Words & Deeds

Brrr! These awesome Boise beer festivals will get you stoked about November

Winter is almost here, which means it’s time to sip a frosty one.

Two of Boise’s best annual brew festivals will lure thousands of drinkers Downtown in November. Whether you prefer IPAs or sours, stouts or lagers, you’ll want to chill at these celebrations of snow-covered slopes and body-warming beer.

Pray for Snow Winter Ale Festival

▪ Noon to 8 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 11, outdoors in the Republic parking lot at 6th and Grove streets. Price: $25 online at Brown Paper Tickets in advance, $30 at the gate, $3 for non-drinkers, free for children 12 and under.

If you want it all, your prayers have been answered.

Now in its fifth year, Pray for Snow Winter Ale Festival has evolved from a modest Old Boise party into one of the city’s largest, most ambitious beer events.

There will be 93 beers from 47 breweries — plus a rail jam, winter-sports shopping, food, fire pits, music, even cigars.

Speaking of wanting it all, Pray for Snow’s admission price includes unlimited refills. And the beer selection just gets better every year.


“I don’t want 45 different IPAs,” festival founder Jason Kovac explains. “We kind of go through and say, ‘Well, how many stouts do we have? How many porters? How many seasonals?’ There’s some really cool high-end, rad beer for almost every tent.”

Prefer stouts? This year’s selections include Founders coffee-powered Breakfast Stout, Stone Xocoveza winter-spiced mocha stout and Firestone Walker’s Mocha Merlin Stout — not to mention New Holland’s barrel-aged Dragon’s Milk Stout, which is new to Boise. More of an IPA guy? Sip Georgetown’s Bodhizafa or Ballast Point’s Grapefruit Sculpin.

Only drink local? You’ll find Boise Brewing, Bear Island, Barbarian, Bella, Highlands Hollow, Crooked Fence, Payette, White Dog, Sockeye, Mother Earth and other Idaho favorites.

Whaaaat? You’re a Bud person? No prob. Bud Light, Coors Light and Miller Lite will be poured in the “taste-off tent,” where discerning palates will attempt to guess which is which. “Just a fun game I came up with like the Pepsi vs. Coke challenge,” says festival organizer Mila Perry. “You get to taste each one then write down your answers.”

Kovac estimates that about 3,200 people attended Pray for Snow last year, and 2,500 taster cups were distributed. “It’s kid-friendly and family-friendly,” he explains, “so some people don’t drink.”

Bogus Basin will set up a miniature tubing hill for kids to slide on. Big kids will compete in the annual snowboard-and-ski rail jam near the back, where a DJ pumps out music.

The Boise Curling Club will teach festivalgoers how to play the Olympic winter sport. Area ski resorts and snowboard shops will showcase their wares. Sturman’s Smoke Shop will hawk stogies at a cigar tent.

The Shed and Ranch Club will sell hot food to help soak up the beer. By the way, you can buy advance tickets to Pray for Snow at those establishments, as well as at Tom Grainey’s, Whiskey Bar and Silly Birch. Kovac owns those bars.

Have we mentioned that the weather is supposed to be 50 degrees? And that the Boise State-Colorado State football game doesn’t start until after the festival ends? Head across the street to Tom Grainey’s or around the corner to Silly Birch for the 8:30 p.m. kickoff. “It will be televised in all my bars,” Kovac says.

With so many diverse groups involved — the Boise High School band even plans to do a lap around the festival at 6:30 p.m. — Kovac is expecting big crowds at this year’s Pray for Snow.

“We have 3,000 taster cups,” he says. “If we can sell through those — awesome.”

Pray for Snow includes a rail jam competition each year. Austen Smith Bogus Basin

Payette Brewing’s Black Friday

▪ 1 to 10 p.m. Friday, Nov. 24, inside Payette Brewing Co., 733 S. Pioneer St. Price: Free admission, $4 for a drink token, which includes a taster glass. Advance packages online at Eventbrite. Must be 21 or older to attend.

Pour a little out for your homies — those poor fools fighting the crowds on the biggest shopping day of the year.

While they’re slogging through a jam-packed mall on Black Friday, you’ll be toasting the greatest holiday gift of all: dark beers.

If you’re a fan of porters and stouts, Boise doesn’t get any better than Payette Brewing’s Black Friday. Approximately 40 beers will be tapped — many cellared for years by Payette founder Mike Francis.

This year’s keg list includes three years of Deschutes Black Butte Porter, two years of Stone W00tstout, plus gems such as Fremont Barrel Aged Dark Star, Sierra Nevada Cocoa Coconut Barrel Aged Narwhal and Anderson Valley Wild Turkey Bourbon Barrel Stout.

Payette has an arsenal of its own beers, too: five years of Twelve Gauge Imperial Stout, and all kinds of barrel-aged variants, ranging from Mexican Chocolate to Salted Caramel.

If you wind up loving those last two? You’re in luck: They’ll be sold in 22-ounce bottles at the Black Friday festival, which serves as the annual release of Twelve Gauge Barrel Aged Imperial Stout.

Got your skis waxed? Payette is getting bottles waxed for Black Friday, which serves as the release for barrel aged Twelve Gauge and its variants. Payette Brewing Co.

Beers at Black Friday are served in 5-ounce pours. Keep in mind that the alcohol by volume (ABV) numbers are often as high as everyone’s spirits. So savor, don’t guzzle — or you could be looking at blackout Friday.

Tokens are $4. Use them for any of the festival beers, or non-dark Payette beer options, Black Friday merchandise and Twelve Gauge bottles.

Last year, Black Friday was moved inside the brewery for the first time — both the taproom and the brew house. That will be the situation this year, too. “People loved it,” Payette marketing director Paige Coyle says.

One change: The dark beers will be poured in the production area to help keep the taproom from getting too packed.

Food trucks will sling grub. Live music will crank. Smiles will abound.

Last year, Payette ran out of its 1,000 taster glasses four hours before the festival ended — meaning they had to switch to plastic cups. This year, they’ll have 2,000 commemorative snifters on hand.

At nine hours, Black Friday is an unusually long brew festival. Consequently, it attracts a variety of festivalgoers: Those who plan to come and go early, those wanting to unwind after a long shopping day — and those up for an all-day sipping session.

The crowds come and go in waves, Coyle says.

“It’s definitely spread out,” she adds. “It’s kind of got a different vibe.”

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