Michael Deeds: Tapped In — Spring beers are in bloom at Boise breweries

Boise - The Idaho StatesmanApril 11, 2014 

  • Fresh Squeezed hits Boise

    Whether you've had a pint at a local pub or just seen six-packs on store shelves, you've probably noticed the eye-catching new Fresh Squeezed IPA from Deschutes Brewery in Bend, Ore. New to the Boise market (at least in a mainstream distribution capacity), it's technically not a spring release - it's a beer that made its way from experimental taps to the year-round lineup. But you'll be hard-pressed to find an IPA that tastes and smells more like the balmy time of year; the nose is flat-out tantalizing. Light, fruity, citrus notes run wild in this 6.4 ABV/60 IBU liquid, which derives its refreshing magic from citra and mosaic hops. Summer patio sustenance at its finest.

Birds are chirping. Flowers are blooming. Beers are flowing:

• The Ram Restaurant and Brewery, 709 E. Park Blvd., Boise, will release its award-winning Bannock St. Mai Bock on April 21. The Ram is one of at least two Boise breweries (Sockeye being another) that makes a nod to Germany with a maibock in spring.

"It's all about tradition," Ram head brewer Jake Schisel says. " 'Mai' meaning 'May' in German. Before winter would hit in Germany, they would brew this beer and then it would cellar all winter long. And then as soon as spring came around, that's the beer they would tap. That's the real simple history of it."

Maibock is normally lighter in color and a bit less malty than a traditional rich, toasty bock. Bannock St. Mai Bock, which you'll find at the Boise and Meridian Ram locations, comes in at 7.5 percent alcohol by volume (ABV) and 34 International Bitterness Units (IBU). It won a silver in 2007 at the North American Brewers Association awards.

Other Ram seasonals already pouring this spring include Rabbit Punch Irish Red ale and Clearwater Kolsch - also award winners - and the new Cease and Desist Black IPA.

• Need to spring clean that Winterfest happiness, er, hoppiness off your tongue? Wean yourself with a Maibock Seasonal Lager at Sockeye Grill & Brewery, 3019 N. Cole Road. (I'd like to sip Sockeye's Winterfest Seasonal Ale year-round. Like spring skiing, it's hard to let go.) Clocking in at 6.5 ABV/17 IBU, it's medium-bodied and darker than the Ram's version. It's closer to a traditional German-style bock, evoking a satisfying bread-laced vibe. It won a silver at last year's NABA awards. Four-packs of 16-ounce cans are in Idaho and eastern Washington.

• 10 Barrel Brewing Co., 830 W. Bannock St., released its spring seasonal on - whaaaaa? Jan. 15? "Yes, we run a little early," admits 10 Barrel marketing guru Bec Milgrom.

This red ale's name doesn't instill confidence - Project: Failed (6.7 ABV, 65 IBU) - but it's all in fun. Check the description: "Just to be clear, we completely failed on this project. We tried to do something mind-blowingly awesome but just couldn't pull it off, so instead we were forced to settle with releasing our gold-medal award-winning red ale. Lesson learned? Probably not."

You'll find it on tap, in 22-ounce bottles and in six-packs in Idaho, Washington and Oregon.

• Payette Brewing Co., 111 W. 33rd St., recently released Rodeo Rye Pale (4 ABV, 35 IBU). It's on draft and in six- and 12-packs of cans - and not just in Idaho, but in Utah and Oregon. Hence, some extra effort put into a clever marketing description: "Unlike a real rodeo, the aroma of passion fruit, peaches and mangos fills the air with this spring seasonal. Rodeo is a single-hop rye, pale-style beer. Citra hops give it a tropical fruit nose and flavor with a spicy, rye kick. This is a sessionable beer, which means this might be your first, but it most definitely won't be your last Rodeo."

• Crooked Fence Brewing, 5242 Chinden Blvd., has cranked up Pedal Powered Pale Ale (4.8 ABV, 35 IBU). This is a beer you'll see until fall.

"It's a pale style with lemon zest, very crisp and refreshing," marketing director Kelly Knopp explains.

Crooked Fence will donate $10 to the Boise Bicycle Project for every keg sold, as well as $1 for every Boise Bicycle Project-logoed bottle cap returned to the brewery.

• Lower-alcohol IPAs are becoming all the rage, but Self-Titled Session IPA definitely isn't a pale ale in disguise, says Woodland Empire Ale Craft, 111 W. Front St. This 4.2 ABV/50 IBU brew - on tap next week - "drinks just like an IPA," the brewery promises, "only it won't keep you down. Perfect for a spring bike ride, working in the garden, mowing the lawn! Made with Bravo, Chinook and Cascade hops in the kettle and dry hopped with Meridian and Mosaic hops for a huge, floral, tropical nose."

Also expected in a couple of weeks is Return of the Rivers Porter (5.6 ABV, 25 IBU): "Idaho springs are still quite chilly and this porter will serve you well. .... Full of roasty chocolate and subtle hop spicing." It's named after "The Return of the Rivers," a 1957 poem by Tacoma-born counterculture novelist Richard Brautigan. Consequently, you know this beer has amazing taste - particularly in poets.

Michael Deeds: 377-6407, Twitter: @IDS_Deeds

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