If you haven't taken the hilly, mostly barren journey to Boise lately, you might be surprised at how huge the local beer scene has become. From old standbys like Sockeye to newer outfits like Payette and Crooked Fence—both available around Bend—there's truly something for everyone. The selection's constantly growing, too: Haff Brewing debuted in Boise bars just last week, pushing a watermelon-flavored wheat ale that would make a killer summer crusher.
At the center of this scene is 10 Barrel Brewing Company's Boise brewpub, located right in the middle of downtown (conveniently nearby the PreFunk growler-fill shop, a great place to sample the length and breadth of Idaho beer in one place). It's been open since April 2013 and has definitely found its place in town. The pub was filled with drinkers and their families, even on a cold Monday evening in December, and despite a pending legal challenge, launched by the Idaho Beer and Wine Distributors Association that questions the pub's validity as a small brewery storefront after the recent Anheuser-Busch buy out (read more at bendsource.com).
If your mind chiefly associates 10 Barrel with 90-minute waits for tables and dogs occupying every square inch of the outdoor patio, the Boise pub will wow you. The interior is roomy, wideopen and massive, easily tripling the Bend location's size, filled with biergarten-style tables and an impressive brew system run by Shawn Kelso, former brewmaster at Barley Brown's. The menu is fairly similar to Bend's, heavy on the hearty pizza and sandwiches, but the pour system is much larger, offering 23 taps of 100-percent 10 Barrel goodness.
What's on tap? No major surprises, actually. The extra tap space lets 10 Barrel offer more one-off beers at once, from the Warwick's Best English-style bitter to the dark and chewy American Brown—most of which have been sold in Bend, albeit not for long. There were a few Boise-exclusive beers on offer this week, though, including the Mother Faucher red ale and a medium-bodied brew flavored with four different types of Idaho-grown peppers. There's major potential here, and it's clearly rubbing off on all of Boise's young breweries.