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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 !

 

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

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.

Cheers

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.

Cheers

@boisebrewblog

 

 

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.

Little Bitch Otter

Thursday May 29th was the official release date for Crooked Fence’s latest brew, “Little Bitch Otter” The Garden City brewer has a bit of a tradition of snappy quirky beer names, not that this necessarily distinguishes them from most other craft breweries, but this particular title was certainly not out of the ordinary for them.

I am not privy to the story behind the name…there must be one… but Im sure it would not be difficult to manufacture something reasonably entertaining Ex Post Facto. I’m pretty sure we can throw out the possibility that it is in reference to the 1977 “feel-good” story of Emmet and his friends and their “jug band”. Seeing as how it is not likely that the late Jim Henson’s estate would have allowed the use of that name anyhow. Maybe it is just that this otter is female, and it is simply accurately named in that way.

Crooked Fence calls this an “India Brown Ale”, yet another BJCP category bastardization, this time a combination (or compromise) of India Pale Ale and Brown Ale. The Beer Judge Certification Program puts a beer like this in Category 23. “Specialty Beer” Basically a catch-all. It’s the organizations category for “we don’t think these are important enough to warrant their own official category in our little classification system, but we can’t deny their existence either” In this case, the IBA is hoppier and more bitter than a standard Brown, and not as roasty and dark as the CDA or Black IPA (itself also not an officially recognized style).

I felt that the pint I had did in fact fit into this category with its nice fresh hoppy bitterness and a healthy component of toasted malts. I suppose it is hard to NOT be true to style when your “style” is so broad, that it includes such diverse elements as Great Divide’s “Bee Sting Honey Ale”, Bear Republic’s “Red Rocket Ale” and Stone’s “Arrogant Bastard”. As a brewer, shooting for Category 23 and nailing it would be about as hard as hitting a bull in the butt with a bass fiddle. I had mine at Woodland Empire Ale Craft, the brew place just down the block from the release party, held at Boise’s first growler fill station, “Pre Funk Beer Bar”. I guess you could say I was pre-pre-funking.

…Or…, maybe it is just another installment of their animal theme. OK, it’s not much of a theme, only 3, but they have put out “Black Unicorn” and “Crash Monkey”, as well as last fall’s “Donkey Show”. (I’m not touching what that one might mean) So, so far only mammals. If Platypus Stout is next, I’m not sure if that would continue the run for that class or not. Lactating egg-layers that they are. Perhaps if we knew weather this was an African Otter or a European Otter…that would be a good clue.

Judging by the massive turnout, Id say that this was an eagerly anticipated beer. Woodland Empire is a relative newcomer to the valley and Crooked Fence was in the first wave of early arrivals in the Boise Area craft beer awakening that started about 3 years ago. Both places were packed and had lines out the door and literally down the street. Woodland ran out of their allotment of the Otter by about 630 and I can only hope that PreFunk had a few more kegs. Still, a good beer, cheers to CF on this latest one, and a great crowd, showing their support for another Boise Beer.

Cheers

 

Highlands Hollow Visit

Highlands Hollow is one of the 4 “old school” brewpubs in Boise. The others being Sockeye, TableRock and The Ram.  In the last few years, though, nearly a dozen more have popped up around town but “the Hollow” is of the old guard.

I’m not sure what the deal is with the Scottish theme that seems prevalent in the craft beerniverse.  All the Kilt referenced beer names, many involving the “man-dress” being tilted, lifted or drafty, are all over the place.    Just in Boise, we’ve got “Kilted Dragon” as well, with their exclusively Scottish naming convention for their beers.  Just make sure you don’t confuse a “Scotch Ale” with a Scottish Ale”

Located at the bottom of the hill from Bogus Basin, it is a well frequented stop for tired and cold skiers coming down the mountain after a long day of chair lifts, moguls, yard sales and face plants.

I had not been in a long time so decided it was time for a visit.  I tried a couple that I didn’t recognize, and the Brass Lamp Brown Ale that they brewed for the recent “Ale Fort” festival seemed big and robust, but at a modest 4.9% it was pretty easy going down. The Scotch (don’t call me Scottish) Ale had a lot of the “Scotch” character, earthy, peaty and smokey with a little extra malty sweetness.

Inside, exposed rough cut timbers are used liberally, and brick walls and beer paraphernalia are the theme.  It has a pretty strong ski lodge feel with a chair circled gas fire pit and it was pretty casual and a bit noisy environment but comfortable.

It is at an end of town that I don’t get to very often, but it must be pretty popular with the Boise “North-Enders” judging by the number of SUV’s and Subarus parked out front.  They have a niche I think and this recent infiltration of Micro and Nano brewpubs in the area shouldn’t give them much trouble.

Boise’s North-End has a “Nano-Pub” Cloud 9 opens it’s doors

Boise’s latest brewpub has opened in the Downtown/North end area and it was immediately evident that I waited far too long to make my inaugural visit. Over the last few months, Woodland Empire, and Edge Brewing have thrown their hat into the ring of the Treasure Valley craft beer scene,…and now Cloud 9 Brewery is right on their heels.
Evidently they had about a dozen of their creations lined up on opening day, but after “3 weeks of standing room only” according to Ian, C9’s Beer Bar Czar, they were down to only 5 when I finally stopped by.

Cloud 9 BreweryA quite small space, tucked away in a strip mall between a nail salon and a fitness center, seating about 30 and the brewery “tour” took all of 3 minutes.  All 5 of their 4BBL fermenters were busy doing that voodoo that they do, trying to supply reinforcements. They have a Barrel count on their chalkboard that, as of this writing, shows 49 Barrels brewed.   At the moment, the second batch of the “Salted Caramel Stout” was in primary, going nuts and foaming out of the blow-off tube all over the brewery area floor.  I tried the entire available line-up and they were all good.  Across the board, I thought they were not very hoppy. The Pale Ale for instance was listed at only 26 IBUs and my server pronounced the DIPA at over 120. The latter sure didn’t taste like it but there was nothing wrong with any of them and they were all very tasty. The Porter and the stout particularly are going to be easy entries for the style for folks that think they don’t like “dark beers” Salted Caramel Stout…..seriously. They pull it off though and there is just a touch of salty-sweetness that betrays its namesake.
Chatted with the owners Jake and Maggie, they were kind enough to set aside some time for me.  We agreed that their very busy first few weeks, was a good problem to have.  There have been negotiations with other local breweries with larger brew-house, to contract out a couple batches of their most popular offerings.  I’m guessing the IPA and maybe the Honey Basil.  Guest kegs have kept the taps flowing, with regional selections from Hopworks Urban Brewery, Grand Teton, and a rather uncommon IPA from Deschutes, but I’m sure Cloud 9 would like their customers to see as many Cloud 9 beers on tap at any given moment.   I know I would.

The food menu is a simple but upscale local and organic selection that I have already heard quite a bit of positive, anecdotal compliments about.   The grilled cheese w/ brie and provolone sounds great and I am betting their Burnt Creme (Creme Brule’) pairs well with the Salted Caramel stout.  Either way, I’m trying that duo.

Here’s to Cloud 9 Brewing, Boise’s most recent in the growing craft beer landscape.  From here, it looks like it is off to a great start.

Edge Brewing – First Visit

The latest entry into the fray of Treasure Valley breweries is Edge Brewing.  Backed by multiple partners/investors, local home-brew supply shop, HomeBrewStuff’s owner Marcus Bezuhly is behind it and Kerry Caldwell, formerly of TableRock BrewPub is brewing it.  Edge is located in West Boise, whereas the last few openings have been in downtown or Garden city.

Edge has the interesting distinction of it’s arrangement with their investors/partners.  Many of them are certified beer judges and avid home-brewers themselves, and they are encouraged to brew unusual and interesting one-offs on Edge’s 15G pilot system.  These will go on a couple of “guest taps” at the Brew-pub. Free to experiment on something significantly smaller than their 15 Barrel system, who knows what concoctions will show up from time to time.  A Chipotle’ porter perhaps or maybe a Butter-finger Stout..it’s anyone’s guess. With several regular offerings and some seasonal rotations that will surely make appearances, these loose cannon test batches promise to be an interesting addition and will help Edge to stand out a bit in the Treasure Valley blossoming Craft Beer scene.

Edge Sample "Flight"

I visited Edge the other day and tried the sampler of their current line up.  It was no surprise to see a Pale, an IPA, an Amber and a Wheat.   The IPA was even appropriately named “Obligatory”.  A nod to the assumption that if you are a brewpub you better have an IPA on tap at any given moment.  There was also a Belgian Tripel that was nice and so was the rather hoppy and fairly dry Imperial Stout.  As a matter of fact, save for the Belgian, I thought that most of the line up reflected a slightly hopped up quality.  Possibly a tendency that Edge will be known for going forward… and perhaps that characterization would not displease them.   One of the two beers they had from their experimental “pilot” system was a Cinnamon Cider which I loved, and Marcus himself had the honor of kicking off it’s maiden batch.

Throwing caution to the wind and picking out an appetizer I had never heard of, I stumbled upon an epicurean delight called a “Scotch Egg”.  A hard boiled egg, wrapped in sausage, breaded and deep fried. Delicious, and the Obligatory IPA washed it down nicely. Although now that I think of it, a Scottish Ale would have somehow seemed perfect. I  even came back to Edge again several hours later, partly so I could bring a friend to try their beers…but really it was mostly so I could have another one of those little gems…and another beer…or two.

The wide tap list that Edge promises to maintain and the frequent rotation of new and potentially bizarre test batches, will keep me coming back as part of my regular rounds.  Congrats and good luck to Boise’s newest brew-pub.