Words & Deeds

How big is Boise’s beer scene? Big enough for Texas brewery to open here

Guns & Oil American Lager is new to the Boise area. At a modest 4.6 percent alcohol by volume (ABV), the brewery describes it as “poundable.”
Guns & Oil American Lager is new to the Boise area. At a modest 4.6 percent alcohol by volume (ABV), the brewery describes it as “poundable.” Guns & Oil

They say everything is bigger in Texas.

Let me pop a cold one and explain why that’s not always true.

Hop farms thrive in Idaho and Washington. Portland is sometimes hailed as the beer capital of the world. Even a city as small as Bend, Oregon, has become a nationally known beer mecca.

“If you want the best beer,” admits Cary Prewitt, founder of Texas-based Guns & Oil Beer, “the Northwest has it.”

Now he’s part of it. Guns & Oil is taking over the original Payette Brewing Co. building at 111 W. 33rd St. in Garden City. The space, which includes a 15-barrel brewery and a taproom, will be the company’s first actual production facility. Founded in a southwest Austin garage in 2013, Guns & Oil has been hiring other breweries to make its line of lagers.

Payette closed its taproom in Garden City after opening a second, larger facility at 733 S. Pioneer St. in Boise in 2016. Although the Garden City site still operated as a brewery, founder Mike Francis began looking to exit. One option was to have another brewery come in “and essentially be a turnkey operation,” Francis said.

Guns & Oil pulled the trigger. The brewery bought Payette’s remaining equipment. It joins a rapidly growing Boise beer scene. In October, two other local breweries celebrated grand openings: Clairvoyant and Lost Grove.

Guns & Oil sells its beer in Texas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Montana, Utah, Wyoming — and, as of a few weeks ago, Idaho.

“We’re new up there,” Prewitt says, “and going wild.”

Guns & Oil’s flagship beer is American Lager, which appeals to mainstream drinkers as well as beer geeks. At only 4.6 percent alcohol by volume (ABV), it can be enjoyed during a lengthy night out with the boys.

“We make beers that are under 5 percent ABV that are approachable, or poundable,” Prewitt says. He chuckles. “I hate the word ‘sessionable.’ ”

Prewitt heard about the Garden City brewery’s availability during a visit to Boise this summer. After wasting two years failing to secure the proper permits in downtown Austin to open a brewery, he jumped at the opportunity.

Prewitt appreciates the idea of making a truly local beer.

“For the most part, you can get ingredients within 500 miles of Boise, Idaho, and make all your beer and make it the best in the country,” he says.

“How am I going to make a beer with Texas ingredients? That’s not possible.”

Guns & Oil beer is brewed in Denver and Fort Worth for now. Prewitt hopes to bring all production in-house as soon as possible.

The Garden City location should be able to brew about 5,000 barrels in its first year, he says, and expand to 10,000. “My goal here is to outgrow the facility within the next two years. That is my goal.”

Guns & Oil should be up and running in Garden City by the end of the year. The taproom will open soon afterward, possibly by late January.

Guns & Oil lager is poured from unique, oil derrick tap handles and sold in 12-ounce cans. In addition to American Lager, the brewery produces seasonal beers such as Wild Bill Wheat Bock. “It’s like Shiner Bock and Blue Moon had a baby,” Prewitt says.

The brewery just launched Western Lager, a 4.0 ABV beer specifically created for Utah, so that it can be sold in bars, restaurants and grocery stores. Like American Lager, a portion of the sales goes to the brewery’s Maverick Fund, which helps entrepreneurs.

“We so far have supported anything from metal workshops to taco shops,” Prewitt says. “Our seasonal series all support Team Rubicon, which is an organization of ex-military vets who work with first responders to be the first into disaster situations. They have played a major role in supporting disaster situations across the U.S. including Idaho.”

Eventually, Guns & Oil might dabble in hoppier beer styles, too. (You know, like every other Boise brewery.) But not immediately.

“We’re going to start with our bread and butter,” Prewitt says, “and build from there. But for the most part, I’ll be drinking other people’s IPAs for a while.”

And about that name? Guns & Oil?

Not all markets are universally receptive, Prewitt admits. Santa Fe, for example? Somewhat challenging.

“They see AK-47s and fracking,” he says. “Not so much guns and oil.”

The Guns & Oil website champions not just “American Lager,” but “U.S.A beer”: “Guns & Oil seeks to be a purveyor of the Great American Values: Boldness, Character, Grit, Opportunity, and Innovation.”

Welcome to Idaho: Land of card-carrying gun lovers.

And oil? Hey, I can drink Guns & Oil after I mow the lawn, but also pour it into my mower. Genius.

“Some people get it,” Prewitt says. “Some people don’t.”

Online: gunsandoil.com.

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