Oskar Blues returns to Boise

Its been a couple years since Lyons Colorado’s Oskar Blues’ distinctive cans have been seen on the shelves of craft beer sellers here in the Treasure Valley.

Back in the Summer of 2010, citing production and capacity limits, the decision was made to pull out of the Idaho market after 4 or 5 years, much to the dismay and depression of craft beer lovers in the area.  Apparently they felt they couldn’t adequately supply their larger markets while being stretched all the way to Idaho. What made it seem even worse was that OB was currently leading a really cool movement of canning good beer.  I recently wrote about that HERE.

Now, they are coming back.  Evidently production and capacity are no longer such a limit (aprox 120,000 barrels last year) they they can (re)expand to our market.   Their recently opened 2nd brewery in North Carolina was undoubtedly behind this.  That’s good for us.  Regulars like Dale’s Pale Ale, Mama’s LIttle Yellow Pils, Old Chub, and Deviant Dale’s IPA has already started showing up around here. Other states being added to their turf are Minnesota, Delaware, Kansas and Nevada

As a gauge of how important this is, there were no less than 3 separate occasions/celebrations in town this past week.  Local bottle-shops and gastro-pubs hosting events were Brewforia’s “Welcan Back” party, as well as “Welcome Back Oskar Blues”, a three day launching event at Whole Foods, and yet another at BierThirty

It was nearly to the point of people lining the streets waiving hops and barley sheaves shouting ‘Hail, Hail the return of the King”.  Well maybe not that far….but it’s big.    It’s great to see another quality brewer represented (again) here in the Boise area.

Craft Beer – Not just for Bottles

It is generally accepted that the best freshest beer is when it is right out of the keg.  On draft or on tap.  After that, the packaging that is used can affect the condition of the beer after a little time.  Bottles and cans are mainly what breweries use for portable, “single serving” vessels.

For a long time, there was a stigma about cans in that it was somehow considered cheep, lower class or somehow less desirable.  I suppose mainly because of most of the beer that was in them was of the American Macro Swill variety.

Over the last ten years or so, this has changed as craft brewers have started adopting cans as their choice for packaging and distribution.  One of the first to do this was Oskar Blues Brewing as far back as 2002.  “They said we was daft to put good beer in cans, but we did it all the same…” Their Dale’s Pale Ale and Old Chub were pioneers in the canned craft beer shift.   You can even get their beer in 32oz “Crowlers” now.  Other brewers have since picked this up and now more and more good beer is showing up in supermarkets and “bottle” shops in cans.

Cans are a better container for beer for a few important reasons. One is that they do not transmit light and light can damage beer and sometimes give it that skunky flavor,  which is why most bottles are dark brown.  Keep that in mind when you see those sixers of Heineken and Corona in the cooler.

Another is that they are more environmentally friendly and are recyclable.  Emptys are light weight and compact-able.  Taking a few cans with you in your back pack is a lot easier than bottles.   Especially when you consider packing the empties out.  Which you always do..right?

While glass is a good insulator and the thin aluminum can is not, the latter can be cooled down quickly plus you can use one of those cool little foam can “cozies” if you want.  www.craftcans.com  is a site dedicated to craft beer in cans with beer reviews, a canned beer database and an interactive map showing craft brewers that can.

There will probably always be bottles but seeing good bee…in a can is no longer remarkable.



Woodland Empire opens it’s doors

Another landmark event in the Treasure Valley’s craft beer explosion.  Woodland Empire Ale Craft opened it’s doors yesterday afternoon and began pouring the first four of what promises to be an interesting and eclectic gamut of craft beer for Boise area folks. I was there an hour after they opened their doors for the first time, officially and got to try everything they had.

An open, relaxed and somewhat spartan tasting room, with nice picnic table style seating and high small tables.  A few cushy chairs at one end and the whole space still slightly smelling of fresh paint.  It was already half full at 4pm with people continuing to trickle in as the after work crowd started to show up.  By 5 o’clock it was pretty much packed.  Rusty, one of the owners spotted my computer and made sure I had the wifi password as I staked out a corner table.

Their 4 “regulars” were on tap.  “City of Trees IPA”, “In the Morning Mild”, “Gold Days Tripel”, and “Rabbit Fighter ESB” (there’s got to be a story behind that name).  All of them were good, particularly the Mild.  Kind of a light brown ale made with coffee from Doma Coffee of Post Falls, ID.  All of them were very sessionable, though the Tripel was approximately %9.  No “in your face” obnoxious experimental triple IPA bitter bombs or 17% Imperial Stouts, but more a line up of beers that are great for having (a few of) over relaxing conversations.

There are some more “risky” seasonal recipes coming down the pike for WEAC but these are likely to be the main line up for a while at least.  The 4 sampler “flight” was even served in an old muffin tin and the self-serve water cart was stocked with 1 liter flip-tops.  A nice touch.

It was a bit of a who’s who there with brewers from multiple local breweries and representatives from several local publications.  It’s fair to say that Rob, Rusty, Keely and the rest of the crew were making it happen.  It was a big turnout, a great start to an exciting and welcome addition to the Boise Beer scene.



Launching a craft beer revival in Boise

Brewforia Beer Market.  A purveyor of craft beer here in Boise and a location that I have been neglecting lately.  With the exponential growth of craft Breweries and bottles shops in the Boise area, this pioneer, spearhead of the movement is getting overlooked a bit lately.  At least by me it is.  But it holds a special place in this craft beer industry. The place it forged.

Like most small businesses, Brewforia had modest beginnings. Opening in a strip mall on Milwaukee Ave in late 2009, and the early press releases boasted over 150 different bottles of craft beer. Nothing really to brag about nowadays but a big deal when it happened over 4 years ago.   There was nothing in Boise like that.

There was a few taps there as well and I remember one of my first visits overhearing semi-panicked phone conversations on troubleshooting the CO2 system that was not working correctly.

Early May, they moved to a permanent location on the west side of Boise and have been there ever since.  Larger space, 3 times as many bottled beers to choose from and 10 taps.   That was when I became a regular. Always something new, usually something I had never seen before.

In May of 2011 an additional location was opened in Boise’s east end at Bown Crossing and did well, managed by Chris Oates.  Several months later, after some differing visions and plans, between Rick and Chris it became clear that “Bier:Thirty” would have to become it’s own entity and the two parted ways.

In Aug 2012 Brewforia opened another location in Eagle.   A location that seemed to have a bit of a more upscale feel and an expanded menu.  Bringing on Ryan Embry of Life’s Kitchen and his culinary repertoire made the place a definite destination for terrific food and great craft  beer.   Even something as simple and cliche’ as a burger is something I can hardly resist every time I’m there.  I am now starting to understand why they call it the “Belly Burger”

The two locations have now been around for a while and there are growler fill specials, trivia nights and other promotions, but there is still and always has been good beer flowing from their taps and bottles waiting patiently in the coolers for folks looking for something they can’t easily find anywhere in Idaho.

SInce Brewforia’s start, there has been at least 5 breweries opening and 2 or 3 bottleshops with their own impressive selection of bottled beer, opening up in the Boise area.  But Brewforia was the pioneer. The trailblazer…the vanguard..the pointman.  Riding the crest of what has become a tidal wave of a craft beer revival in the treasure valley.

I’m just glad to be swimming along with it…sipping as I go.


– Cheers




A visit from the Reverend

Last week, out of the blue I received a direct twitter message asking what the best bars/tap lists/brewpubs in Boise were.  The sender was @revnatcider a fairly new hard cider maker from Portland and was headed this way, talking to bars retailers and distributors in his effort to expand a bit.  I along with a few others replied with our suggestions on where to visit and who to talk to and as it turned out, he stopped by Eagle’s Brewforia during our home-brewers monthly meeting.

The HB club meeting mostly consisted, as it always does,of everyone bringing 1 or two items they had brewed and talking a bit about how they were made.   Including  Jim’s 3 year vertical of his hoilday imperial porter that was very tasty and was a great example of how late/fresh/dry hops flavors can fade over time.

The star of the show this moth,however, 2013-12-19 20.26.15however was Nat and his hard cider he brought from his Portland shop.  “Sacrilege Sour Cherry”, a lacto only  8.5% ABV cider with cherry juice.  Big pie-cherry aroma and just the right amount of sourness.  Quite dry but it somehow kept a lot of that cherry flavor and was very tasty.  His website  is right…  “Expect Kreik Lambic” when you taste this.  The “standard” straight up cider he also brought was also very good.  Clean, dry and flavorful.

This is clearly top notch stuff.  I think the Reverend’s sermon will be well received out here and hope that a cider revival will then soon be upon us.  Hopefully soon his flip-top bottles and distinctive newsprint style labels will start showing up on the shelves of area bottle-shops.


Home Brewpub

I’ve written before, and mentioned several times since, about the recent craft beer explosion in the Boise area.  What I often tell people is 4 years ago there were 4 on premise brewing BrewPubs in town…now there are 9…I think..with 4-6 in various stages of planning, funding, building whatever.

I try to visit each regularly.  10 Barrel, one of the new kids in town, gets a lot of my beer business mainly because they cater to my obsession of seeing something that I’ve never had before, and with 19 or 20 taps, there is a good chance that anytime I stop by there, something I don’t recognize will be on tap that demands my attention.

I have a sentimental thing in my heart though for Sockeye Brewing.  It was the first BP I visited when I saw the light of CraftBeer back in 2004 and the fact that it is just 2 miles and a straight shot from my house, it right away became a bit of a regular.  I fairly quickly had gone through their regular line up and I had come to find out much later that they had all the work they could handle keeping up with demand at their onsite, brewing facility.  I suspect this was probably  why I didn’t very often see many experimentals and “one-offs” from them.

Over the last 10 years, I’ve had almost 50 different beers that have come from the original Ustick/Cole location. The Dagger Falls IPA is their flagship beer,also Purple Haze espresso stout and Wolly Bugger Wheat are  usually on and they are a few of my favorites.

Their new facility a few miles west, will allow some expansion and has already provided the benefits of a canning line and much greater production.  Spotting some of these regular offerings on the shelves of local bottle-shops and grocery stores in the last year or so is a good thing.

Just today I stopped in at the original site after a few hours of Christmas Shopping and was pleasantly surprised to see a new beer on the chalkboard.  “Lightning Creek” Belgian White IPA.  It was delicious and it was good to see an old friend have something new on tap.

Cheers to old friends



Homebrewing Project Progress

I’ve got a couple of “projects” in the pipeline and got a chance to work on each of them tonight.

The Hefeweizen I made a couple months ago was nearly gone and I don’t have enough corny’s or a big enough chest freezer/keggerator to inventory more than a couple batches.  So dumped out the last few quarts remaining to free up that keg.   It was just “OK” anyway and I got a bit bored of it, frankly.  It gets to be a bit of a chore to power though 5 gallons of mediocre beer when you’ve got other things to work on.  This is another argument for bottling I suppose.

Into that keg I transferred the Dopplebock that had been laggering for the last nearly 3 months and turned the temp controller to 24F.  Yup, its going to be an Eisbock. I’ll check it every 12 hours or so and when tipping the keg back and forth reveals that it is getting “slushy” I’ll use CO2 to push out the remaining liquid.  Shooting for about a 20-30% reduction on each of the two steps I pan to do.  Looking forward the that.

The Belgian Tripel finally got racked from Primary into the other 5gal corny I have but since the 24F keggerator was too cold, I just set it in my garage which is in the mid 30s after this cold weather that has come though this week.  Hooked the CO2 up to it and after a few days I’ll see how it’s doing and draw off the yeast that will undoubtedly settle out by then.

I’ve still got the second half of the Berliner-Weisse souring in a 3G carboy.  Haven’t tasted it in a while but I’ll probably bottle that this weekend and see how it turned out.  It is the half that I used the WYeast 5335 as opposed to the spontaneous Lacto I used for the other half.  A bottle of the latter I had the other day and it was great.  Light, tart, exactly the high carbonation I was shooting for and very refreshing especially after a hard workout on the bike trainer.

UPDATE 12-12-13


After a few days the Dopplebock didn’t sound like it was very frozen so I bumped down the temp to 21F and then it started to freeze.  A few days of checking it each night,I guessed that it was about half frozen, and hooked up a “jumper” from the out fitting to another corny’s out fitting and pressurized the source keg about 5psi and just vented the target keg every minute or two.  I filled the target keg, a 2.5G and wasn’t pulling any air yet from the other so there is probably 2.5-3G of mostly beer flavored “sno-cone” left in the other corny.  I’ll probably thaw it and take a gravity reading so I can figure out my ABV of the remaining Eisebock.

The Tripel out in the garaged has been on 25psi at about 35F for the last 5-6 days so I vented it a bit and hooked up a picnic faucet and after running it for a few ounces to pull up the sediment, poured a small glass for myself.  Nice light orange amber and nearly the carbonation level I want.   Still very cloudy, murky even.  Big fruity esters and the classic Belgian yeast aroma. Pretty earthy and muddy flavor, again I think a lot of sludge was stirred up.  I may even transfer it to another keg to help clear it up.   Pretty big alcohol burn, as I think I calc’d it at 10.3%.  So, It’l do the trick.

I’ll likely bring a little of each to an early Christmas work party to share, and in a week is the homebrewers club meeting where I will be able to get some feedback and suggestions.  So I got that going for me.



There is a group of beer enthusiasts in the Boise area that get together a few times a year for the sole purpose of sharing high end craft beer that, under the rules of engagement, are not available in the Boise area.  Guests, (by invite only) typically bring a bottle or 3 of something they’ve gotten in a trade, or brought back from a recent trip. Part of the fun is to try to wow the other attenders by what you set on the sharing table.

I was somehow able to secure an invitation to the latest “Ungettables” gathering last weekend and it was a bit of a whose who there that afternoon.  Head brewers of local beer establishments were there, several were home-brewers and other beer aficionados lined up their offerings on the table that we commandeered in the back room at 10Barrel Brewing.

I had been to one of these before, but that must have been in the infancy of this movement as there were only 5 or so of us that time.  My contribution of a 2008 Dogfish Head World Wide Stout went over pretty well. You don’t want to be “that guy” at these things, whose beer gets pulled out at the very end with a “well..there is this too….anyone want some” ?

This time there were 15 official invites, but a few more were also there and the beer lineup was exceptional.  Included in the attendance was our host, Shawn Kelso, head brewer at 10 Barrel Boise, Kerry Caldwell, brewer of the about to open Edge Brewing, and the facilitator of these gatherings, the @beerpoet himself, Chad Brusse

There were Saisons by Crooked Stave, Stillwater, New Glarus Strawbeery-Ruhbarb and their classic “Belgian Red”, Lost Abey’s “Gift of the Magi”, a Barrel Aged “B.O.R.I.S” by Hoppin’ Frog, and an”OatGoop” by Three Floyd’s.  Lots of others, most of which, if not all were in fact…ungettable to us here in Boise, ID save for this meet-up.

Thanks to those who made it happen, and for the invite.  Here’s looking towards the next one.





Double B@stard Vertical

Downtown Boise’s popular beer bar, BitterCreek Alehouse hosted another special beer night the other day.  I posted last week about their Abyss release party, special but this was Stone’s Double Bastard night.  For 15$ you get a decent sample of the 2011, 2012, and 2013 editions of this in-your-face, obnoxiously offensive beer that you are probably not worthy of, according to popular Stone propaganda. Plus, they throw in the 2012 version that has been aged in red wine barrels.  So a 4 beer line-up that, at over 10% ABV each, you had probably not plan anything  for a while after.   Including driving home from work.  But we’re not talking about that right now.

Stone, refers to this popular american strong ale as “Lacerative”..which I had to look up…

1 : to tear or rend roughly 2 : to cause sharp mental or emotional pain to”  It is the evil big brother of their other very popular ASA Arrogant Bastard .  The “Double” has half again the alcohol, and double the arrogant attitude.  I don’t think Stone would mind if I said, this beer with rip your face off…and then you will order another one.

2013-11-25 15.30.47

The samples I had were interesting in that the older ones faded a bit into more of a sweet fruit, almost melon kind of flavor as the hot IBUs definitely diminished over time, as they are want to do in general  Particularly noticeable was the drop off in this area from the ’12 to the ’11.  The wine barrel aged version had significant vinous slightly sour qualities that I thought were more than subtle.  An interesting effect, though, and it calmed down the overall effect of this brash brew to the point were I genuinely felt somewhat less violated, drinking this particular variant.

And on top of all this, BitterCreek thew in a commemorative glass.  For keeps !

Gotta love these beer, promotional, nerdfest….things.



Tripel Your Pleasure

I’ve been homebrewing for several years including a few years in the middle when I was on some kind of hiatus…but now that I have started upo again in this summer/fall I have been wanting to  try a few styles that are somewhat more adventurous for me.

Historically Ive done a lot of Hefeweizens, Pales, IPAs and a few Stouts and Porters.  A few years ago when hops got real expensive, that was party what got me out of it since most of what I made required quite a bit of them.  When I spec’d out an IPA recipe that was going to cost me as much for hops as it did for malt and yeast, my enthusiasm waned a bit.

Now, hops aren’t that much cheaper but I have gotten interested in a few other styles that are not hoppy, or also quite low gravity. The Berliner-Weisse I made last month, probably the least expensive 5G batch I’ve ever done, the Belgian that I am working on currently has a pretty big grain bill but hardly any spendy hops, and even the Dopplebock I did last month was kind of the same way.

Don’t get me wrong, I still love a good IPA, and I may get around to one of those before long, but these times have forced me into looking at styles that before now seemed a bit too risky or complicated.

This next one will be a Belgian Tripel.  A lot of advice I found online stressed a very simple grain bill.  Pilsener mostly, and  little Munich and Cara-Vienne for color, character and body.  This will be the first time I’ve used sugar, and I’ll go with the traditional Belgian Candy sugar.  That will make up about %10 of the fermentation.

It took me a long time to come around to Belgian beers in general, which might seem a bit strange since that seems to be where most beer nerds go eventually.  Either that or they become hop-heads.  I am more the later but my appreciation for the beers of the lowlands has gained some traction lately.  Maybe it was the Operation Market Garden episode of Band of Brothers that I recently re-watched that did it…   OK, fine, that was the Netherlands technically but Antwerp is only about 70 miles from Eindhoven.

14# Pilsener and a pound each of Light Munich, Cara-Vienne, and Wheat plus 2# of light candi sugar I’ll add to the boil.  Miscalculated my strike temp and had to add more hot water to the mash trying to get up to 150F.   A 1 qt starter of WLP500 which supposedly is the same strain that is used at Chimay for their Grand Reserve (Blue)  Of the Belgian strains, this one has a little more of that fruity ester notes and less of the spicy peppery character.

I pitched the starter at ab 72F and let it do it’s thing and figured it would free-rise a few more degrees.  Which it did.  At full roiling activity it was at about 74.  A little warm, but that’s OK.  Also, the color is quite a bit darker than I was hoping for.  It was nearly a 90 minute boil so that may have added a little color via some caramelization from being “cooked” so long.

Still, interested to see how this turns out.  Looking forward to something a bit different from my brewhouse.  On to Berlin !