Many beer consumers live by this hometown philosophy. It feels good to sip local beer while supporting neighborhood businesses. It also increases the odds of enjoying fresh beer, which is particularly important to IPA aficionados.
Alefort, the annual three-day brew festival at Treefort Music Fest in Downtown Boise, is taking Idaho beer appreciation to an ambitious new level. In addition to a diverse selection of outstanding beers from local and regional breweries — ranging from sours to barrel-aged stouts — Alefort will tap into truly unique Gem State experiences. This weekend, beer fans will sip painstakingly fresh, local IPAs and other beers created 100-percent with Idaho ingredients. Entry to Alefort is free; no Treefort wristband is required.
FRESH AND LOCAL? ‘CAN’ DO
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No, you haven’t had one too many. That is an actual canning line you’ll be seeing at Alefort. On Friday at 5 p.m. and Saturday at 3 p.m., a mobile canning line will spend about an hour cranking out 1,200 cans of Fresh AF American IPA. This special, purely Idaho beer will be finished just in time for Alefort’s deadline by Woodland Empire Ale Craft. For two tokens ($6), festivalgoers will be able to enjoy a tall boy of Fresh AF right off the line.
“I’m trying to create beer experiences for people,” Alefort team member David Roberts explains. “The cans come off the pallet, they’re going to go through the filler, they’re going to go through a seamer and get their cap on them, then they’re going to get labeled. Then they get rinsed, and then they’re into your hands as a customer. That can is going to be an empty, then full of beer and in your hand, within a minute.”
You’ll need to snatch your 16-ounce beer off that moving line. Not only will it be fun, it’s a sensory experience.
“When you get a can of beer off the canning line, it’s all wet and sticky,” Roberts says. “And when you pop it open, because it’s all agitated, there’s a burst of aroma that I think is better than your normal out-of-the-fridge canned beer experience.”
Still thirsty for fresh hops? Alefort will have a list of IPAs that were kegged this week. With consumers overwhelmed by new IPAs released by breweries, focusing on freshness seemed like an appealing angle, Roberts says.
“Another new IPA? I don’t know if that’s interesting anymore,” he explains. “But an IPA that was kegged that same day and driven from Baker City by Barley Brown’s, to me, maybe gets interesting again, because you know you can’t get a fresh beer experience like that everywhere.”
DRINK TRULY LOCAL
Drinking beer made in Idaho is cool. Drinking beer made from Idaho is even cooler.
“Idaho is the Goldilocks of beer ingredients,” Roberts says. “There’s a lot of places that grow malt, and lots of places that grow hops, but there’s no other place that grows a ton of both.”
That Fresh AF from Woodland Empire? It will be created strictly with Idaho ingredients: Idaho Seven, Centennial, Zeus and El Dorado hops grown by Gooding Farms and Jackson Hop Farm in partnership with hop storage and processing facility Mill 95; and Idaho two-row malted barley from Mountain Malt.
Three other breweries created all-Idaho-ingredient beers, too: Sockeye (Gem State Kolsch), Barbarian (Sour India Lager) and Grand Teton (Hazy IPA).
Increasingly, Roberts says, local breweries are able to choose locally harvested ingredients, which makes the concept of local Idaho beer more special. “In 10 years,” Roberts predicts, “no Idaho brewery would need to buy hops or barley from anywhere else.”
“I’m not the type of local homer that’s, like, I only drink local beer, local beer is always good,” Roberts explains. “I just think that we do have a lot of reason to be super-excited about our city’s beer future. So I’m just trying to put the spotlight on what those reasons are, which is our ability to have a truly unique beer terroir like no other places have.”
▪ Nail pull: Last year, Roberts introduced Alefort attendees to an experience normally reserved for brewmasters and cellar-room staff. Several breweries brought oak barrels filled with beer being aged. A pair of pliers was used to remove the nail from the barrel and let beer flow into a cup. That returns this year in the form of five barrels from four Idaho breweries.
▪ Beer education: Beer geeks can enjoy free, 45-minute events at The Owyhee, 1109 W. Main St.: “Blending Idaho’s Beer Identity with Idaho Ingredients,” a panel at 4 p.m. Friday; “Why Independent Beer Matters,” a panel at 3 p.m. Saturday; and “Pucker Like It’s 1999,” a talk about the evolution of American sours from New Belgium Brewing’s Lauren Salazar at 7 p.m. Saturday.
▪ Bathrooms, more space: For the first time, Alefort will have portable bathrooms on-site — not outside the tent. (This is a big deal!) Alefort also will be less cramped, Roberts promises, since it’s been moved to a larger new location under a huge tent at 11th and Grove streets. It’s in the parking lot behind The Owyhee.
▪ Steel mugs: Beer tokens will cost $3 for 8-ounce pours, and you’ll pay $3 for a plastic cup. Want to step up your game? New, steel carabiner mugs will be sold for $6. Buy one, take it home, bring it back to Alefort next year.
Speaking of schedules, remember: Those tall boys of Fresh AF will only be on the canning line for a short time Friday and Saturday. Be there or miss a one-of-a-kind experience.
How popular will this crazy canning line be? Even Roberts isn’t entirely sure.
“It’s one of those things where I’ve gone back and forth,” he admits with a laugh. “Originally, I was like, ‘This is going to be great! People are gonna love it!’ Then I was like, ‘No, maybe people won’t love it. Maybe the only reason I like it is because I’m a nerd!’ ”
Fortunately, beer nerds are everywhere.
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When: 3 to 8 p.m. Friday, noon to 8 p.m. Saturday, noon to 7 p.m. Sunday
Cost: Free entry. Must be 21 or older. Beer tokens are $3, 8-ounce mug is $3 (plastic) or $6 (steel)