If you’re a brewer at Payette Brewing Co. in Boise, you’re part of a rotation of two-month shifts at the brewery’s former Garden City headquarters.
While your co-workers crank out vats of popular recipes such as Blood Orange Rustler at Payette’s expansive new production facility, you concoct smaller, experimental batches. Payette’s old brewhouse has evolved into its unofficial mad-scientist lab.
That’s where brewer Matt Watterson crafted a tasty schwarzbier — a traditional style of black, German lager.
After tasting the beer, Payette staffers agreed: This puppy needed to be entered in a competition.
Last month, Payette’s Schwarzbier won gold in the Dark Lager category at the San Diego International Beer Competition. Payette’s High Side American Wheat also took home bronze in the American Wheat Ale division. The competition is dominated by California breweries, but last year, it had 1,374 entries from 254 breweries in 28 states and 14 countries.
Mother Earth Brew Co. of Vista, Calif. — which opened a Nampa brewery in 2016 — also picked up gold. Its Renown Brown wowed judges in the American-Style Brown Ale category.
Breweries that won awards will have their beers served June 16-18 at the San Diego International Beer Festival, the West Coast’s largest beer festival. Payette hopes to send a staffer to represent the brewery, marketing director Paige Coyle says.
It’s fun to see how an Idaho brewery fares against heavy hitters in California such as Ballast Point and Stone. But the biggest benefit of beer competitions is the constructive criticism from judges, Coyle says. “It’s cool winning medals, but it’s definitely more about the feedback we like to get.”
Payette normally enters two or three competitions each year, Coyle says. It can be costly to enter. Most local breweries pick and choose. If they’re savvy, they seek out niche categories among the oceans of IPAs and other popular styles.
This was the first time Payette entered the San Diego contest.
“We haven’t done a ton,” Coyle says. “That’s where it’s kind of getting fun. As these guys are brewing awesome beers over in Garden City — stuff we don’t normally brew — we come across some winners in our mind. And so we submit them.”
Earlier this year, Idaho breweries Sockeye Brewing and Wallace Brewing earned props at the Best of Craft Beer Awards in Bend, Ore. Sockeye’s Maibock spring seasonal won gold in the Bock or Doppelbock category, Huggy Bear Dark Sour took silver in the American-Style Sour Ale division, and Power House Porter earned silver in Brown Porter. Wallace Brewing won gold for its 1910 Black Lager in the German-Style Schwarzbier category. (Hey, we might need to side-by-side that one and Payette’s Schwarzbier soon, right?)
Sockeye has stacked up significant hardware in recent years. It’s won multiple awards at the national granddaddy of brew events, the Great American Beer Festival (GABF) in Denver.
So far, Payette hasn’t cracked the winners’ circle at GABF. But after taking gold in San Diego, Payette probably will include Schwarzbier among its GABF entries in 2017, Coyle says.
Win or lose, it’s always worth it for the feedback.
“It would be cool, though,” she admits, “to be at GABF and walk up on stage and accept a medal.”
Payette, Mother Earth anniversary parties
▪ Payette Brewing Co. and Bogus Basin Mountain Recreation Area are celebrating a joint anniversary party. Dubbed “A Local Thing,” it’s from 5 to 9 p.m. on Friday, May 12, in the Payette beer garden at 733 S. Pioneer St.
Payette is turning six years old. Bogus is turning 75. The two organizations plan to start promoting each other’s brands this year.
The evening will include the official release of Hoop & Stave No. 6, a red-wine-barrel-aged saison ale. Payette founder Mike Francis will lead brewery tours starting at 6 p.m., which include free beer samples. There will be specials in the tap room and garden. Mister. BBQ and Soda Stop food trucks will provide food.
Bogus Basin will bring displays providing history of the ski resort, plus offer demos of bicycles rented on the mountain.
Payette and Bogus are starting to cobrand merchandise such as shirts and sweatshirts. And why not? Beer drinkers and skiiers/snowboarders often come from similar demographics.
Eventually, Payette plans to create a year-round beer specifically for Bogus Basin that will be available in cans, on the mountain and at the brewery.
▪ Mother Earth Brew Co. opened its Nampa brewery and tap room at 1428 Madison Ave. in 2016. But its original location in Vista, Calif. — founded in 2010 — is the inspiration for an anniversary party Saturday, May 13, in Nampa.
Rare beers and special releases will be poured at the event, which serves as a launch party for Mother Earth’s triple IPA release, Big Mother Anniversary IIIPA. Along with that massive brew, you’ll find a bourbon-barrel-aged version of last year’s Big Mother, plus Quit Stalin bourbon-barrel-aged Russian imperial stout, Imagination Land golden stout, Fantasy Island coconut brown, Big John imperial brown, Power of Love IPA, Boo Koo IPA, Cali Creamin’ vanilla cream ale, Sin Tax imperial peanut butter stout, and a four-year vertical of Four Seasons. Also on tap: Live music and food from Homestead food truck.
American Craft Beer Week is here
In Idaho? Not so much. Based on event listings at the official website, Gem State participation is a bit underwhelming — with an exception or two.
▪ Boise’s dependable party host, Payette Brewing, 701 S. Pioneer St., will beckon drinkers pretty much daily.
Payette will host a themed brewery tour from 5:30 to 6 p.m. every day. Topics will range from the process of canning beer (May 16) to a women-focused “Fem(ALE) Strong Ale Release Party” (May 17). All tours include free beer samples. All you have to do is show up. Payette also will have a different featured beer daily, meaning you’ll find discounted pints, sixers and select merchandise. (The $7 six packs of Rustler IPA on May 19 should attract a few fans.) Also, a weeklong stamp card for pint purchases will reward drinkers who show up on the final Sunday for a “Kill the Keg Party.” For example, have seven stamps? You get a free pitcher.
Other Treasure Valley breweries and beer destinations are sure to offer promotions and events during America Craft Beer Week, too — even if they aren’t as high profile as Payette’s.
▪ Sockeye Brewing is planning a “Flights and Bites” beer and food pairing at PreFunk Nampa, 1214 1st St. South, from 6 to 8 p.m. May 18. Four bite-sized courses paired with a four-beer Sockeye flight will cost $15. The beers: Hopnoxious Imperial IPA, Sour Puss American Sour, Otter Bar Quad and Barrel Aged Seven Devils Imperial Stout. The food: Still being finalized at press time.
▪ PreFunk in Nampa also will host daily events highlighting various breweries. Check the bar’s Facebook page for more.
▪ Cloud 9 Brewery, 1750 W. State St., will host For the Love of Craft, an outdoor beer festival featuring local breweries (and a bit of wine and cider). The 21-and-older event runs from noon to 8 p.m. May 20 and costs $35 advance at eventbrite.com, or $45 at the gate. That gets you 20 tokens and a commemorative sample cup. Urban Smoke and B-Town Bistro food trucks will sell grub. Live music is scheduled.
Belching Beaver comes to Idaho
In the increasingly competitive beer world, it helps to have a memorable name.
I’ll be dammed if Belching Beaver Brewery doesn’t fit that bill.
The San Diego County brewery has been launching its beers in Idaho this week. You’ll find Belching Beaver beers around Boise in cans, bottles and on draft.
Like Nampa brewery Mother Earth Brew Co., Belching Beaver was started in Vista, California. Also like Mother Earth, Belching Beaver offers a peanut butter stout in six-packs of cans. (Belching Beaver’s peanut butter sixers are $11.99 at the Boise Co-op. It’s also sold in 22-ounce bottles, aka bombers, but those aren’t currently stocked.)
This might sound a little nuts, but Peanut Butter Milk Stout (5.3 percent ABV) is Belching Beaver’s No. 1 seller. When I drank it a couple of years ago, I got a Nutter Butter vibe. Its cousin, Viva La Beaver! — a peanut butter-flavored Mexican chocolate milk stout (7.5 percent ABV) — also has arrived on Boise store shelves in bombers ($6.99 at the Co-op).
Other Belching Beaver beers to watch for include Me So Honey (honey wheat ale), Here Comes Mango IPA, Hop Highway IPA and seasonal Orange Vanilla IPA.