After an incredibly long and historic winter, beer enthusiasts are more than ready to trade those coffee-dark stouts and spicy winter ales for lighter brews that flow from the taps now that the birds have started chirping again. Springtime ales and bright IPAs are a harbinger that the season has officially changed.
“On the first nice day, I noticed people in the taproom were already swapping darker beers for lighter-bodied ales,” County Line Brewing’s Zack Kiehl says.
Kiehl and his wife, Laura, own the Garden City craft brewery that recently celebrated its second anniversary. They use a seven-barrel brewing system to produce small batches of flagship and seasonal beers, including Barnwood Brown Ale, Porch Swing Porter and the popular Shade Tree IPA.
On April 1, the brewery introduced its first-ever double IPA, a super-hoppy brew that’s 9 percent alcohol by volume, aptly called Kiehl’D Over. It’s available on draft and in 22-ounce bottles.
“This is my wife’s first recipe. We worked on it for a while to get it right,” he says.
“I would call it dangerous. It’s big and hoppy, and it hits you in the face with citrus.”
In addition to that potent brew, Kiehl has been perfecting a new pale ale (name to be determined later) that will hit the taproom in May. It’s a reincarnation of a pale-style ale that he made last year.
“It’s a similar recipe, but this one is a little more hoppy. I guess you could call it a 2.0,” Kiehl says.
Stop by County Line Brewing’s taproom, at 9115 W. Chinden Blvd., for a taste of these new brews. County Line is open 3 to 8 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays, 3 to 10 p.m. Fridays, noon to 10 p.m. Saturdays and noon to 6 p.m. Sundays.
Other local springtime beers
Many Boise-area craft breweries put out incredibly drinkable ales and lagers this time of year.
Sockeye Brewing (sockeyebrew.com) starts producing Maibock Seasonal Lager each February, and it typically runs through the spring months. The German-inspired bock beer (available on tap and in cans) is as malty as the day is long, balanced with bright, hoppy notes.
During the springtime, Sockeye also makes a Velvet Falls Cream Ale (keg only) that’s pale in color and boasts malty notes and a sweet creaminess on the finish. This smooth-drinking beer comes out in May.
Payette Brewing (payettebrewing.com) puts out a sipper called Rodeo Rye Pale Ale (available on tap and in cans year-round). The pale-style ale is made with Citra hops, giving it a pronounced spiciness that’s set off by a tropical essence. It’s a sessionable brew (meaning it’s only 4 percent alcohol by volume), so you can quaff a few cans after mowing the lawn without getting too buzzed.
Head over to Boise Brewing (boisebrewing.com) in the Central Addition district for a pint of Fair Dig Irish Red Ale. This springtime brew gets made with an Irish base malt, noble hops and Irish ale yeast. The medium-bodied ale goes down smooth and finishes on the dry side.
White Dog Brewing
No firm date has been set, but White Dog Brewing Co. (whitedogbrewing.com) is shooting for a mid-May opening in the former TableRock Brewery space, at 705 W. Fulton St. in Downtown Boise. Most recently, Grind Modern Burger and PostModern Brewers gave it a go in that spot, but the joint venture didn’t last long and closed in early 2016.
White Dog Brewing, a Montana-based craft brewery founded in 2015, will maintain around 12 to 15 tap handles of house brews, including an IPA, scotch ale, pale ale and blond ale. You’ll also likely find a blood orange hefeweizen and a double dry-hopped IPA. In addition to those beers, brewers and co-owners Troy and Joe Moore plan to resurrect a few select TableRock recipes for nostalgia’s sake.
The brewery will use the pre-existing 15-barrel brewing system, which is expected to pump out up to 2,500 barrels of beer annually. The beers will be sold in kegs, 22-ounce bottles and 12-ounce cans.
Unlike its predecessors, White Dog is not getting into the restaurant game. Instead, the new Smoke & Thyme food trailer will be set up in the alley near Fulton Street and Capitol Boulevard to feed people at the brewery and at Longdrop Cider Co., which debuted earlier this year just around the corner next to Reel Foods Fish Market.
Celebrate Idaho beer
Raise a glass and hop to it! Idaho Brewers United and Idaho Tourism have declared April as the inaugural Idaho Craft Beer Month, and breweries, taprooms, retailers and restaurants are celebrating with special events and promotions.
There are tap takeovers of Idaho brews at many locations through the end of the month, for instance. See a list of events at IdahoCraftBeerMonth.com.
Mountain Brewers’ Beer Fest
Buy tickets now for the 23rd annual Mountain Brewers’ Beer Fest on June 3 at the Sandy Downs horse racing track (6855 S. 15th E.) in Idaho Falls.
The popular event, slated from noon to 5 p.m., is put on by the North American Brewers Association. The event showcases around 100 craft breweries that will be on hand pouring more than 300 styles of handcrafted beers. Sounds like sudsy heaven for beer geeks.
There will also be live music, food vendors, raffles and a silent auction that benefits local charities.
For advance-purchase tickets ($40 per person), go to northamericanbrewers.org. No ticket sales will be available at the gate. You must be 21 or older to attend the event.
Road-trip brewery: Grand Teton Brewing
Since we are on the topic of beer and eastern Idaho, why not take a little trip to Idaho’s Teton Valley for a taste of handcrafted brews at Grand Teton Brewing (grandtetonbrewing.com).
Max Shafer was recently promoted to brewmaster, and he and his crew produce a multitude of mainstay and seasonal beers at the award-winning brewery in Victor. Stop by the taproom (430 Old Jackson Highway) for a pint or two of Teton Range IPA.
Other flagship brews include Sweetgrass American Pale Ale, Old Faithful Golden Ale and 208 Session Ale. And be sure to try the Howling Wolf Weisse Bier, a Bavarian-style wheat beer, before it’s retired in September. These beers are also available in six-packs of 12-ounce bottles at the brewery’s retail shop.
If you are looking for seasonal beers, Grand Teton has got you covered in that department as well. Try a pint of hopped-up Lost Continent Double IPA or Snarling Badger Berliner Weisse, a German-inspired summer beer that’s light-bodied and full of zest. The brewery also puts out a Brewers’ Series line of beers (in 11.2-ounce bottles) that includes barrel-aged brews, sours, blends and fruit beers. Grand Teton is also known for its craft-made sodas such as kettle-brewed root beer and vanilla cream soda.
The taproom is open from 1 to 8 p.m. daily.
James Patrick Kelly, the Idaho Statesman’s restaurant critic, is the author of the travel guidebook “Moon Idaho.”