Every Boise beer person who drives by 9th and Bannock streets and sees the construction fences around the brick building on the northeast corner has the same questions: When is 10 Barrel Brewing going to open its brewpub? And what will it be like?
Well, the short answers are simple. The 10 Barrel folks say they should be open in mid-April, barring any unexpected setbacks. As for what it's going to be like, well, the answer to that is like nothing else Downtown.
Right now, the inside of 10 Barrel is a hive of activity - all clanging metal and shouting as dozens of workers transform the gutted building. To get started, the construction crews basically restored the building to its original state circa 1937, stripping it down to the brick walls. All the ceiling beams and ductwork are now exposed. A new concrete floor was poured. Electrical and plumbing improvements were made.
Now all that empty space is getting filled with brewpub stuff. This is going to be a big drinking and dining space, with a bar and patio next to the sidewalk on the southeast side, massive garage doors that will open to the outside on the west side, and a brewhouse (the fermentors, bright tanks, etc.) right in the middle of the pub, without the glass walls you might see in other places.
"We want it to feel like you are just walking into a brewery. You'll be able to see it, smell it, hear it ... It's all right here," Garrett Wales said last Friday, pointing to the spot where (not surprisingly) a 10- barrel brewing system will be in the middle of the brewpub. Wales is a partner and founding member of 10 Barrel Brewing, which is based in Bend, Ore.
That's where 10 Barrel Boise brewer Shawn Kelso will be making local-only libations. Kelso is well-known to many Treasure Valley beer geeks for his work at Baker City's Barley Browns brewpub. (For instance, Kelso is an early adopter of the Cascadian Dark Ale style, also known as the black IPA).
The brewpub will also have a barrel-aging room and 20 taps going at all times. Kelso expects to have 15 or so 10 Barrel beers on tap at all times, split between staple beers from Bend and Boise-only brews.
The menu will feature pizza (a big seller at 10 Barrel's Bend pub) and American pub cuisine, Wales said. A chef hasn't been hired, but that person will shape the menu and use as many locally and regionally produced ingredients as possible.
"Our chef can walk over to the Saturday market, buy some stuff, and have it on the menu that night," Wales said. "We are thrilled by all the possibilities here."
The bar area will have TVs but the dining room will not.
"We like sports and stuff as much as anybody, but for the dining area, we want people to enjoy the company they are with and the atmosphere," Wales said.
Having a bustling new brewpub in the Downtown core is going to be really cool. The restaurant and bar areas will be able to serve about 150 people. It's also going to extend the entertainment district down a block and get people moving around more.
With the well-documented roadblock from the state of Idaho behind them, Wales and Kelso say they are both excited to begin - even if it is months later that they expected to.
"It was such a grueling battle at times ... there were a lot of discussions about how maybe we should just walk away," Wales said. "If we hadn't hired Shawn, well .... I'm glad we stuck with it. Now look at all this. We are just very excited about the possibilities right now."
Here's the short version of what happened. The Idaho Department of Lands owns the Sherm Perry Building at 9th and Bannock. The IDL agreed to lease the building to 10 Barrel in November 2011 for a brewpub. Before any construction could begin, the Idaho State Police division of Alcohol Beverage Control told 10 Barrel that it couldn't sell any beer made in Oregon at the Boise pub. (The ABC is the same operation that put the kibosh on infused liquor at Downtown restaurants earlier this year, for those of you keeping score).
Bottom line: The state of Idaho leased 10 Barrel the building before the state of Idaho told the company it couldn't operate there.
To get around this problem, 10 Barrel eventually agreed to sell any beer it made at its main brewing facility in Bend to a distributor in Idaho, and then buy it back from that distributor to sell in the brewpub. The beers Kelso makes in Boise can be sold directly to the public at the brewpub. So 10 Barrel has to buy about half its own beer from a distributor to sell it at the pub in Boise.
Idaho alcohol laws, everybody!
We Boiseans should feel fortunate that 10 Barrel stuck with it. The brewpub has hired 70 people and plans to hire about 70 more before it opens. The company invested several hundred thousand dollars to help rehabilitate an old state building into a Portland-esque brewpub. And 10 Barrel will end up paying the state of Idaho about $2.6 million over the 15-year term of the lease.
It would be nice if the Legislature built a fix into Idaho code for the 10 Barrel folks, but that would require common sense, which is in short supply when it comes to alcohol laws. This is perhaps a subject for another column.
I have also heard some grumbling from local beer people about an Oregon brewery moving into Idaho. Which is just ridiculous. Anybody with money and vision from Idaho could have leased the building and a put a brewery in. They just didn't do it.
Patrick Orr: 377-6219, Twitter: @IDS_Beer
Patrick Orr's beer column runs the first Friday of the month.