Tapped In: Garden City brewery Crooked Flats opens this weekend

The brewery rolls out the beer-soaked carpet at a former Eagle winery.

mdeeds@idahostatesman.comMarch 28, 2014 

The way Boise's craft-beer scene is overflowing, it's no surprise that suds are washing away wineries.

Crooked Flats' tasting room and eatery debuts Saturday, March 29, at 3705 Idaho 16 - formerly Woodriver Cellars winery.

It's the first stage of a transition for Crooked Fence Brewing Co., which will relocate from 5242 W. Chinden Blvd. in Garden City. The brewery is purchasing the 5-acre Eagle property, which it has renamed Crooked Flats.

Marketing Director Kelly Knopp says the destination will be a place to grow Crooked Fence's brand and culture.

"I think most people that have been there know that it's a pretty badass venue," he says. "And if we're really going to get into bigger events and concerts and stuff, that's the kind of a piece of property we would need."

About a dozen weddings had been booked at Woodriver Cellars this summer, he says, and Crooked Flats will honor those commitments. But beginning in summer 2015, the idea is to do fewer weddings and more special events - such as outdoor concerts.

That could be cool. Babbling water, cattails and dancing butterflies aren't just wedding-friendly environmental perks. Bluegrass fans will remember The Del McCoury band performing there in 2005, when it was called The Winery at Eagle Knoll. Indie-rock aficionados loved the Wilco/Fleet Foxes show in 2008.

Crooked Fence's Barrelhouse restaurant at 5181 N. Glenwood St. will not be affected by Crooked Flats. It will stay open. And Crooked Fence will do everything it can to keep its small tasting room on Chinden Boulevard open, too, although there are no guarantees at the moment: "It will all boil down to getting the proper permits to have multiple locations," Knopp says.

Either way, the brewing equipment on Chinden is headed to Crooked Flats - probably by next winter, Knopp says, when the brewery is able to slow down production enough to make the jump.

Despite the fact that Crooked Flats is located outside Boise, Knopp doesn't foresee any challenges with foot traffic in the 60-seat tasting room.

"We've been out there working on it every day for the last couple of weeks," he says, "and we have three to five people stop in every hour: 'Hey, we live up the road or we live behind this place or we live in Emmett.' Everybody seems excited that there's going to be a happy hour there or some food."

Ah, yes - the food. Crooked Flats won't have its full menu available March 29. It will be a bratwurst-and-burger situation that day. A shuttle will run between the Barrelhouse and Crooked Flats from noon to 10 p.m. It will cost $8 each way.

But when Crooked Flats opens for normal hours Wednesday, April 2, you'll find a tapas/burgers/flatbread-oriented menu with 17 items such as a Flats buffalo burger ($14.95), elk finger steaks ($12.95), stuffed peppers ($8.95), blue cheese and caramelized onion flatbread ($8.50) and corned beef tacos ($9.95).

Hours starting April 2: 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. Wednesdays through Fridays, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturdays, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sundays.

CLOUD 9 BREWERY WELCOMES NORTH ENDERS

Next!

It sometimes feels like new breweries are taking a number and opening as quickly as possible. But once you visit Cloud 9 Brewery, a gleaming, four-barrel nanopub at 1750 W. State St., you see how each might be able to find a niche.

Open since St. Patrick's Day, Cloud 9 is cozy but large enough to keep a business humming. Targeting North Enders, it's a neighborhood gathering place focusing on "local" and "sustainable."

Cloud 9 proudly calls itself Idaho's first organic brewery.

"We're just kind of working toward that," says co-owner Maggie Lake, whose husband, Jake, does the brewing. "Not all our beers are 100 percent, because some of the hops we can't get - they're not available yet."

Cloud 9 has up to 12 taps flowing. Six beers are continually brewed, including Fallen Double IPA, a USDA-certified organic ale that comes in at 7 percent alcohol by volume (ABV) and 100-plus on the International Bitterness Units (IBU) scale. Several seasonals are on the beer list, too, including a gruit option perfect for Valentine's Day called Aphrodite Ale. It contains aphrodisiacs including maca, ginseng, saffron, honey, vanilla and tongkat ali - assuming you believe that stuff works, loverboy.

Maggie Lake says the pub food will include specials based on "what's fresh from farms." Current menu standards include an organic, grass-fed ground beef classic burger ($9.50), apple pecan salad ($5.50/$8.95), gluten-free chocolate torte ($6.50) - oh, and hand-cut fries ($3) with sea salt and house-made ketchup.

Hours are 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday. Phone: 336-0681.

"It's been really well-received," Lake says. "We're going through about 300 percent more beer than we thought we would."

ALEFORT OVERFLOWED

If you didn't make it to last weekend's Alefort, the brewers festival arm of Treefort Music Fest in Downtown Boise, you weren't alone.

Oops, maybe you were. It occasionally felt like the entire state was in the tent for a taste of special beers.

Last year, Alefort went through 1,200 taster cups.

This year? That number exploded to 3,500.

"It definitely exceeded expectations," says organizer David Roberts, resident "beer guy" at Bittercreek Alehouse. "The tent was twice as big and it was just as packed."

They ran out of cups Saturday evening and wound up using generic ones Sunday, hastily purchased from Cash and Carry.

Roberts was pleased with the turnout but still felt something was missing, he says. Mimicking the musical component of Treefort, he would like to add panel discussions and industry meetings to the mix at any future Alefort. He envisions representatives from brewing schools attending, and maybe even internships at breweries being offered.

There's no reason that Boise can't be the next Bend, Ore., Roberts says.

"The only thing that's stopping us is how much craft beer we can sell," he says. "As of right now, it doesn't look like there's a ceiling to that."

WOODLAND EMPIRE'S 'MOM AND POP' DUPE

New brewery Woodland Empire Ale Craft, 1114 W. Front St., whipped up lots of attention after erecting a rooftop billboard that mimics nearby Connector signs.

But Woodland Empire president Rob Landerman now says it was "not necessarily the attention that we wanted."

After the Idaho Transportation Department told the brewery to take it down for violating code, Woodland Empire issued a press release through marketing firm Oliver Russell, which created the catchy sign.

Media, including the Idaho Statesman, wrote about the sign controversy - a boon for Woodland Empire.

Brewery founding partner Dusty Schmidt told the Statesman two weeks ago that he and Oliver Russell had expected to hear from the ITD even sooner than they did, and that they were prepared to respond.

He said the media coverage generated "brand awareness that we never could have afforded otherwise."

So they suspected in advance that the sign might get axed by ITD - and were stoked to run with it?

In a follow-up article this week, Boise Weekly described the commotion as "a pre-fabricated PR stunt."

Yep. And I feel sort of duped. The question is, do potential Woodland Empire customers feel the same way? What about the brewery's three other owners?

"Dusty kind of took it upon himself to put the sign up," Landerman says. "My impression was that we were just putting a clever billboard up, not to be a PR stunt."

"That's not how we want to be portrayed," Landerman says. "We're trying to brand ourselves as hand-crafted and not crafty. We're more of like an honest, homespun, mom-and-pop kind of business trying to make good in the community and not fleecing the public for attention."

Let's have a beer. I'm pretty sure all will be forgiven.

Michael Deeds: 377-6407, Twitter: @IDS_Deeds

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