales and experimental styles such as Ice Cream Ales and a Candy Gose series. Boise customers can order food for delivery from Calle 75 Street Tacos. You won’t find this beer outside of its taprooms.
Barbarian Brewing has an extensive selection of brews. (Sheryl Jean and BeFunky)
10 Barrel Brewing, 830 West Bannock St., Boise
Technically, this is a brewpub opened in 2013 by the Bend, Ore.-based brewery, but Boise brewmaster Shawn Kelso (aka Big Daddy) does make beer on site. Its known for big IPAs – like Idahop and Freak Alley – but its menu of 22 beers on top in early November also includes Swill (American Radler), Apricot Crush (Sour), Cream Ale and the seasonal Pray for Snow (Winter Ale). The open, industrial-style brewpub is a popular spot to watch sports on big-screen televisions. 10 Barrel Brewing operates five other locations in California, Colorado and Oregon.
Sockeye Brewing, 12542 West Fairview Ave., Boise, and 3019 North Cole Road, Boise.
Sockeye is Boise’s largest brewery. Founded in 1996, it now has two Boise locations with full-service restaurants. Along with its flagship Dagger Falls IPA, you’ll find Woolybugger Wheat, Angel’s Peach Amber and seasonal brews like Winterfest. This award-winning brewery doesn’t take itself too seriously with its motto “Drink like a fish!”