At a beer festival, it’s always best to avoid pounding. Or getting hammered.
But pulling nails?
That’s a rare opportunity that must be savored. Heading into its sixth year, Alefort at Treefort Music Fest in Boise will give drinkers a chance to enjoy something normally reserved for brewmasters and cellar-room staff. Five breweries will bring oak barrels filled with beer that’s being aged. A pair of pliers will be used to remove the nail from the barrel and let beer flow into a cup.
It’s a rare, behind-the-scenes opportunity.
“You get to drink beer straight out of the barrel,” Alefort team member David Roberts says. “The beer is not carbonated. It’s not cold. The beer is just straight from the barrel.”
“Those barrels are alive,” he adds. “It’s a handmade thing, and most people who are interested in beer never get to experience that.”
Nail pulls are just one of the cool perks that help Alefort live up to its ambitious slogan: “Not a glorified beer garden.”
This year’s festival offers several other creative improvements.
For the first time, breweries from outside Idaho are being allowed to pour. This decision was not made lightly. Breweries had to submit an application proposing beers. Twenty-three total breweries — local and regional — will participate in Alefort and pour all sorts of amazing beers.
“It’s not in my nature to say no to good beer,” Roberts explains. “My ultimate goal in including regional breweries was to make the quality of the overall beer just the best that it could be. Not to say that local beer is bad. But there’s a lot of great beer that’s not made in Boise.”
That means Seattle’s Fremont Brewing will pour its regionally famous B-Bomb. Colorado’s New Belgium will bring an Experimental Coffee Sour. Rogue Ales from Oregon will tap a Hazolutely Choctabulous Hazelnut Chocolate Stout. Lagunitas from California will share its High West-ified Imperial Coffee Stout. By downloading the Treefort app, you can peruse all the beers, plus see precisely when they’ll be tapped.
If you’re a fan of barrel aging and sours, get ready to start drooling.
“I think that it’s a really good list,” Roberts says.
While regional breweries have been welcomed into Alefort this year, retailers are no longer allowed. Meanwhile, the number of cideries actually has been increased — to seven. This might seem counterproductive to a beer purist, it makes sense in the Alefort setting.
“I personally think that cider is super food-friendly,” Roberts says. “And I also think it makes Alefort more inclusive.”
Foodfort will happen in the same area as Alefort, so pairing a glass of cider with a bite to eat will be convenient and easy.
Tokens will be $3 and one token buys an 8-ounce beer or cider pour. Certain specialty pours, such as nail pull beers, will require two tokens or be served in 4-ounce increments. Cups, which can be reused, are $3. “The price of the cup is mostly just to incentivize you to hold onto it,” Roberts says. “The goal is to avoid people throwing the cup out when they leave Alefort.”
One other cool new Alefort feature: The Boise-based Swell Artist Collective will present a beer-themed art show. Twenty pieces of beer-inspired art will be on display from local artists. Prints will be for sale.
Noisy, crowded and buzzing, Alefort will be a beer aficionado’s Utopia — a place to experience new tastes, smells and visuals. And, maybe even to fulfill a dream with the yank of a nail.
“The nail pull, for me, is like the essence of what is most romantic and idealistic about craft beer,” Roberts says. “And what we fell in love with when we decided we were crazy for craft beer.”
Sockeye Brewing: Gin Barrel Aged Double Dagger Falls: 3 p.m. Friday, March 24.
Grand Teton Brewing: Cask Strength Imperial Stout in Bourbon Barrels, Dark Sour: 12:15 p.m. Saturday, March 25.
Barbarian Brewing: Wine-barrel-aged Golden Sour, Wine-Barrel-Aged Golden Sour with Peaches, 4:15 p.m. Saturday, March 25.
Odell Brewing: Bourbon Barrel Rye Stout: Noon Sunday, March 26.
Payette Brewing: Culture Clash Bourbon-Barrel-Aged Dubbel: Noon Sunday, March 26.
3 to 8 p.m. Friday, noon to 8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Alefort is open to anyone 21 and over. Alefort cups and beer tokens are sold at the entrance of the Alefort tent near the Main Stage at 12th and Grove streets. Online: treefortmusicfest.com/alefort.