Year end rounds, Boise Ram

Today, making the rounds around town, looking for new and/or interesting creations by our local fermentation locations, I stopped by the Ram on Park Center. Among the other couple dozen Brew-on-Premises places in the area, The Ram doesn’t often have something that I’ve not seen before. They are a chain, and there are some corporate standards and lines that must inevitably be towed. Even in these settings, some freedom and creative “wild hairs” are allowed apparently, however and today I got to try one and the experience turned out to be a highlight of my week.

I usually pick an off-hour time between lunch and dinner to increase the chances of some conversation with the staff as they are typically less bust before the after work crowed started to show up. Being early afternoon on New Years eve, the place was fairly deserted. Making a bee-line to the bar side of the restaurant I was greeted briefly by whom I assume was staff and possibly even a beer maker. I gave him a nod a smile on my way in and sensed that he was making eye contact a split second longer than normal. I probably should have paused a bit more and invested int eh greeting and probly came off a bit terse.

The beer menus had the same seasonals that I recalled from a week or two ago when I checked last but for the one on the bottom, “Udder Chaos” milk stout. This I had to have, and I ordered a half-pour…a “shorty” they call it. Black pour, full dense sticky dark tan head and a great mellow chocolate, and milk sugar sweetness. The character from the local Form and Function coffee was a nice touch and complimented nicely and we not over powering. At over 8% I was glad I ordered only a 8oz glass.

Shortly after, the brewer came up and introduced himself. I recognized him right away as the guy I basically snubbed on the way in. Meeting the classic caricature of a brewer, a wirely, early middle aged guy in a zip-up hoodie and wool knit beanie., Jake had apparently recognized me from earlier visits and recalled a friend at another local brewery mentioned me as a local beer nerd/social media/ writer. Aw Shucks.

We chatted a bit and got along really weel right away. When he suggested I stop by sometime for a little brewery tour, I looked around and said “…it seems pretty slow today..?” and off we went.

We walked and talked bout grain silos, gravity fed boilers and fals bottom mash tuns etc… and ass a long time home brewer, I had some good questions to ask him as far as dry-hopping, laagering, corporate recipes and standards vs creative one-off projects etc. He even shared a recent funny storiy about a minor mis-hap regarding how lactose can actually be somewhat flammable when atomized just right. Lest just say, this milk stout I was drinking might well be called a caramelized or “crème breule’ “based on the events that late October brew day.

It was a great tour and great experience and is just another example how the people in thiis business, with very few exceptions, just love to make good beer and share the experience and products of their endeavors with anyone interested.

Here’s to Jake, and the Boise Ram for

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Brewpubs, Taprooms and Bars I

After several years worth of breweries popping up in the Treasure Valley lately, it has nearly gotten to a saturation point, for me at least. To be clear, I don’t mean there are too many options, rather there are now enough good beer spots that it is actually becoming a bit of work (good work, if you can get it) to visit each of them on a regular basis. You just can’t expect anymore to stop by both of the local brewpubs after work on a Friday and then feel like you’ve checked up on what’s new this week and covered the bases, so to speak.

Now, with 20 or so breweries, several growler fill type places, a few bottle shops, and more than a few straight up bars that specialize in getting in quality craft beer, it has become a bit of a challenge to keep up with what each of them have recently brewed, or put on tap. Particularly for those of us that consider ourselves beer-nerds.

Working in town and living in west Boise presents me with a few options as to which “gauntlet” I want to run in the afternoon on the way home.

The Chinden/Garden City strip has a few spots, beginning with the recently opened Western Collective Beer on 33rd. Associated with Guns & Oil Brewing Co. (still not exactly sure how, even though they explained it to me at least once) these guys took over and severely remodeled the original Payette brewery/taproom, expanded it a bit and opened it up to a roomy laid back space. A dozen or so of their beers are on tap and though it is certainly not the cheapest pint in town, (some are $7), it’s a good spot and one of my regulars.

About a mile West on is Bella Brewing right on the north side of Chinden. This outfit changed hands again a few months ago and I must say I like the new direction they are taking so far. Tucked in between one of Boise’s fixture sandwich shops and a couple of wineries, its a small space, and a small brewing system. They have recently been offering a few more interesting and creative brews. Plus, free popcorn, so, there is that also. My sense is that there is a somewhat looser leash on whomever is making the beer there since this past winter, and lately I’ve been much more likely to visit than this time last year. If you stop by, aske then what in the world is a “moosechuck” .

Another couple of miles further, sort of at the West end of Garden City is HomeBrewStuff. A brewing supply retail shop that also has a dozen or so coolers of cans and bottles, focusing somewhat on local and regional offerings. They’ve also got 10 taps that someone has clearly put a bit of thought into. There is a small bar and rather Spartan seating area inside and they will set you up with a glass if you want to drink one of the cans or bottles that catch your eye.

Practically right next door, about 50′ further west is County Line Brewing. A small shop that has been slowly growing in the last 4 years or so and seems to have established a real “neighborhood pub” feel. I’ve always been impressed with what seemed like a conservative business model from the beginning.

A quarter mile west, is Powderhaus Brewing Company. An ambitious start up and an impressive building that has a great mountain ski lodge vibe. These guys started big with some large scale brewing equipment.

Next up, well pick a section of downtown and hit on the good craft-beer spots in that area.

Until then, Cheers

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Welcome White Dog to Boise

There seems to be no end in sight for this ongoing “brewruption” in the Boise area that has been going on now for over 3 years. Next up and now open for business as of last week, is White Dog Brewing.

Boise locals will immediately recognize the location as the original spot for Table Rock Brewing, one of the Boise “Old Guard” so to speak. Table Rock went out back in 2014 and soon after, the space was taken over by Rick Boyd of Brewforia fame, and his vision of an up-scale burger joint “Grind Modern Burger”, with Post Modern Brewing doing the beer side of things on premise. That didn’t quite take off and ultimately went out in March of 2016. I never got to try the food there but I loved the experimental and “no holds barred” style that Marvin was slinging on the brewery side. I mean a Mexican Hot Chocolate Stout and a Peanut Butter Porter you just don’t find very often.

    Now, about a year and a half later, beer is flowing once again at 705 W Fulton St. No kitchen this time, just food trucks…which is becoming more and more common with breweries and tap rooms in this day and age as evidently, a full restaurant and traditional food menu is just too much trouble, or too expensive. Which may be the same thing. I don’t mind this, I’m all about the beer. White Dog’s arrangement sort of hybridizes this model as menus are on the table and you place you place your order with the wait staff and it’s brought to you…just from the food truck out back.

    I stopped by on a Sunday afternoon, after a 10 mile ride on the greenbelt to try what they had. Besides the Hopzilla double IPA which is a TableRock recipe, and so I skipped that, the line-up was solid. If anything I thought the Scotch was not very “peaty” and the English IPA was pretty dark and malty. But these are brewers interpretations/variations on the style and not incorrect per se’. The Blood Orange Hef was very good, just a touch of the orange and a mild Bavarian yeast. The Blonde was pretty sharp and crisp and a bit more interesting than most of its style.

The staff was great and their “newness” was more than made up for by being attentive and very willing to chat. I was a couple minutes in to a conversation with one of them before he introduced himself as Dan, one of the owners. Found out from him that this is in fact the same White Dog brewing from Bozeman, MT and that there will be some beers made just in Boise and others made just at their original site in Bozeman. I asked if that meant that if I wanted to try the entire White Dog lineup, I’d have to make the 7 hr drive each way. He broke the news to me as gently as he could. He also mentioned that everything on tap here, was made here, and vice versa for the Montana location. No trucking kegs 8 hours back and forth between sites.

It is a pretty big, open space and the tables and furnishings are a bit Spartan but it is early and there is still a little work to do. While there is evidence of some significant remodeling in the dining/drinking area, I was told that they are in fact using the original Table Rock brewing equipment. I wasn’t too excited to see electronic dart boards and video games there but I must confess, “Galaga” is one of my favorites from back in the day, and I can understand they are trying to keep it family friendly. They will be tweaking a few things and completing interior improvements this next week or two and are expecting some good crowds during “Art in the Park” coming up. A grand opening will be in a week or two.

Boise Beer Culture also has a little write up here about this newest Boise brewery.

I asked about their rather generic names they have for their beers and Dan explained to me that they have intentionally opted out of the “name game” so as to not have to deal with potential copyright issues and also just for ease of knowing what kind of beer you are ordering or buying at the store. So, everything here will be “Pale Ale” or “English IPA” or “Hefewiezen”. Makes sense I suppose, but I was kind of hoping for a dog themed taplist like maybe a “West Highland Wit” or “Samoyed Stout”. Oh well, maybe I’ll drop a note in the suggestion box.

Seems like things are off to a good start here and it may turn out to be a regular stop for this beer guy.



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Run to the Hills !! – Barbarian Invades BoDo

Today marks the day that Barbarian Brewing expanded in to downtown Boise proper. Having been in Garden City for the last nearly two years and establishing a tight knit fan base, it was apparently evident that they needed to spread out a bit and make their offerings a bit more accessible to their downtown/north end base.


A recent Idaho Statesman article quoted co-owner and brewer James Long as describing this addition is not so much an expansion (in production) as it is simply a way for more Boise folks to have access to the same great beers that they have been making since their beginning in late 2015.

The doors officially opened at 3:00 PM today August 18th and while there wasn’t exactly a line waiting outside the door, by 3:20 the place was full. The couple hours I spent trying several of their offerings, (particularly the few that were saved for this event), the place only got fuller. Clearly this was an event that was due for Boise.

Settling within just a few blocks from such craft beer tap choice locations as 10 Barrel and the Taphouse as well as PreFunk and Woodland Empire only a block or two away, Barbarian has given a shot in the arm to an already vibrant and active craft beer epicenter that exploded several years ago.


The Barbarian folks had most of the same brews on tap that they recently were pouring at the original Garden City location, but also had several others that they had apparently been hording for the opening of this new location. The Watermelon Sour was particularly good, a departure from the all-too-common and what I expected to be an ultra light melon infused wheat ale, but was instead a malty rich amber concoction with full melon rind flavors and a big smooth tartness. Don’t expect kool-aid or jolly rancher sugary red melon on these things. The Bluetooth was also a good barrel aged blend with a little of the blueberry coming though.


Barbarian has sort of been a little funky hole-in-the-wall place that carved out a niche for itself in the Boise beer scene as a company that was not afraid to make off-beat, sour, creative, barrel aged beers, and this expansion/event has shown that Boise is ready for more of what they have to offer. You can’t swing a dead cat around here without hitting someplace that makes a Pale Ale or an East Coast IPA, or a Brown, but if you are interested in “embracing the funk” and “getting you’re Brett on” by trying a Mint Lime Gose or a Belgian Dubbel with peaches or a Rhubarb Strawberry Sour Quad…you’re going to have to drive down to Garden City…or no…wait, just right down on Main st. next to the cigar shop to get your freak on.

Just glad to see a niche artisan brewer do its thing…and do it well.


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Making the Rounds – March

This Friday’s crawl again started with Bier:Thirty…and again with a few leftovers from the previous day’s take-over. It was Firestone Walker this time, and first up was the new Luponic Distortion #5. From Firestone’s website this series is “…an ever-evolving mix of experimental hops, designed to deliver mind-blowing flavors that break the rules with each new release”. This IPA was terrific. Light soft matiness and tons of fresh citrus and tropical hop flavors. I don’t recall liking the previous 4 iterations of this series as much as this one, though FW is becoming one of my favorite regional brewers. I really need to pay them a visit. “Fortem” was the other Firestone beer there, that I had not tried before and it was not as good. A “double” or “Imperial” IPA it was, and just barely. Just lacked the fresh punch of a good IPA, double or no.

Whole Foods had a couple that were new to me, Double Mountain’s “Sweet Jane” IPA was OK but many of their others, I’ve liked better. Lagunitas Fusion 39 – Pale Wheat was good. The wheat malts smoothed it out and the decent fresh hop bite made for a nice balance. This is only the 4th of their (evidently) 39 editions of this series that I’ve had. The batches must be pretty small and distribution of them necessarily limited.

10 Barrel was my next stop, and the new Grapefruit Gose they had on tap was neither tart, nor salty nor grapefruity…but other than that it was very mediocre. It was 6.50 for a snifter though….so it had that going for it. As it turned out, it is my lowest rated beer from 10B. Ever. A distant second is “Mr Duck” a very forgettable saison from a year and a half ago. Their Honey BarleyWine had blown earlier that day apparently, but the “Aimsir Stout” was good. Very prominent dark roast, cold campfire and bitter chocolate with a light and dry feel. Nice dry “Irish” stout. The Code 24 was a pale ale that they claim to have ben making since 2006. Never heard of it, but I’m glad I tried it. Great bold grapefruit citrus aromas and flavors.

PreFunk was my last stop and I spotted a beer called “Cruel Beauty” by Heretic Brewing. A strange dark beer that had some sour notes almost like grape jelly. Interesting but bizarre. Even though there were 40+ taps here, I didn’t see anything that I didn’t recognize.

Payette Brewing was my last stop, this afternoon and I spotted a couple of new beers that needed to be tried. The Witbier was light and…well…witty… as it should be. The “Dortmunder” was pale, soft and malty like a good German Lager should be. So, predictable and good, if not exciting here at Payette. Come to think of it, kind of like most of Payette’s beers. The new experimental IPA JS-02 is a nice combination of somewhat woody toasted malts and a big in-your-face piney hop flavor. Payette is becoming the swinging stick in Boise. Big production, regional distribution, good (though not very risky) beer and a great new taproom. If they go public soon…buy!

Cheers !


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Making the Rounds – February


This Friday, the sun was starting to come out, winter is starting to feel somewhat behind us and this coming weekend is the first since mid-December that there wasn’t snow covering most of the ground around Boise. Though the temperature struggled to get to the 40s this afternoon, it just felt a bit like spring was giving us a tease of what was coming a few weeks from now.

My first stop was Bier:Thirty and was pleasantly surprised to find the remnants of an Occidental takeover a couple days before. The Hefewiezen was very good, with classic Bavarian banana yeast notes, the Pilsner was rather sharp and pungent and just had that skunky slant that probably is correct but just puts me off a bit. The Alt was the third and it reminded me a nice clean dry Amber, since “alt” is a style that I just can’t understand very well. These were the first beers from Occidental that I have had. Out of Portland, OR they are something that I will be keeping an eye out for, for sure. Their tag line is “Best. East or West” I kind of think a better one would be “Occidental, Purpose Driven Beer”….give it a minute. (They can use that if they want)

Down the road was PreFunk. The location that started it all, a couple years ago. It must have been “Bring Your Dog” day judging from the number of crotch-sniffers and leg lifters that were nosing around the place. Not that I mind, as long as my beer doesn’t smell like a wet dog, I’m fine. The place still had a few Founders‘ beers from last week’s mega hit “Welcome to Boise” night. I had the entire Founders line-up then so I tried a half pint each of a couple others I didn’t recognize. The PilsGnar from Barley Brown’s was a bit lighter and milder than the Occidental Pilsner I had an hour before, was a bit easier to drink and not so harsh. Very nice. The Lush IPA from Fremont was good and even though I have seen it around town, on tap and in cans and bottles he last couple months, I had not tried it until now. This one is fairly dry and bitter. Citra and Mosaic hops lend a tropical fruity hop flavor, but the dryness and biter bite make it bold enough for the IPA haters to keep their distance. They can go find a “Fat Tire” and cry in it

Right next door, about 50 yards south is Woodland Empire, the first true brewery on today’s gauntlet run. They had their Cozy Up milk stout on, both the 2016 and the 2017 versions, but I opted for the Woodland Pale, falsely assuming that it was one of their regulars that in my old age I had merely not remembered. I was shocked to find, after a moment or two of online research that something so generically named was in fact new and untasted by me. I quickly jumped on to RateBeer and Untappd and checked in on both respectively to rectify this inequity.

Gotta love kicking the weekend of this way. Cheers

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Tap Takeovers

Another fun benefit of this ongoing boom of small craft breweries popping up all over the country and particularly in the west, is that tap houses and beer-bars have more and more opportunity to focus on a particular brewer and have that brewers beers taking over all (or most) of their taps. A “Tap Takeover” so to speak gives breweries a chance to show off a bigger part of their line-up at one time at one place, run up their flag in a territory they are trying to break into or just simply “carpet bomb” an area and generally raise awareness of themselves. For us beer enthusiasts, tap take-overs at bars or restaurants are a good way, short of visiting the production facility and its tap room in person, to check out a wider selection of what a brewery has to offer, all in one fell swoop.

Sockeye, one of Boise’s oldest, and arguably most famous local brewery is celebrating its 20th anniversary this summer and as fate would have it, so is BitterCreek Ale House, the popular downtown bar. There was no way that this confluence would not go unleveraged upon, and so last week all 45 of BitterCreek’s taps were occupied by one beer or another from the Boise brewer. It is common for 8 or 10 or even a dozen taps at an establishment to be monopolized in this way for an event like this but Bittercreek has no less than 45 taps behind the bar so a complete full takeover was a tall order to fill. Sockeye managed it. In the words of Boise area BJCP and beer nerd Chris Hillman “…Will not miss this. Takes a badass brewery to do a proper tap takeover at Bittercreek.”

Granted, many of the beers offered here were ones that any local would be familiar with, but also many of them were either, new recipes, one time only creations, modifications of some of their regulars, special barrel aged versions or maybe just vintages from past years. We all know and love, Dagger Falls IPA, Angel’s Perch Amber, and Powerhouse Porter, but some you may not have ever heard of are such interesting offerings as Salted Caramel Gose, Soured Cream Ale with Rhubarb and of course a couple especially made for the occasion. Sockeye’s own 20th Anniversary Sour IPA as well as “Wheat Tarts”, the beer that they made to celebrate Bitter Creeks 20th anniversary a few months before.

Keep an eye out for the next “Tap Take-Over” in your area and take advantage of the opportunity to get to know a brewery top to bottom this way. Try several of their offerings with a sampler tray or a flight or two of whatever is taking over the taps there that day.


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Making the Rounds

Typically on a Friday afternoon, I will liberate myself from work a little early and hit a few of the local breweries, brewpubs and bars known for their tap selection. The point is to find beers that I don’t recognize and so, logically, need to try. My endeavors and exploits on this Friday afternoon missions will be documented here.

This week’s edition, Whole Foods, Bier:Thirty, Boise Brewing and Woodland Empire.

Whole Foods has a nice little café upstairs they call the “River Room”, and I am often impressed if not surprised by the tap selection they have. Not very many, by today’s standards, but someone is looking out for and buying good beer there. Today they had Backwoods’ Brewing “Blueberry Wheat“. A very mild and faintly blueberry American wheat. Pleasant though not particularly interesting, and Ballast Point’s “Sextant Oatmeal Stout” A lovely smooth roasty beer with nice chocolatey flavors. This one was on Nitro which only added to its pillowy palate. Although I think there was something wrong with the tap today as if foamed like mad and there was not much carbonation left in my snifter. One of the other thngs I like abut this place is the option of getting a “half-pour” since as I stated before, the goal is to try multiple offerings before moving on.

Bier:Thirty had several taps occupied by Boise’s own Payette Brewing, when I stopped by, but they were all ones that I had tried a week or two ago at the Payette tap takeover at Bittercreek. Sadly I had to move on as there was nothing new to conquer here today.

Boise (don’t call me Bogus) Brewing was my next stop and they had a couple of their own beers on tap that I did not recognize. The brand new “The Big LeBoise Lager” turned out to be a classic, clean, Pale Lager but a bit more hopped and bittered up and the “Syringa Pale Ale“, a great beer with a lot of fresh up front hop flavors and a smooth easy feel. I like Boise Brewing with its cozy but open, and somewhat industrial atmosphere.

Next time will be some different locations and some new beers.





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Too Many Taps ?

Too many choices?

The Boise craft beer scene has been exploding for the last few years and I and many others have been riding the wave of new interesting, and frequently good beer all along the way.

This proliferation of new craft beer options been showing up in 2 basic forms.  Either a new brewery opens up and offers a line-up of 6-10 of their wares on tap, or alternately, a place that while doesn’t brew on premises, offers a lot (40-50 sometimes) of taps pouring beers from around the region or across the country

Recently, it seems, I’ve seen a few posts, tweets and Facebook updates disparaging these high-count tap beer bars.  Mainly bringing to bear the “lots of taps is nice but stale beer is still stale” shtick.

Not only do I not have a problem with this problem but I take particular umbrage with the snobbery or “beer elitism” this sort of smells like.  These are the same people that send back a beer telling their server that the carbonation is not within .5 volumes of being correct for the style. I suppose these nay-sayers would prefer to have Dagger Falls, Rustler/Outlaw IPA, Black Butte Porter or for that matter Widmer Hefewiezen on every other tap in town.  Because since it moves so fast, you are always guaranteed to get a pour from a keg taped only hours ago.

Keep in mind, distributers or rather the brewers themselves, often have what’s called 1/6 barrel kegs that are deployed to tap-houses and beer bars. For those not in the know, that means these vessels are only slightly more than 5 Gallons. As the historical and rather anachronistic moniker “Barrel” is 31 gallons.  That means about 80 pints.  And unless the establishment you are at really does pour a full pint…that’s probably more like 100 or so servings.

How long does it really take to pour 100 glasses of a particular beer?   Breweries know better than to package their Cognac Barrel aged Brett Basil Grapefruit Fig Berliner-Weisse in 15.5 Gallon kegs and drop them off at PreFunk or Starvin’ Sam’s minimart Growler fill station.  I’m not sure even I would try more than a 4oz taster of something that weird.  A year later if I wanted to try it again….it would probably still be there….right where I (and everyone else) left it.  Mother earth, Lagunitas, Melvin, Fremont, Terminal Gravity, all have offerings that all but the most casual beer enthusiast would spot and go for.  If you cant move 100 glasses of Pelican’s Tsunami Stout in a reasonable time, well then maybe you should turn over your lease to the nail salon.

There are plenty of nerdy beer samplers or “tickers” out there that will try something just because its new.  Having 40 taps pouring interesting, rare, or one-offs is just fine and the Boise Beer nerd collective (yours truly included) will take care of it. ThankYouVeryMuch.

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