Brewer James Long and his wife, BreAnne Hovley, have carved out a pretty sweet business selling sour beers.
After using Kickstarter to help launch Barbarian Brewing in Garden City in October of 2015, the couple wasn’t exactly planning to open a second taproom less than two years later in Downtown Boise.
“That was not even a thought,” says Hovley, the brewery’s business manager.
On Friday, Barbarian Brewing will barrel into the thick of Downtown Boise’s drinking scene. The Barbarian Brewing Downtown Taproom opens at 3 p.m. at 1022 W. Main St., next door to Hannifan’s Cigar Store.
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It’s not exactly a Barbarian invasion. The modest, five-barrel brewery is simply bringing its beer closer to customers, who don’t always want to travel to Garden City. Long and Hovley prefer selling beer in-house rather than fighting for tap handles across the competitive Treasure Valley.
Barbarian produces all sorts of beers — about 600 barrels annually. But as the head brewer at Idaho’s “first dedicated barrel house,” Long has built an enthusiastic following by emphasizing sour and barrel-aged beers. The brewery has 160 club members who pay $200 annually for special bottles and other perks — such as an invite to Barbarian Downtown’s pre-opening Thursday.
Do you enjoy sharing stories about your buddy Brett? (That’s slang for Brettanomyces, a wild yeast.) Or find the concept of itty-bitty microbe critters fascinating? Long is your man. His wild side is evident in the brewery’s current stock of 105 filled oak barrels. About 95 of those contain beers influenced by souring agents or wild yeast.
“James does really well and really enjoys making the sours,” Hovley explains. “So that’s definitely our tendency. We only have two clean barrel-aged beers in the works right now. That’s mainly because of the size of our facility. We have our bourbon-barrel-aged imperial stout, The Morrigan, and then we have our Scottish ale, The Dirk, aging in scotch barrels right now.”
Barbarian Downtown will open with 24 tap handles — 23 pouring Barbarian beers, and one pouring cider from Meriwether Cider Co., which is a few doors down from Barbarian’s Garden City brewery and taproom at 5270 W. Chinden Blvd.
Barbarian Downtown also will sell beer in 22-ounce bottles to pour immediately or take home. “Our whole cooler is stocked with bottles,” Hovley says, “and we’ve got growlers as well.” New to Barbarian? Grab a bottle of Beta Wolf 2.0, a sour IPA brewed with mango and passion fruit.
Not a fan of tart beers? The beer menu includes sections such as “hoppy,” “sessionable,” “dark and malty” and “Belgian.” Barbarian will open with six IPAs on draft, including Space Wolf, an East Coast-style IPA.
But if you do enjoy acidic, oak-aged beers? Pucker up, bud. The beer menu’s largest category, by a mile, is “tart and funky.” It contains 11 beers affected by fruit, wine barrels and other creative flair.
“We’ve been kind of been hoarding barrel-aged beer over the summer and preparing for the opening,” Hovley says.
Wetos Locos food cart will set up in front of Barbarian Downtown during opening weekend. You also can grab a bag of tasty City Peanut Shop snacks on a shelf next to the bar. Plus, Calle 75 Street Tacos co-owner Mike Weems says he plans to cater to Barbarian customers after his new restaurant debuts around the corner at 110 N. 11th St. (“We’re shooting for an October opening,” Weems says, adding: “We will also have a late-night walk up window directly across from the Neurolux.”)
After Barbarian Downtown’s grand opening Friday, the taproom’s summer hours will be noon to 11 p.m. Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday and noon to 10 p.m Sunday. The taproom will stay open later on weekends, Hovley says, if demand warrants it.