Tapping Into Summer: A Tour of Idaho's Refreshing Summer Beer Releases
Most adventures that take place during Idaho’s warm summer months call for a beer. Whether it’s finishing up a multi-day backpacking trip through the Sawtooths, navigating Payette Lake on a stand-up paddleboard or spending the evening around a backyard fire pit—cold beer is the exclamation point at the end of a long summer day.
Luckily, Idaho boasts dozens of craft breweries that whip up special summer releases just for this purpose. Here’s a look at some interesting summer beers from all corners of the state—from the banks of Lake Coeur d’Alene to the base of the Tetons to our sunny capital city, Boise. Cheers.
Selkirk Abbey Brewing Co., Post Falls
Alcohol By Volume (ABV): 4.9%
International Bitterness Units (IBU): 20
Selkirk Abbey owner Jeff Whitman takes the history behind brewing beer seri- ously. When crafting his summer release, the Huck- leberry Chapel witbier, he followed Belgian brewing traditions closely. To make the brew, he infused corian- der and orange peel—just like the Belgians do—then added huckleberry.
“It works well because
the sweet, tart flavor of the huckleberry brings out more of the or- ange peel,” Whitman said. “You get more of a citrus note out of it. It’s not an overly huckleberry beer.”
The Huckleberry Chapel is available in bottles in Idaho, Montana and Eastern Washington.
Perfect place to enjoy: “On a boat in the sun,” Whitman said. “It’s a sunshine beer.”
Grand Teton Brewing Company, Victor
Snarling Badger Berliner Weisse
The Snarling Badger, as described by Barrel Manager Max Shafer, is like “drink- ing a really nice wheat beer and biting into a lemon at the same time.” Snarling Badger is one of Grand Teton Brewing’s most popular seasonal releases. It’s light in color, low in hops and uses lactobacillus bacteria to sour the beer before it’s fermented—the same bacteria used to make yogurt. Snarling Badger teeters between beer and shandy, drawing in fans who aren’t big beer drinkers. It’s available around the state on July 1, in four-packs of 12-ounce bottles.
Perfect place to enjoy: “It should be enjoyed outdoors on a nice, sunny, warm day,” Shafer said. “It’s one of my favorite beers to enjoy barbecuing, especially with a vinaigrette marinade or chicken with cracked pepper and salt rubbed on it, some olive oil and a good lemon drizzle.”
Payette Brewing Co., Boise
Fly Line Vienna Lager
The Fly Line Vienna Lager was such a popular summer release last year that Payette decided to bring it back on draft and in 12-ounce cans. It’s an easy-drinking beer, without much of a hop presence and a little malty sweetness.
“It’s a larger crowd pleaser for us because we know not everyone loves their beers super hop-forward,” said Payette’s Sheila Francis.
The brew uses pilsner and Vienna malts, which give it a smooth, refreshing taste.
Perfect place to enjoy: “You can hang out in the hammock and really relax with this one,” Francis said.
Woodland Empire Ale Craft, Boise
In collaboration with Dawson Taylor Coffee Roasters, Woodland Empire’s “Sauce Boss,” Rob Landerman took coffee beer and turned it on its head. What emerged is a clas- sic Belgian saison made with Ethiopian Yirgacheffe beans.
“It sounds strange,” Landerman said, “but it’s really incredible because the bean is light and fruity, and it doesn’t have the dark, chocolaty coffee notes. It has more of a citrusy acidity, like lemon custard.”
Perfect place to enjoy: “On a warm, sunny patio after a bike ride,” Landerman said.
Sawtooth Brewery, Ketchum
Cold Springs Pilsner
While many breweries around the state are releasing summer beers with lots of frills—like huckleberry, grapefruit and souring agents—Sawtooth Brewery is sticking to the classics. This summer, owner and head brewer Paul Holle has brewed up the Cold Springs Pilsner—a light, Indian-style pilsner available on draft and in bottles around Southern Idaho. Pilsner, according to Holle, is the watercolor of beer.
“It’s definitely not an easy beer to make,” Holle said. “There’s nothing that can hide imperfections or imbalances. You’re really letting only the yeast, malt and hops that you’ve added to the water shine.”
Perfect place to enjoy: “At a beer garden, on a patio, next to the river or after a hike,” Holle said. “Let the sun shine through.”
Laughing Dog Brewing, Ponderay
In the background of any con- versation with Laughing Dog Brewing’s owner Fred Colby, you can hear his dog, Ben, bark- ing. The yellow Lab turned 12 this spring, and he continues to inspire the brews coming out of Laughing Dog’s taproom every season.
This summer, Laughing Dog is offering a Grapefruit IPA, based off the brewery’s reg- ular IPA.
“You know when you peel a grapefruit and get that really strong smell from the essential oils bursting through the skin?” Colby said. “That’s this beer.”
So far, Colby has only tested the beer in small batches, but each time, customers emptied the kegs in 30 minutes. While it’s only available on draft in restaurants and growler-fill stations around the state this summer, next summer it could be canned.
Perfect place to enjoy: “Sitting on the deck outside where it’s nice and beautiful,” Colby said.
Salmon River Brewery, McCall
Mom’s Ginger Plum
When Matt Ganz, a “zymurgist” at Salmon River Brewery in McCall, brews a batch of Mom’s Ginger Plum, he uses 100 pounds of Italian plum purée in the fermentation. He also clears out the ginger section of his local grocery store, throws the root into the Cuisinart and dumps it into the boil. What he gets is a light pale ale with the subtle aroma of fresh plums, some zippy carbon- ation and a hint of ginger.
“When designing a beer, brewers use ingredients that they’re passionate about,” Ganz said. “For me, it’s plums.”
Perfect place to enjoy: “In a nice big eddy somewhere on a river,” Ganz said.
Jessica Murri, originally from Boise, grew up in the North End near the Boise River. Today, she lives there once again and spends her time hiking, back- packing, cycling, kayaking, skiing, and working as a staff writer for the Boise Weekly.