Handcrafted beers that get aged in repurposed wine and whiskey barrels are perfect this time of year when people desire brews with big, warm flavors.
Barbarian Brewing (barbarianbrewing.com) has ramped up its barrel-aged beer program since debuting in Garden City a little more than a year ago. The brewery started out just selling its barrel-aged brew in 750-milliliter (25-ounce) bottles, but now you can get it on tap as well.
“We’re trying to split each batch so we have draft and bottles,” explains BreAnne Hovley, co-owner of Barbarian Brewing.
Head brewer James Long, Hovley’s husband, favors Belgian and other time-honored European techniques in the making of his flagship and seasonal beers. The husband-and-wife team also likes the essence that the barrels impart, adding to the complexity of the brews.
“Some of the beers are aged for six months; some are in the barrels for a year or longer. How much wood that gets picked up depends on how strong the beer is that we are putting in the barrel,” Hovley says. “For example, Elixir of the Gods picks up oak and the port that used to be in the barrels. It’s real complex and a fun beer to drink.”
The next batch of Elixir of the Gods, a quadruple pomegranate sour beer aged in port barrels, will be released around Christmas.
No worries, though, for those beer geeks who can’t wait to get their hands on some recent Barbarian barrel-aged releases: On Nov. 26, the brewery is introducing two new brews: a sour porter and a chewy, robust imperial stout called The Morrigan — both aged in bourbon barrels.
“The sour porter has chocolate and vanilla notes, and you kind of pick up the barrel on the nose,” Hovley says.
The majority of Barbarian’s beers get sold at the brewery, but sometimes bottles are available at the Boise Co-op and Whole Foods Market.
In addition to the barrel-aged brews, Barbarian recently released a few winter seasonals on tap that don’t spend any time in barrels. Stop by the brewery and try a pint of Norseman’s Revenge, a Belgian-style dark strong ale.
The taproom, at 5270 W. Chinden Blvd., is open 4 to 9 p.m. Wednesday-Thursday, 3 to 9 p.m. Friday, noon to 9 p.m. Saturday and noon to 6 p.m. Sunday.
Payette Brewing has ventured into the realm of barrel-aged beers with its Hoop & Stave line of handcrafted, European-inspired brews aged in repurposed red wine, brandy and whiskey barrels — sold in 22-ounce bottles for a limited time.
Montana brewery nabs TableRock spot
White Dog Brewing Co. (whitedog brewing.com) recently announced that it will open a taproom in Boise in the spring.
The Montana-based brewery, which debuted last year in Bozeman, is bringing its lineup of craft beers to the former TableRock Brewpub spot at 705 W. Fulton St. TableRock closed in early 2014. Grind Modern Burger and PostModern Brewers, which opened there in October 2014, tried to make things work in that space, but it closed earlier this year after a short run.
White Dog Brewing won’t be serving food like its predecessors, but the brewery will maintain 12 to 15 of its own beers on tap, as well as resurrecting some TableRock recipes for old times’ sake. The brewery will offer a few of its brews in cans as well.
Road-trip brewery: Sun Valley Brewing Co.
Sun Valley Brewing Company (sunvalley brewery.com) was founded by brewmaster Gordon Gammell in 1986, making it one of the oldest brewpubs in the state.
Situated along the main drag in the Central Idaho town of Hailey, at 202 N. Main St., the brewpub has earned a devoted following over the years for its dozen or so handcrafted mainstay and seasonal brews. On a year-round basis, you can quaff flagship beers such as Irish-inspired Flying Squirrel Stout, Sun Valley Blonde Pilsner and White Cloud Amber Ale.
New brews include Pine Top Pale Ale (with an essence of juniper berries), a hopped-up Cranky Uber IPA and a winter seasonal aptly named Cabin Fever Ale (Scottish-style brown ale).
Food is hardly an afterthought here. The globally inspired menu features appetizers such as beer-battered tempura calamari, crispy tiger wontons with star anise dipping sauce, Cajun-tinged wings and cheesy nachos smothered with New Mexico red chile sauce, guacamole and black beans.
Daily pub specialties include a blackened tuna burger, fish tacos, sweet-and-sour pork, chicken potpie and a half-pound Angus burger with the works on a crusty Kaiser bun. Diners can also get salads, pastas, steaks and inventive pizzas made on cornmeal focaccia dough.
Sun Valley Brewing Co. is open 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and noon to 9 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
James Patrick Kelly, the Idaho Statesman’s restaurant critic, is the author of the travel guidebook “Moon Idaho.” The latest edition hit the shelves earlier this year. Kelly also teaches journalism at Boise State University.