Words & Deeds

Idaho has a new largest brewery. Crack a beer. It's probably not who you think.

A beer sampler awaits delivery to a table at 10 Barrel Brewing in Boise, Idaho. The brewery, which has locations in multiple states, produced just under 1,000 barrels in Boise in 2017, according to head brewer Shawn Kelso.
A beer sampler awaits delivery to a table at 10 Barrel Brewing in Boise, Idaho. The brewery, which has locations in multiple states, produced just under 1,000 barrels in Boise in 2017, according to head brewer Shawn Kelso. Statesman file

Every Boise beer drinker knows Sockeye Brewing.

Founded in 1996, Sockeye runs two brewpubs and a major brewhouse. It also makes what arguably is the state's best-known beer, the pleasingly bitter Dagger Falls IPA.

Yet somehow, Sockeye is never Idaho's No. 1 — at least not when it comes to total production volume.

Until now.

New data from the Brewers Association, a national trade organization representing the craft brewing industry, shows that Sockeye pumped out 10,202 barrels of beer in 2017.

That's more than any other Gem State brewery.

"I think this is the first time," says head brewer Josh King, who started working at Sockeye in 2002.

The top-dog ranking isn't a total surprise. But Sockeye wasn't exactly the odds-on favorite, either. (Scroll down for the top 15 Idaho breweries ranked by production volume.)

Payette Brewing Co. had been the biggest-producing brewery in Idaho since 2014, when it leapfrogged longtime champ Grand Teton Brewing Co. of Victor. There's also California-bred Mother Earth Brew Co., which expected to make a run at largest in 2017 as it beefed up its Nampa operation. Mother Earth reported a whopping 40,000 barrels, but only 7,500 of those were brewed in Idaho. The rest happened at its Vista, Calif., brewery.

Sockeye for the win.

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Sockeye Brewing’s Dagger Falls IPA, its biggest seller, stacked at the brewery on Fairview Avenue in Boise. Statesman file

Sure, it's a "whose is biggest" type of honor. But it must feel gratifying for a brewery with so much local history. Sockeye distributes in a handful of nearby states, but 96 percent of its sales are at home, King says.

"We will stay true to Idaho," he says. "We want to be known as everyday Idaho beer."

So which brewery will finish as our state's biggest in 2018?

Pull up a barstool and make your bets on a three-way race. Sockeye and Payette will keep leading the pack in Boise. But keep an eye on Nampa. Mother Earth Brew Co. vice-president Kevin Hopkins says he expects the Idaho brewhouse to top 10,000 barrels in 2018 as distribution grows in other states.

Idaho's top 15 largest breweries in 2017

Sockeye Brewing Co., Boise: 10,202 barrels

Payette Brewing Co., Boise: 9,673 barrels

Grand Teton Brewing Co., Victor: 7,658 barrels

Mother Earth Brew Co., Nampa: 7,500 barrels

Laughing Dog Brewing Co., Ponderay: 7,400 barrels

Crooked Fence Brewing, Garden City: 3,200 barrels

Woodland Empire Ale Craft, Boise: 3,000 barrels

Boise Brewing, Boise: 2,000 barrels

Selkirk Abbey Brewing Co., Post Falls: 2,000 barrels

McCall Brewing Co., McCall: 1,500 barrels

Powderhaus Brewing Co., Garden City: 1,250 barrels

Wallace Brewing Co., Wallace: 1,208 barrels

Edge Brewing Co., Boise: 1,200 barrels

Salmon River Brewery, McCall: 1,100 barrels

Sawtooth Brewery, Ketchum: 1,083 barrels

Sources: Brewers Association, Mother Earth and Grand Teton. Some numbers are estimates.

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