Words & Deeds

Michael Deeds: Zoo Boise tells breweries to take a (nature) hike

Michael Deeds
Michael Deeds

Each fall, Zoo Boise hosts a Halloween event called Boo at the Zoo. But for craft beer enthusiasts this summer, things suddenly feel like “Boooo!” at the Zoo. (We’ll let the snakes do the hissing.)

After a sold-out inaugural Brew at the Zoo beer festival last August, Zoo Boise has decided not to welcome back the adults-only fundraiser. That’s despite the fact that it generated more than $6,000 apiece for Zoo Boise and the state’s nonprofit brewers guild, Idaho Brewers United, according to IBU president Sheila Francis.

“Super disappointed Brew at the Zoo won’t happen in Boise,” Francis, the marketing director for Payette Brewing Co., tweeted this week. “I did everything the Zoo asked and they still said no.”

Beating my chest like a silverback gorilla, I phoned Zoo Boise Director Steve Burns. He was not in the office. My call had not been returned at press time.

Francis said she was told the rejection boiled down to liability.

“But there are tons of successful events at zoos across the country,” she said. “Many of those are beer-based events. Brews at the zoo happen in Detroit, in Denver. Name a major city, and there’s probably a brew-at-the-zoo-type event.”

Alcohol has the potential to transform a human into an animal. Was last year’s Brew at the Zoo a drunken safari? Were there frat boys frolicking in the lion cage? Did someone drain the lizard in the wrong spot?

Francis said that she was unaware of security personnel needing to intervene with any festivalgoer.

“There were a few intoxicated people,” she admitted, a fact of life at any beer- or wine-related event. “But for the most part, they handled themselves, actually.”

“We don’t want people to get out of hand,” she explained. “Our livelihood is at stake if something is to go wrong. We are promoting alcohol, but we’ve got to be careful.”

It’s Zoo Boise’s right to say no. The zoo doesn’t owe the craft beer community a thing. But it would be nice if the “why” were more clear.

The Denver Zoo, which celebrated its 17th annual Brew at the Zoo last year, is pulling the plug in 2015 because the event wasn’t making enough money to justify the time and expense, according to its public relations manager. Earlier this week, about 15 breweries participated in the Denver Zoo’s 26th annual, food-oriented Do at the Zoo event. It featured unlimited drinks including wine and always-dangerous cocktails. (Booze at the zoo!)

Idaho Brewers United is hoping to come up with a replacement fundraising event, Francis said.

It probably won’t be as cool or fun as Brew at the Zoo.

“People have been asking me about it for months,” she said. “Such a bummer.”

Just remember, Zoo Boise: A beer-drinking elephant almost never forgets.


•  The Boise Hawks have decided not to broadcast this season’s games on the radio. Out of 150 minor league markets above rookie leagues, it will be the fourth not to broadcast on the radio or online.

The Hawks are bleeding money. The broadcasts cost tens of thousands of dollars.

Still, it’s a little heartbreaking. Baseball on the radio is pure summer nostalgia — and it’s different for all of us. It makes me think of my dad pitching hay while he listened to Kansas City Royals games in rural Nebraska.

Hawks broadcasts also are effective marketing. We might not have listened to a full inning before turning the dial, but as a commenter at IdahoStatesman.com noted, hearing the Hawks on the radio reminds a guy that he should go see a game.

Jeff Eiseman, president of team owner Agon Sports & Entertainment, told the Statesman that, “the reality is our mascot is more popular than our second baseman. We’re about an evening out of entertainment and fun.”

Sigh. It would be more fun if the Hawks start selling some local beer out there, since I’m banging that drum. (Hey, was that an actual Payette Brewing Co. Outlaw IPA tap handle out there on opening night Thursday?)

•  Who won the Best Sporting Event category in this year’s Idaho Statesman Best of Treasure Valley readers poll? Find out when the 56-page special section hits doorsteps June 20. More local than ever, it will be sent to home-delivery subscribers, is available for $2 at the Statesman, or you can read it at IdahoStatesman.com/BOTV.

•  Looking for a bargain-priced Father’s Day gift for a concert fan? You’ll find $10, $15 and $20 tickets for many Revolution Center concerts (Ticketfly) and $20 for select Ford Idaho Center shows (ICTickets) from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. June 19.

Michael Deeds’ entertainment column runs Fridays in Scene and alternating Sundays in Explore. He co-hosts “The Other Studio” at 9 p.m. Sundays on 94.9 FM The River.