For a state that is one of the country’s leading producers of hops and barley, only 30 beer-making businesses scatter across Idaho, close to its peak in 1888 when Idaho had 33 breweries across the territory. Pre-prohibition the excitement was fueled by the unquenchable thirst of camp miners in search of gold. Now, the excitement is the flavors of Idaho’s liquid gold.
The challenge for Idaho craft breweries has never been variety; it’s keeping up with demand.
As half the team behind MickDuff’s Brewing Company in Sandpoint, Duffy Mahoney is responsible for the popular local beer called Tipsy Toehead Blonde. Pale in color and lightly hopped with a delicate, floral variety called Tettnang, it’s an easy ale that makes for a great way to cool down after a day spent fishing or paddling in the sun on Lake Pend Oreille. Mahoney keeps as many as nine beers on tap, from a refreshing American-style Hefeweizen to an Irish stout aged in toasted American oak infused with bourbon.
Beginning at MickDuff’s in Sandpoint (a city that’s also home to Laughing Dog Brewery), true brew buffs can follow an ale trail that leads south across the Palouse to M. J. Barleyhoppers in Lewiston, on to the Salmon River Brewery and McCall Brewing in McCall, with a final stop in the Treasure Valley to sample the suds at Highlands Hollow Brewhouse, Payette Brewing Company and Sockeye.
“The Pacific Northwest is a brewers dream,” explains Matt Ganz of Salmon River Brewery. Ganz is a fifth generation brewer; his ancestors started Rainier Beer in Seattle in the 19th century. “The vast majority of our malt barley, hops, yeast, and of course water comes from this region.”
In addition to Udaho Gold, Salmon River’s crisp golden ale, this brewery regularly pours multiple IPAs, an English brown, an experimental porter called Buzz Buzz that uses organic, shade-grown coffee, and a barleywine.
Payette Brewing in Boise has learned that Idahoans are a thirsty bunch; it’s been so well received that it’s already more than doubled the original production capacity since it opened in May 2011 and began canning operations on July 23, 2012.
The magnificent Idaho scenery between brew cities? That’s another chapter.
Idaho Beer Trivia
- The largest aroma hop farm in the world flourishes along the US and Canadian border at Elk Mountain Farms, Bonners Ferry.
- In 1910 the mayor of Wallace ordered the town to only drink beer after a major fire tainted the water supply.
- One Of Nation’s Largest Beer Competitions is held in Idaho Falls.
- Grand Teton Brewing Company is the oldest brewery, established in 1988.
Adapted from Northwest Travel Magazine, nwtravelmag.com, Ben Keene.
Harvest Idaho , One Bite at a Time
Western Road Trip
A Craft Ale Trail Through Western Idaho
Simply Irresistibly Sweet Pears Recipe
Hello Wine World! Take a wine tour along the Snake River Valley AVA.
Bountiful Beautiful: A 300-mile Culinary Odyssey Through the Inland Northwest
The Spirits of Idaho