Special Issues » Coldest Beer in Boise

Boise Coldest Beer

The annual guide to gettin' the coldest suds in town

by and

1 comment
Testers: Todd Dvorak • Travis Estvold • Jennifer Hernandez • Dylan Metz • Mathias Morache; Ryan Peck • Teresa Shipley • Lora Volkert • Jeremiah Robert Wierenga • Christian Winn

In this, the eighth year of Boise Weekly's Coldest Beer contest, the opening lines of a song from alt-country rocker Todd Snider come to mind: "B double-E double-R U-N, beer run." Little did you know, readers, that this issue is really just one massive beer run. Heck, that's why we do it year after year.

If you're new to the Coldest Beer phenomena, welcome. Every year, we gather up a crowd of willing bodies to disperse throughout Ada County to temp out beer at darn near every bar we can find.

"Darn near" because we intentionally omit those places that are not locally owned, and for those joints popular enough to have multiple locations, we test the taps at only one location. And when we say "temp out," we meant it. Every official beer tester goes forth with an official beer-testing thermometer, official beer forms (one for the testee and one for the tester so he or she can remember just who had what temp after a long night of testing), and an official mission to drink beer for the benefit of science, humanity and Boise Weekly.

So what's the point? The point is this: It's hot out, and you want a cold one. A really cold one. Sure, you know it's plebeian to like it so cold, but sometimes, the heat beats your better senses into submission, and cold is all you care about. Coldest Beer allows you to give in to the urge every once in a while. A see-through beer in a frosted mug may not be classy, but we hereby give you permission to chug-a-lug like no one's watching.

This year's beer testing may be the first in BW history to have been completed by an all-freelance team of testers. And we're positive this is the first year we've been able to recruit a respectable journalist from another news organization to test on our behalf. To those who worked tirelessly for weeks, drinking the coldest beer they could find, we salute you.

And to the testees, we salute you as well. Thanks for being such good sports year after year. While we jokingly refer to Coldest Beer as one giant booze-fest beer run, we know some of you take your standing in our polling very seriously, and we dig that you dig it.

So, in addition to the coldest beer, you'll find the warmest beer as well. And, logically, you'll find a whole mess of beers in between the coldest and the warmest. We'd also recommend having a gander at this year's Hall of Fame, where we highlight those taps with notable temp differences from last year and those with consistently decent showings on the mercury. If the watered-down taste of a cold PBR ain't your speed, but you still want to read about beer, check out Deanna Darr's piece on local brewmeister Josh King at Sockeye Grill and Brewery.

All this information can be a lot to take in. We'd recommend aiding your digestion with a few swigs of a nice cold beer. Looking for a good bar to find one in? You're in the right place.

--Rachael Daigle

29.8°

4-E's Bar

4-E's Bar - LAURIE PEARMAN

No pretensions here. Not much left of the worn and stained carpet, either, which was probably laid when the bar opened in 1968. But the beer is really cold, and who can resist 25-cent pool tables and a menu featuring frozen pizza? Don't forget to tip your cap to the elk rack, which Boone & Crocket scored at 381.

379 E. Main St., Kuna, 208-922-9719.

30.2°

Cheerleaders Bar & Grill

We've got TVs, yes we do ... We've got TVs, how 'bout you? You will here, 43 boob tubes to be exact, including 21 in separate booths. Classic sports bar with 100 percent Angus beef burgers. Wanna get away from the noise inside? Try the patio with a panoramic view of the Foothills.

3541 N. Eagle Road, 208-939-9209. cheerleaderssbg.com.

30.5°

Barbacoa

The chandeliers, oil paintings and digital photo displays leave no doubts that this waterfront establishment serves nothing but the classiest of food and drink.

276 Bobwhite Court, 208-338-5000, barbacoa-boise.com.

31.1°

Casa Mexico

Complete with Spanish pop music, sombreros on the walls and toy parrots hanging from the ceiling, you'll feel like you stepped south of the border.

3083 S. Bown Way, 208-345-8464. Multiple locations, casamexicoidaho.com.

31.3°

Boise Cafe

This corner spot serves up sandwiches during the day and moonlights as a salsa-dancing destination on weekend nights.

219 N. 10th St., 208-343-3397.

32.7°

Characters

Pool tables, foosball, dim lights and TVs showing Fox, MSNBC and ESPN ... pick your poison in this hotel bar.

1800 Fairview Ave., 208-344-7691.

32.7°

Harry's Bar & Grill

Once there were four Harry's bars. But with Harry's in Southeast Boise trading owners earlier this year, the newest one in Meridian is also the last. At the corner of a nondescript strip mall, the vibe inside is part sports bar, part neighborhood tavern. They have 16 taps, $1 PBR cans at happy hour and patio seating. And don't forget to try the fried green beans appetizer.

2032 E. Overland Road, Meridian, 208-888-9868.

32.7°

Lindy's Steakhouse

Don't let the clean air fool you. The lounge inside Lindy's Steakhouse is smoker-friendly but, thanks to a heavy-duty ventilation system, you'd never know. Horseradish-tinged finger steaks, homemade soups and the shuffleboard table continue to earn new fans and keep loyal locals going back for more.

12249 Chinden Blvd., Eagle, 208-375-1310.

32.7°

Ranch Club

Ranch Club - LAURIE PEARMAN

The life-size horse stands ready to party out in front of this rowdy beer hall. Inside, smoke-infused paneling and a two-sided butcher-block bar serve as the backdrop for raging roller derby after-parties.

3544 Chinden Blvd., Garden City, 208-343-7447.

32.8°

The Buffalo Club

If your gal insists on taking you two-stepping, shuffle your way to this rockabilly bar, where they have live bands three nights a week and a game of Texas Hold 'Em in the corner.

10206 Fairview Ave., 208-321-1811.

32.9°

The Crescent Bar

With loungy lighting and an anti-lawyer-inspired menu, this damn-the-man establishment makes a compelling case for your patronage, but you be the judge. 5500 W. Franklin Road, 208-322-9856, no-lawyers.com.

32.9°

Mulligan's Pub & Eatery

Golf pub our butts. It's a perfectly dark, smoky haunt for swilling brews and shooting pool among a punkier downtown crowd.

1009 W. Main St., 208-336-6998. Other location: 601 S. Main St., Meridian, 208-884-3737.

32.9°

Outpost Cafe

It could be the most expensive domestic you'll find in town, but it could be the most worth it. Who wants to go through airport security sober? Depending on the waiting line, you might want to splurge and add a side shot of liquor; it's only $3. Boise Airport, 208-383-3110.

33.1°

Ves's Broadway Bar

Stop in for a game of pool and an inexpensive draft in this Broadway hangout that has been around since the dawn of time. Put a tune on the jukebox and try to fit in. 1712 Broadway Ave., 208-342-9951.

33.2°

10th Street Station

It's a classic, dimly lit getaway where you feel like you're the only one there, even if the smoker-friendly place is packed. 104 S. 10th St., 208-344-2677.

33.3°

The Beer House

Newbies park out front of this working-man's neighborhood bar. You walk in to a singalong of "Living on a Prayer" and leave to "If I had a Million Dollars." Friendly, well-lit and unfussy.

9751 Cory Lane, 208-322-9958.

33.3°

McCleary's Pub

For those of you who like to shoot a few hoops with your beer, McCleary's offers its customers a basketball court in its own back yard. If you call in advance, they'll even let you cook your own food using their grill--that conveniently sits right beside the court--as you play one-on-one. 9155 W. State St., 208-853-9910. Other location: 604 N. Orchard Ave., 208-342-3007.

33.3°

Players Pub & Grill

So much more than a bowling alley bar, Player's Pub prides itself on homemade soups and finger steaks. Smokers appreciate the covered patio, while budget-minded bowlers like $1 bowling, drafts and food specials on Monday nights.

5504 Alworth, Garden City, 208-376-6563.

33.3°

Shorty's Saloon

Shorty's original owners have returned the 28-year-old country-Western bar to its roots. The saloon seems appropriate for whiskey shots with John Wayne as Kenny and Gretchen belt it out overhead. The forearms of countless cowboys have worn smooth the long edge of Shorty's bar top.

5467 Glenwood St., Garden City, 208-322-6699.

33.4°

Mr. Lucky's

A plum-colored stucco box houses Garden City's only NASCAR-themed bar, where it's all-you-can-eat tacos for $5 on race days. The bar's small stage and dance floor draws musicians and rump-shakers alike for open jam sessions on Wednesday nights.

4902 Chinden Blvd., Garden City, 208-327-0925.

33.4°

White Water Saloon

You'll find this corner neighborhood bar just as crowded on a week night as on a weekend. It's all thanks to the shuffleboard, $3 happy hour mini-pitchers, a down-to-earth bartender and tons of incredibly chilled out and happy patrons.

1646 N. Meridian Road, Meridian, 208-888-3063.

33.6°

Boulevard Bar

Hidden in plain sight, the Boulevard Bar offers a cozy, neighborhood feel on Garden City's busiest thoroughfare. The Big Buck Safari game lets local hunters stay sharp in the off-season.

4079 Chinden Blvd., Garden City, 208-342-9906.

33.8°

Warm Springs Golf Course

Sit on the shady patio and enjoy a cold brew while you celebrate, or mourn, your golf game.

2495 W. Warm Springs Ave., 208-343-5661, cityofboise.org/WSGC.

34.0°

The Zone at the Grove Hotel

Rally a group of friends and head here to sip a cold one and cheer on the Steelheads or Boise Burn.

245 S. Capitol Blvd., 208-472-3333.

34.2°

Texas Boogie Bar & Grill

The former Eighth Street Wine Co. space, redecorated with cow hides and steer skulls. Same great view overlooking Broad Street from the deck.

405 S. Eighth St., 208-433-8399.

34.4°

Angell's Bar & Grill

Stepping into Angell's is a bit like going on safari--albeit a safari with a padded barstool and fantastic food.

999 W. Main St., 208-342-4900, angellsbarandgrill.com.

34.5°

Legends Sports Pub & Grill

This is not the bar for sitting and brooding in the corner, but rather for grabbing a quick bite and brew before the movie or your glaze-a-vase appointment. But with a great view of the Boise Spectrum volleyball courts and multiple sports on the high-def screens, it's understandable if you end up running a little late.

7609 Overland Road, 208-377-1819, legendspubandgrill.com.

34.8°

Cafe Ole

A cool, basement location, a two-for-one happy hour and a $3 all-can-you-eat taco bar make this place a tonic on those hot summer afternoons.

404 S. Eighth St., 208-344-3222. Other location: 210 N. Milwaukee St., 208-322-0222, cafeole.com.

34.9°

Village Pub

With a central fireplace and cross-stitched "no snarkiness" signs on the walls, it's as familiar as an Elks Club, but without the pushy food drive.

9936 Fairview Ave., 208-322-9153.

35.0°

Jumpin' Janet's

You could be listening to Bob Marley one minute and Korn the next in this hard-to-categorize Bench bar. Half a dozen pool tables and a big screen TV ensure this is where sports enthusiasts gather.

572 S. Vista Ave., 208-342-7620.

35.1°

Hooligan's Pub

At Hooligan's, a pint is considered the small glass, and an attitude like that can only lead to mischief. Fortunately, they have pool tables and weekly karaoke in which to channel your impish inclinations.

10704 Overland Road, 208-376-9800.

35.1°

Humpin' Hannah's

Under antique-laden ceilings, diva Rocci Johnson has been entertaining Boiseans for years. Both the young and old find their way to iconic Humpin' Hannah's to hear new and classic rock and roll by Johnson and her band; to see hot bodies tearing it up on the dance floor; to feel the condensation on an ice-cold bottle of Bud; to taste the sweet/tart flavor of a Red Bull/Jager bomb; and maybe, just maybe, to catch the scent of a little love in the air.

621 W. Main St., 208-345-7557, myspace.com/humpinhannahs.

35.1°

The Refuge

A suave hangout off Parkcenter, the extensive selection of tap brews is sure to impress even the most fastidious of beer browsers.

404 E. Parkcenter Blvd., 208-424-8211.

35.1°

Rudy's Pub & Grill

We're going to blow the lid off two of Rudy's secrets. One: PBR poured in 25-oz. mugs is 2 degrees colder than the pint glasses. Two: the key to Rudy's Kobe beef sliders is soft buns and horsey mayo. Yum.

2310 E. Overland Road, Ste. 150, Meridian, 208-884-4453, rudyspubngrill.com.

35.2°

Bad Irish

No scary little leprechauns lurk here--just servers in Catholic school outfits and a helluva party.

199 N. Eighth St., 208-338-8939, badirish.com.

35.2°

Bar at the Grove Hotel

Bar at the Grove Hotel - LAURIE PEARMAN

This quaint little bar is a great place to grab sushi, catch some live piano music, and hobnob with high-powered business folks who are passing through town.

245 S. Capitol Blvd., 208-333-8000.

35.3°

Tavern at Bown

Head upstairs to the rooftop patio on a hot summer night to grab a cold beer with a sushi, steak or seafood dinner.

3111 S. Bown Way, 208-345-2277, tavernatbown.com.

35.4°

Club Maxx

This smoke-free dance club and Hawaiian Tropic bikini contest venue inside Doubletree Riverside Hotel will soon close its doors and be replaced with a contemporary lobby bar. Until then, happy hour still runs 4-6 p.m.

2900 Chinden Blvd., Garden City, 208-343-1871.

35.6°

The Flicks

Simple math: Indie films, plus beer and wine, plus gourmet food, plus idyllic covered patio, equals unmatched Boise moviegoing experience.

646 Fulton St., 208-342-4222, theflicksboise.com.

35.6°

Longhorn Lounge

This fits into the category of classic local watering hole. Nothing fancy anywhere. Fried foods, soups and sandwiches are the menu. Don't be surprised to find a poker game on week nights with bar credit on the line.

458 W. Main St., Kuna, 208-922-4163.

35.6°

Lush

DJ stand, concrete bar top, red leather sofas? Let's face it: This is Mick Jagger's living room.

760 W. Main St., 208-342-5874, lushboise.com.

35.6°

Striker's at Meridian Bowling Lanes

It's a bar you actually want to take your kids to. Darts, bowling and arcade games, plus $3.50 domestic pitchers during happy hour mean that everybody's happy, even if not everybody is a winner. 324 S. Meridian Road, Meridian, 208-888-2048.

35.8°

Cobby's

With 30 years of experience, Cobby's can make a mighty fine sandwich. Add a cold beer and good just got better.

1030 Broadway Ave., 208-345-0990. Other locations: 4348 Chinden Blvd., Garden City, 208-322-7401; 6899 Overland Road, 208-323-0606, cobbys.com.

35.8°

Leku Ona

With simple, elegant bar decor, Leku Ona is reminiscent of a European community center, where agreements affecting all of Basque-dom would've been hammered out.

117 S. Sixth St., 208-345-6665, lekuonaid.com.

35.9°

Idaho Pizza Company

This local franchise is an Idaho standard for first-rate pizza, although the elk in the logo isn't currently available as a topping. Check out the massive stone fireplace in the center of the room.

1677 Broadway Ave., 208-343-1011. Multiple locations, idahopizzacompany.com.

35.9°

Vista Bar

This ultimate hole in the wall doesn't look like it's changed since the 1950s. Rest your arms on the padded bar that stretches from a pool table and TV at one end to a white brick fireplace at the other, and enjoy the lack of Californians.

813 S. Vista Ave., 208-342-9911.

36.0°

Bull's Head Station

Fish and chips and bangers and mash are on the menu, wood is on the bar, and comedy is on the stage--it's about as close as you get to an English pub in Meridian, Idaho.

1441 N. Eagle Road, Meridian, 208-855-5858.

36.0°

Gil's K-9 Bar

This dive is the perfect place to hang out with the rowdy crowd, shoot some pool and listen to Bad Company.

2506 Main St., 208-345-4420.

36.0°

Roadhouse BBQ

Delicious pulled pork, a small but nice beer selection and runny, spicy house barbecue sauce.

1059 E. Iron Eagle Drive, Eagle, 208 -939-8108, roadhousebbq.com.

36.1°

Bungalow

Drink your summer brew on Hyde Park's posh corner. It's fancy, but not too fancy, on Bungalow's generous patio or in the dim pocket bar, where road bikers and "real housewives" while away the happy hour.

1520 N. 13th St., 208-336-5122.

36.1°

Muggsy's

This colorful, modern sports bar is large enough to swallow an entire league and still have room for the fans. Whether celebrating a win or mourning a loss, the multi-page liquor menu will help you along.

501 Main St., Meridian, 208-898-9470.

(after 10 p.m.)

36.2°

Montego Bay

Are you in the mood for a tiki torch? Are you a fan of Jimmy Buffet and spiced rum? Would you like to watch the sun set on a patio overlooking a reclaimed quarry that was later turned into a lake? If you answered "yes" to all of these questions, head down State Street to Montego Bay.

3000 N. Lakeharbor Lane, 208-853-5070, montegobayidaho.com.

36.3°

Ben's Crow Inn

Halfway to Lucky Peak, this rustic establishment is everything that's Idaho. It's a dark interior for a cool afternoon along the bikepath.

6781 Warm Springs Ave., 208-342-9669.

36.3°

End Zone

A sports bar in every sense, catch the MLB/NFL package on the six high-definition flatscreens or step outside to the backyard-esque patio for a round of horseshoes.

1010 Broadway Ave., 208-384-0613.

36.3°

The Garage/Lucky 13

Just outside of town and situated along the Greenbelt, gourmet pizza and a patio make this a welcoming destination for bicyclists.

3662 S. Eckert Road, 208-344-6967, lucky13pizza.com.

36.3°

Ha' Penny Irish Pub & Grill

Boise's best bet for actin' the maggot and swillin' the black stuff: This here's an authentic pub, boyo!

855 Broad St., Ste. 250, 208-343-5568, hapennybridgepub.com.

36.3°

Suds Tavern

With five flatscreen TVs, multiple game machines and a life-sized pirate, there's plenty of interest inside while the patio is under construction.

1024 S. Broadway Ave., 208-345-9656.

36.5°

Red Eye Saloon

If a saloon is supposed to be dark, this one fits the bill. But the dearth of daylight makes it less embarrassing to lick the barbecue sauce from your fingers. The owners started operating a barbecue catering biz out of the place six months ago. Try the tri-tip sammy for lunch and smoked prime rib on Friday nights.

414 W. Main St., Kuna, 208-922-9797.

36.5°

Turner's Sports Bar

Need to buy fishing tackle and a shot of whiskey, all in the same spot? Well, Boise has such a place, and Turner's Sports Bar happens to be it.

4022 W. State St., 208-342-9090.

36.6°

The Torch Lounge

If Prince were to go to the Torch Lounge, he would feel obligated to sing his signature song, "Purple Rain." Besides being covered in the purple, The Torch has a full bar, comfortable seating, a vending machine that sells mentholated cigarettes and string cheese. Oh, and some of Boise's best strippers.

1826 Main St., 208-344-0218. Other location: 610 Vista Ave., 208-336-4747, thetorchlounge.com.

36.8°

Brick Oven Bistro

Hot turkey sandwiches, mashed potatoes and Stella on tap are but three reasons the Bistro has been a Boise mainstay for years. With a dining room that feels like Grandma's house and front-row seats to the Alive After Five hubbub on its patio, Brick Oven ain't a bad idea.

801 W. Main St., Ste. 107, 208-342-3456.

36.9°

Bill-N-Lynn's Place

If you live in Meridian and you're a biker, chances are you've heard of Bill-N-Lynn's Place. This bar not only boasts a chilled Jagermeister machine, but it also spotlights its own Fireball Whiskey Machine. Apparently, they go through 14 bottles a week. The shots taste like Red Hots, and are fairly inexpensive.

229 W. Franklin Road, Meridian, 208-888-4075.

36.9°

Lucky Dog

This friendly gay bar accepts everyone. You'll find yourself staring at the color-shifting neon-lighted bar, or the TV screens with pictures of shirtless men.

2223 W. Fairview Ave., 208-333-0074, luckydogtavern.com.

37.0°

Dream Cafe

The Tibetan prayer flags overhanging the entrance indicate an eclectic experience of international entrees. Spanish and Argentinian wine and Czech beer awaits within.

3110 S. Bown Way, 208-338-6632, boisedreamcafe.com.

37.0°

Sam's Place

With a shuffleboard lining one wall, a long bar on the other, and a press of working-class humanity as the meat in the middle, this establishment is a classic BLT sandwich of a neighborhood bar.

3395 Five Mile Road, 208-376-0074.

37.0°

Symposion

Symposion - LAURIE PEARMAN

This oddly placed, secluded little gem can be best described in two words: "everyday people." Bring your dog along and a pack of smokes, and you'll fit in just fine here. If you're lucky enough, the bartender, Kelly, might even give you a free lollipop just for coming down.

2801 Fletcher St., 208-342-9420.

37.0°

White Water Pizza & Pasta

Support one of the few locally owned establishments in the strip mall. Hearty, American fare and a good variety of beers on tap, plus fast and friendly service ensure you'll be a satisfied customer.

1510 N. Eagle Road, Meridian, 208-888-6611, whitewaterpizza.net.

37.1°

Kit Kat Club

Somewhere between Meridian's sprawling suburbs and farmland lies the Kit Kat Club. The inside of the Kit Kat is quite spacious and boasts 40 or so television screens. But you didn't travel here to sit and watch TV. You came to watch the strippers. 4842 W. Franklin Road, Meridian, 208-888-7731.

37.2°

36th Street Bistro

Sit down and enjoy a cold one under the white vaulted ceiling of the bistro as piano music floats amid the lush greenery of the garden center and the sunset paints the looming Foothills mauve and gold.

3823 N. 36th St., 208-433-5100.

37.2°

Cricket's Bar & Grill

At the foot of Protest Hill, not only is this neighborhood bar home to the highly acclaimed "Taco Tuesday," but Cricket's also prides itself on offering authentic "true pounder" beer glasses, no masquerading 14-oz. glasses with thick bases as some bars are known to have. 1228 Oakland Ave., 208-344-6235.

37.2°

Kahootz Steak & Alehouse

So what if the Bud isn't a coldest beer contender? This isn't the place for that kind of thirst quencher, not with 43 rotating taps--allegedly the most of any Idaho bar--pouring the best craft brews in the West. The kitchen offers a new set of dinner specials each week. Expect a wait on Fridays and Saturdays. Outdoor patio. Note: The place doesn't believe in TVs. 1603 Main St., Meridian, 208-895-9861, gotokahootz.com.

37.2°

Visual Arts Collective

This multi-use art facility has an edgy vibe that is too cool for school. Epoxy-coated bar top is made of reclaimed Douglas fir. Look for circuses, live theater and plenty of live music. 3638 Osage St., Garden City, 208-424-8297, visualartscollective.com.

37.4°

Lulu's Fine Pizza

Join the Highlanders and those coming from Bogus to wash down your "fine" New York-style pizza with a cool brew in Lulu's comfy, green-walled dining room or on the patio slab with a view back up the mountain. 2594 Bogus Basin Road, 208-387-4992, ilovelulus.com.

37.4°

Sockeye Grill & Brewery

This West Boise saloon features up to 10 unique, locally brewed beers on tap and a substantial menu. Fast and friendly service and a nice, open patio add to its local charms. 3019 N. Cole Road, 208-658-1533, sockeyebrew.com.

37.5°

Eastside Tavern

Stop in to sing karaoke or watch a football game on the big screens. Plus, it's always happy hour for anyone with an active military ID. 610 E. Boise Ave., 208-388-8700, myspace.com/theeastsidetavern.

37.6°

Creekside Lounge

Patio seating overlooks the Owyhees and Indian Creek. Known for steaks and prime rib. The "lighter fare" menu lists a gut stuffer: sausage and sauerkraut with au gratins. The dance floor suggests things get rowdy.

751 W. Fourth St., Kuna, 208-922-4421, creeksidekuna.com.

37.8°

Bardenay

When Bardenay in downtown Boise opened in 2000, it was the first distillery/restaurant in the nation. They produce gin, vodka and rum, as well as contemporary Northwest cuisine like seared rare peppered ahi tuna and six different satay skewers. The Eagle location's exposed beam ceiling, indoor/outdoor fireplace and tree-lined flagstone patio provide a popular backdrop for sipping a Lemon Drop made with handcrafted vodka.

155 Riverside Drive, Eagle, 208-938-5093. Other location: 610 Grove St., 208-426-0538, bardenay.com.

37.8°

Bittercreek Ale House

The "keep it local" mantra is paid more than lip-service at this downtown trendsetter. Eventually, all roads lead to Bittercreek.

246 N. Eighth St., 208-345-1813, bittercreekalehouse.com.

37.8°

Chandlers

Just hanging out in this swanky joint makes you feel like you've jumped an income bracket.

981 W. Grove St., 208-383-4300.

37.9°

Quinn's Restaurant & Lounge

Like the Godfather, this bar knows just how cool it is. Dimly lit and dignified, the brass and wood interior belies how quickly a karaoke or dance party can start on the spacious tile floor, and it's one of the only places in town to get food until 3 a.m.

1005 S. Vista Ave., 208-345-0135.

38.0°

Berryhill & Co.

A place where ambience and service rule supreme, Berryhill's bar serves it up with style.

121 N. Ninth St., 208-387-3553, berryhillandco.com.

38.1°

Brews Brothers

Brews Brothers could quite possibly be the best beer and bar in town. How is this, you ask? Well, it all lies in its selection. From foreign to domestic, this bar has enough beers on tap to make even the pickiest beer drinkers smile.

6928 W. State St., 208-853-0526, brewsbrothersonline.com.

38.1°

Mai Thai

Black walls and blood-red upholstery create a sexy lounge for diners waiting to linger in the dining room over Thai delicacies and fresh sushi. The restaurant's chic, modern interior features a long reflecting pool and a gilded Buddha.

78 Eagle River St., Eagle, 208-938-8424. Other location: 750 Idaho St., 208-344-8424, maithaigroup.com.

38.1°

The Pocket

Sink yourself into a corner at this off-the-freeway billiard hall, where '90s college rock is on the juke and happy hour lasts half the night.

1487 N. Curtis Road, 208-375-2474.

38.3°

Alterknit Lounge at KFCH

Cold beer and live music go together like peanut butter and jelly at this popular all-ages concert house.

416 Ninth St., 208-367-1212.

38.3°

Casanova

More Sinatra than Archie Bunker, this slyly modern pizzeria is as chic as it is comfortable.

1204 S. Vista Ave., 208-331-3535, casanovapizzeria.com.

38.3°

Flatbread Community Oven

Firewood burns in the open pizza oven in this modern eatery with a vintage Italian ambience.

3139 S. Bown Way, 208-343-4177. Other location: 830 N. Main St., Meridian, 208-288-0969, flatbreadpizza.com.

38.4°

Grape Escape

Affordable bottles and glasses, plus 14 years experience provide an un-snooty, unmatched indoor/outdoor venue in which to snack and swill wine.

800 W. Idaho St., Ste. 120, 208-368-0200.

38.4°

Parrilla Grill

Sit down with the college kids and North End taco eaters at the indoor/outdoor bar. It's a fine place to watch the madding crowd of Hyde Park cruise by on their way to or from Camel's Back or the Foothills.

1512 N. 13th St., 208-323-4688.

38.5°

Ahi

Located near the heart of downtown Eagle, Ahi's creative sushi chefs deftly execute requests for raw combos not found on the regular menu. Signature spicy sauces are made from scratch behind the three-sided sushi bar.

1193 Winding Creek Drive, Eagle, 208-938-3474.

38.5°

Liquid

Upgraded with billiards and funky lights, Liquid's stage and laminated plywood flooring offer a glorified slice of Seattle's 1990s grunge scene.

405 S. Eighth St., 208-287-5379, liquidboise.com.

38.5°

Reef

As the the neon above the thatch and bamboo bar proclaims, this is undoubtledly a tiki bar. Gilligan would have plenty of room to run from the Skipper across this spacious beach-themed dining room and rooftop patio, where the Sixth and Main kids limbo and sway.

105 S. Sixth St., 208-287-9200, reefboise.com.

38.5°

Red Feather Lounge

The ambience is big city and casually swank at Bittercreek's sophisticated sidekick. Marvel at the looming 30-foot ghost-blue wine tower as the acid house music soothes. 246 N. Eighth St., 208-429-6340, justeatlocal.com.

38.5°

Sam's Saloon

Still the only bar in Star. And little has changed inside. Head on in and rub elbows with locals, throw some darts and be prepared to wisecrack with the barkeep. The patio offers great seating for the Tuesday night horseshoe tourneys. And the pickled eggs are still a buck.

10937 W. State St., Star, 208-286-7794.

38.5°

Stagecoach Inn

This Western-themed steakhouse, with its diamond tuck upholstery and dark paneling, celebrates its big five-oh in September. Jumbo prawns, huge steaks and homemade banana cream pie have kept loyal customers going back for three generations.

3132 Chinden Blvd., Garden City, 208-331-0336.

38.6°

Stubs Sports Bar

In a strip mall near HP, Stubs serves the best damn pickled eggs on the planet. Overstuffed couches and a big screen imitate the comforts of home, while tellies in the loo ensure you'll never miss a play during the big game.

12505 W. Chinden Blvd., 208-378-8273, stubspub.com.

38.7°

Hyde Park Pub

Right in the heart of Hyde Park, the pub offers up a fine selection of drafts, a great little patio, and a perfect, bustling environment to watch a ball game and shoot some stick.

1501 N. 13th St., 208-336-9260.

38.7°

Tom Grainey's

It's the place to rock out with friends to local bands on the hip Sixth and Main corner.

109 S. Sixth St., 208-345-2505.

38.8°

Boise Fry Company

The fries may be center stage, but the beer and burgers are fantastic, too. The name controversy isn't the only reason this place is packed.

111 Broadway Ave., Suite 111, 208-495-3858, idahofrycompany.com.

39.0°

Q's Billiards & Eatery

Q) What would it look like if Jim Jarmusch and Mama Morton (from Chicago) opened a divey darts and pool bar? A) Q's.

6570 Fairview Ave., 208-322-9122

.

39.0°

Willowcreek Grill

Modern decor and lighting make this a good stop for a drink, a sandwich and some sweet potato fries.

1065 Winding Creek Road, Eagle, 208-938-3010. Other location: 2273 S. Vista Ave., 208-343-5544, willowcreekgrill.com.

39.2°

Hijinx Comedy Club

Deceptively expansive and perfectly proportioned for song and slapstick, HiJinx is a comedy club with swank turned up to full-bore.

800 W. Idaho St., Ste. 200, 208-947-7100, hijinxcomedyclub.com.

39.3°

Cactus Bar

We used to make jokes about the Cactus having a prickly demeanor, but this downtown bar has cleaned up its act. If only the Cactus had been as shiny clean inside all those years before--just imagine all the memories we would have had if the alley patio had been installed a decade ago. Then again, we wouldn't have all the crazy memories of the dive it used to be, either.

517 W. Main St., 208-342-9732.

39.4°

Goodwood Barbecue Company

OK, so the beer's not that cold. But who cares when a joint smells this good? The only mission for beer here anyway is to wash down ribs, brisket, smoked kielbasa and sweet potato casserole. Goodwood offers a comfy, relaxed atmosphere if you're eating in, and plenty of napkins if you're doing takeout.

1140 N. Eagle Road, 208-884-1021. Other location: 7849 W. Spectrum St., 208-658-7173, goodwoodbbq.com.

39.4°

Neurolux

A mammoth crown looms above the stage, flashing golden and magnanimous over hipsters--aging, inebriated and otherwise. The black walls and booths are a dark comfort to the disaffected.

111 N. 11th St., 208-343-0886, neurolux.com.

39.4°

Rick's Press Room

From the lovingly restored 102-year-old wood floors to the framed newspaper pages on the wall to the small but meticulously crafted menu, everything in this delightful establishment is done with care. Enjoy a more old-fashioned experience here: read the paper, relax with a cigar in the plush smoking lounge and dine at your leisure on rich, incredibly satisfying fare.

130 E. Idaho Ave., Meridian, 208-288-0558, rickspressroom.net.

39.5

Dutch Goose

Once you've finished patting your teammates on the rump after a grueling game of rugby, head on down to the "Goose" with your bros for some cheap suds, great food and a quick game of horseshoes. If horseshoes aren't your thing, head inside where you can battle it out on the air hockey table.

3515 W. State St., 208-342-8887.

39.6°

Kay & Traci's 127 Club

Want really cold beer here? Skip the draft and order longnecks, which are chilled nightly in an ice bath trough. Expect a mixed crowd at this venerable tavern--ranch hands and laptop jockeys often share the bar. Live country on weekends and prime rib Friday nights.

127 E. Idaho St., Meridian, 208-884-0122

.

39.7°

Charlie Brown's

Located in hedonist central next to Erotic City and Video Vixen, this bar is dark enough to hide all your guilty pleasures. Especially if one of those pleasures is darts. Described as "random" by the bartender, Charlie Brown's clientele ranges from retirees during the day to the raucous party crowd at night.

5783 Overland Road, 208-375-6541.

39.7°

Grizzly Rose

Sounds like a country dive, looks like Northwest swank. Rustic and immaculate, this is one of Boise's coolest concert venues and bars.

1124 W. Front St., 208-342-3375, myspace.com/grizzlyroseboise.

39.8°

Emerald Lanes

Bowling bars are supposed to be crappy little dives where you retreat after getting whupped in the lanes by your girlfriend's little brother. With hardwood counters and spacious seating, this sanctuary is the exception.

4860 Emerald St., 208-344-2695.

39.9°

Krueger's

Hidden between Hollywood Video and Money Tree on Broadway, the word about this game-day favorite pub is quickly spreading. Check out the hip VIP room available in the back.

550 Broadway Ave., 208-761-3076.

40.0°

The Bouquet

Though this downtown institution got a recent makeover, the massive wood bar remains, which will make bar goers feel right at home as they take in a parade of live music.

1010 W. Main St., 208-345-6605, thebouquet.net

.

40.2°

Happy Fish Sushi & Martini Bar

Recession got you contemplating harakiri? Stop in for serenity personified--with a side of raw fish, vodka and gin.

855 Broad St., 208-343-4810, happyfishsushi.com.

40.3°

Buddies Pub & Deli

This well-lit strip-mall establishment has more the feel of an alcove of afternoon delight than a den of late-night desire. Four pool tables and a ping-pong setup inspire a bit of healthy competition between friends.

8654 Overland Road, 208-658-0906.

40.3°

Pengilly's Saloon

Pengilly's Saloon - LAURIE PEARMAN

Sit at the nicked-up, well-worn bar and eye the milling crowd out on Main Street, or those swaying to the always-free live music. The majestic antique backbar keeps watch with you over this truly "Old Boise" bar in Old Boise.

513 W. Main St., 208-345-6344.

40.4°

Basque Center

The only Basque phrase you need to know at this bar is "Garagardoa nahi nuke?" Which translates as, "May I have a beer?"

601 Grove St., 208-342-9983.

40.5°

The Gaslight Lounge

Bowling, a karaoke machine and a full bar. Need we say more? Well, besides that this one's inside 20th Century Lanes.

4712 W. State St., 208-342-3250.

40.5°

Smoky Mt. Pizza

Nice selection of specialty pizzas like Mediterranean and Caribbean. The patio offers plenty of opportunities for people-watching.

34 E. State St., Eagle, 208-939-0212. Multiple locations, smokymountainpizza.com.

40.6°

Bella Aquila

With the most scenic patio in Eagle, this upscale Italian restaurant attracts the business crowd from the Hilton across the street, as well as well-heeled residents from the Two Rivers subdivision just over the Boise River. Calamari appetizer and chicken saltimbocca please the palate while diners enjoy the verdant view.

775 S. Rivershore Lane, Eagle, 208-938-1900.

40.9°

Pitchers & Pints

This quaint little bar boasts $1 beers all the time. For $42, you could buy an at-capacity crowd a round.

1108 Front St.

40.9°

The Plank

What pirate doesn't love a good patio and game of horseshoes? You won't find any rum, but the Plank's wide selection of drafts will keep you more than satisfied.

650 S. Vista Ave., 208-336-1790.

41.0°

Lock, Stock & Barrel

As if plucked from Yellowstone National Park, the LSB bar is awash with subtle culture and rustic comfort.

1100 W. Jefferson St., 208-336-4266, lsbboise.com.

41.0°

Louie's

In Italy, nothing is more important than family and food, and Louie Mallane has carried on that tradition for 44 years at this locally famous pizzeria. Part Idaho history museum and part Tuscan piazza, this fountain-bedecked establishment couldn't be a more inviting place to gather with loved ones and share some vino.

2500 E. Fairview Ave., Meridian, 208-884-5200, louiespizza.com.

41.0°

O'Michael's Pub & Grill

Slip into these shrouded confines and party down with North End bar flies or locals fresh off the mountain. Hip apres ski joint in the winter and a cool respite from the heat of summer.

2433 N. Bogus Basin Road, 208-342-8948, omichaelspub.com.

41.0°

Proto's Pizza

Have a seat at the long concrete bar in Proto's starkly comfortable dining room, or belly up to the patio bar and watch the bustle of BoDo as you sip a chilly one and mow down some wood-fired pizza,

345 S. Eighth St. 208-331-1400, protospizza.com.

41.0°

Rockies

It's not just a bar, restaurant and arcade; it's a show, complete with whirling beauties on roller skates and a live DJ spinning American classics. Sit back and remember the good ole days, and while you're there, consider vying for the "Rockies Challenge." Warning: It has a 95 percent failure rate.

3900 Overland Road, 208-336-2878.

41.1°

Flying Pie

Friendly service, albeit a bit wacky at times, topped with a sprinkling of sci-fi surrealism is the slice of the day at Flying Pie, an institutional family pizzeria with a few adult concessions. Gourmet night on Tuesdays, "It's Your Day" free pizza promotions and a ball of foil much, much bigger than your head.

6508 Fairview Ave., 208-345-0000. Other location: 4320 W. State St., 208-345-8585, flyingpie.com.

41.4°

Piper Pub & Grill

Head upstairs and join the business-casual after-work crowd and watch a ballgame on one of the plasma flatscreens, sip a Scotch and coldish beer. Or perch with your beverage on the balcony and keep an eye on the street action down Eighth and Main.

150 N. Eighth St., Ste. 200, 208-343-2444, thepiperpub.com.

41.6°

Main Street Bistro

Boise State is weak on Greek? We call bullshit. With babes, booze and bar games galore, MSB is 100 percent frat party.

609 W. Main St., 208-345-9515, myspace.com/mainstbistro.

41.7°

Burger 'N Brew

We made the unfortunate mistake of walking into Burger 'N Brew with empty stomachs and little to no money. This proved to be torture as we watched customers order amazing food. Lucky for us, they had free popcorn to stifle our hunger pangs. This longtime Boise restaurant delivers exactly what its name promises: burgers and beer. And they've been at it long enough to know what works.

4295 W. State St., 208-345-770.

41.7°

Fireside Inn

This dimly lit bar has a good selection of video games, a pool table, shuffleboard and plenty of seating for all. Stop by to get a cheap drink, and when you do, don't forget to check out the hand-knit baseball towels nailed right above your head. Be forewarned: this is one of the smokiest bars in town so be prepared for a low-oxygen experience.

1610 N. 31st St., 208-342-9075.

41.7°

Highlands Hollow

This chalet-style brewpub keeps its delicious hand-crafted tap selection going strong all summer so the wayward Bogus Bums can still chug down a few frosty ones after a day on the river or biking the hills.

2455 Harrison Hollow Lane, 208-343-6820, highlandshollow.

41.9°

Busters Bar & Grill

Neighborhood sports bar/family restaurant stocked with hot young servers in mini skirts and tight tank tops. Bring junior along for a burger while you keep tabs on the game.

1396 E. State St., Eagle, 208-938-1800. Other location: 1326 Broadway Ave., 208-345-5688, busterssportsbar.com.

42.0°

Cottonwood Grille

This is the kind of place that likely doesn't want to be known for its cold beer. Its cold martinis, sure, but beer is so humble compared to the finer spirits Cottonwood specializes in. Be it winter or summer, Cottonwood has a corner on the kick-back-and-relax-with-a-bottle-of-wine market. Pinot grigio and the patio in warmer months, cabernet and a fireside table on snowy days.

913 W. River St., 208-333-9800, cottonwoodgrille.com.

42.0°

The Office

It's appropriate that this legal-age playground is only a hop, skip and a few years away from Chuck E. Cheese's. Spacious ceilings, sports screens and horseshoes out back ensure you'll never call in sick to the Office.

6125 W. Fairview Ave., 208-377-2800.

42.1°

Donnie Mac's Trailer Park Cuisine

Good, family-friendly trailer park fun. Eat mac 'n' cheese or single-wide burgers in a car with Christmas decorations on the hood.

1515 W. Grove St., 208-384-9008, donniemacgrub.com.

42.1°

Navajo Room

In this Bench gem, the only thing more delightful than the Native American-themed murals and life-sized, framed portraits of John Wayne and Clint Eastwood, is the bartender, Chazz. He is snarkiness brought to life, and he'll even let you bring in your own food.

4900 Emerald St., 208-343-5817.

42.1°

Overland Bar

Overland Bar - LAURIE PEARMAN

Downtown can keep its bourgeois clientele; the Overland Bar is keeping it real. Cheap drinks, friendly patrons and copious amounts of ashtrays are par for the course. The velvet nudes are just a bonus.

3907 Overland Road, 208-336-4707.

42.3°

Club Savvy's

For six years, Club Savvy's has hosted monthly wild theme parties while karaoke and dancing keep locals entertained seven days a week. Long bar, big dance floor and an impressive karaoke stage make you a star for the night.

3933 Chinden Blvd., Garden City, 208-429-9339, clubsavvys.com.

42.5°

Papa Joe's

A Boise favorite for two decades, Papa Joe's offers prime Sicilian cooking with Idaho microbrews for a winning cultural combination.

1301 S. Capitol Blvd., 208-344-7272, papajoesboise.com.

42.9°

Mack & Charlie's

Why book a warehouse kegger when Mack and Charlie host one every night? Expect loud, spacey perfection.

507 W. Main St., 208-343-5159, mackandcharlies.com.

43.0°

DaVinci's

This bar and eatery occupies the historic Eagle Bank building and serves New York-style Italian fare. The bar hosts a wine tasting with live music every Thursday night. Although the beer is warmish, the Jagermeister chiller produced 24.5 degree elixir.

190 E. State St., Eagle, 208-939-2500.

43.0°

Pie Hole II

With wildly painted walls, pizza by the slice, and a back patio to enjoy it on, this repeat of the downtown location is brimming with personality.

1016 Broadway Ave., 208-424-2225. Other location: 205 N. Eighth St., 208-344-7783, pieholeusa.com.

43.3°

Tablerock Brewpub & Grill

Step away from BoDo, or Julia Davis Park, and watch the ball game on the flatscreens while you sip a Tablerock original brewski. The design is comfortably stark inside, and the patio provides a fine glimpse down Capitol Boulevard.

705 Fulton St., 208-342-0944, tablerockbrewpub.com.

43.5°

The E-Club

An adult rec center: 10 taps, oversized dance floor and stage, and open-minded patrons.

415 S. Ninth St., 208-342-5446, emeraldclubboise.com.

43.5°

Terrapin Station

Check out grunge metal and Grateful Dead cover bands, or hang out on an old couch and stare at the psychedelic pictures.

1519 W. Main St., 208-342-1776, myspace.com/terrapinboise.

43.8°

Balcony Club

This gay-friendly joint is designed for dancing the night away.

150 N. Eighth St., 208-336-1313, thebalconyclub.com.

44.1°

China Blue

China can make all the fake tan and hair product in the world--they can't, however, manufacture the "magic" that happens on the China Blue dance floor.

100 S. Sixth St., 208-338-6604, myspace.com/chinablueclub.

44.1°

River Rock Alehouse

Sit out on River Rock's beautiful covered patio while the breeze plays in the trees.

228 E. Plaza St., Eagle, 208-938-4788.

44.5°

Jim's Alibi

The colorful mural on the front sets the tone for this lively neighborhood bar. Watch the big game on the multiple flatscreen TVs or sit in the shade on the back patio.

2710 Broadway Ave., 208-342-9220.

44.4°

Terry's State Street Saloon

Terry's State Street Saloon - LAURIE PEARMAN

What's great about Terry's are hidden pictures of naked women on the walls. It's kinda like "Where's Waldo?" if Waldo was a naked woman. If that's not your thing, then you always have karaoke.

3301 Collister Drive, 208-331-8225, statestreetsaloom.com.

45.1°

Falcon Tavern

New digs, upgraded patio, same red paint. Bright and airy, this bird is a beacon at both mealtime and beer-thirty.

705 W. Bannock St., 208-947-3111, falcontavern.com.

45.3°

Pizzalchik

This unpretentious little restaurant has a nice selection of beer and wine, including its own homebrew on tap. Throw in some amazing food, an upbeat staff and a Getty Lee bobblehead figure that sits next to the bar, and you'll see why sometimes, it's not what's in a name.

7330 W. State St., 208-853-7757, pizzalchik.com.

45.3°

TK's Bar

Perched on an impressive overlook of the valley, this working person's bar features live music, a shady back patio and the obligatory singing bass on the wall.

3231 Federal Way.

45.5°

Gamekeeper Lounge

Pristine-but-cozy furniture and dim lighting make the Owyhee Plaza Hotel lounge the ultimate destination for an upscale Boise date. The lounge is a Boise landmark, where political power players and visitors alike have gathered for decades.

1109 W. Main St., 208-343-4611, owyheeplaza.com.

45.7°

Little Dutch Garden

This was named the 2008 Best of Boise "Best Bar in a Neighborhood" for a reason: You'll feel like you're visiting a friend's house. If you can wrestle a spot in the lineup, take advantage of LDG's excellent horseshoe pit, or just chill at a table in the shady back yard and heckle the other throwers. You'll make friends in no time.

1910 S. Owyhee St., 208-342-9034.

45.9°

Gusto Bar

Offering drink and dance vs. chug and chat, Gusto is Mack & Charlie's wide open, concrete-floored, red-walled sister. Or maybe fraternity brother is a better way to think of the relationship.

509 W. Main St., 208-343-5159, myspace.com/gustobar.

46.3°

Chef Roland's

Not only is Chef Roland's the only establishment in the valley to serve authentic Cajun cuisine, but everything comes with a large serving of Southern hospitality on the side, including the not-so-frosty, but still-darn-good beer.

1221 W. Boise Ave., 208-344-4387.

46.3°

Sunray Cafe

This is the classic Hyde Park beer and grub grotto. Mix with the lycra-clad post-ride bikers and happy beer-loving North Enders on one of Boise's best patios, or in Sunray's recently remodeled back dining room and bar.

1602 N. 13th St., 208-343-2887.

46.6°

The New Frontier

If you can't have the coldest beer, it might as well be among the warmest. People come to this bar to dance, anyway. The liquor is cheap, the horseshoes are plentiful, and the music is loud.

116 E. Broadway Ave., Meridian, 208-888-9034.

47.1°

The Lift

We could write about how The Lift has a friendly, outdoorsy atmosphere to it. We could describe the large shaded patio out back. Hell, we could even rant about the vintage Burton "performer" snowboard hanging on a wall. However, this is all trumped by Holy Oly Tuesdays: 50-cent 12 oz. cans of Olympia Beer. Two quarters gets you the Tumwater beer that built the Northwest.

4091 W. State St., 208-342-3250, theliftboise.com.

47.7°

The Busted Shovel

Just because you ride a scooter instead of a Harley doesn't mean that you can't go to Meridan's No. 1 biker bar. Ride right up and grab a shot of Patron. Still, it might be a good idea to park your scooter behind the Busted Shovel when you go, at least if you want to maintain your tough image.

704 Main St., Meridian, 208-288-2217, bustedshovel.com.

48.2°

Opa

Step on into Opa's dimly lit, red confines, sit at the long, narrow bar and watch beautiful people on the perpetually playing Fashion Network, while the bartenders greet each new patron with a round of "Opa!" Smoke a hooka. Sway to the house music. Bang a gong. Get it on.

213 N. Eighth St., 208-342-6555.

48.6°

Dirty Little Roddy's

Babes on mechanical bulls and close-quartered dance fever make Dirty Little Roddy's the late-night destination of urban cowfolks from all walks of life, although it's a particular favorite of the college-aged crowd.

100 S. Sixth St., 208-338-6604, myspace.com/dirtylittleroddys.

48.6°

The Front Door Northwest Pizza & Tap House

Obscured by upstairs neighbor The Reef, this quaintly bricked "neo-ameripolitan pizza" gem serves delectable pies, pasta and a mess of microbrews. Don't expect to find any mass-produced domestic beers here--it's all about the finely crafted brews served at the optimal temperature.

105 S. Sixth St., 208-287-9201, thefrontdoorboise.com.

48.9°

Bar Gernika

This brick-walled downtown Boise fixture offers something for everyone: a scrumptious menu, fantastic staff and a wide selection of brewskis. Sometimes a little Bar Gernika is just what the doctor ordered.

202 S. Capitol Blvd., 208-344-2175, bargernika.com.

48.9°

Pair

Among the black mod couches, art chairs and bright angular mobiles linger clusters of Les Bois' well-dressed urbanites. Drink on the grown-up corner of Boise's busiest party intersection.

601 W. Main St., 208-343-7034.

49.6°

Grainey's Basement

Grainey's Basement - LAURIE PEARMAN

Cover bands jam near a crammed-but-critical dance floor while drinks flow like the Boise River in this loud, steamy basement.

109 S. Sixth St., 208-345-2505.

Secret of the Brew

It's not every day you hear beer described as an "alcoholic beverage made from cereal grains like malted barley and wheat. The additions of hops are used for bittering, flavoring and aroma. The product is fermented by yeast."

Unless, of course, you happen to hang out with someone who brews suds for a living.

For most of us, the understanding of those hops and grains goes no deeper than the bottom of a pint glass. But it's a fine science for those who make a career out of beer. In the lives of those chosen few, beer means rising before the sun to play a role that is part chef and part alchemist, balancing artistry with science to create brews that are both traditional and innovative.

It's a challenge Josh King has been meeting as a professional brewer for nine years. Now, as head brewer at Sockeye Brewery, it's up to King to perfect the recipes for the brewery's signature beers poured at roughly 60 bars in Idaho.

Standing in the small brewing room at Sockeye, surrounded by towering kettles and assorted tools of the trade, King offered a brewing 101 lesson as the pungent scent of fermenting yeast hung in the air. With well-rehearsed speed, King described how all beer breaks down to two basic styles: ale and lager. But from there, the diversity is overwhelming. In his years brewing, King has come up with 48 original recipes.

Grains come in every roast, from light to dark, and bring a dizzying array of flavors, from grapefruit to burnt toast. Hops bring their own tastes and add the bitterness to various brews. And that's not even taking water into consideration. The chemical makeup of the water used in brewing (roughly 90 percent of beer) can make all the difference, and brewers have to know what balance is needed for what beer.

Amid the humidity of the brewing room, King explained that for one beer, Rauchbier, a German-style smoked beer, water has to be dechlorinated before brewing can begin.

The process begins with choosing the right grains to create a balance of flavors and colors. The grains are milled to break them open and mixed with hot water in a hulking, stainless steel machine called a mash ton, where the grains' simple starches are turned into simple sugars. The resulting concoction is called sweet wort, which is moved to a brewing kettle, heated and hops are added. Typically, the hops go through "charges"--the first for bittering the beer, the second for flavor and the last for aroma--but the final count depends on the type of beer. A malty porter may only see two charges, while an IPA will get seven.

The sweet wort has now become bitter wort, and is put through a twisting series of tubes that look a little like a middle-school science experiment. Here, a heat exchanger uses cold water to cool the wort before it goes into a fermentation tank--the quintessential, towering conical tank most associated with brewing--where yeast and oxygen are added.

Yeast turns the sugars into alcohol and carbon dioxide, which is vented from the tank as the beer ferments via a long, thick plastic tube. King pointed to one of his freshest batches sitting in the fermenter, the gases bleeding off into a half-filled bucket of water, creating a continuous bubbling soundtrack for the brewery.

From there, it's off to the carbonation tank, where the beer is force-carbonated. From beginning to barrel, it takes roughly two weeks to make a batch of beer, although some varieties can take up to three months.

Nearly all of Sockeye's beers are put into barrels (31 gallons, or two kegs, for each barrel) and the brewery is on track to turn out 1,000 barrels this year. If a Sockeye beer is put in a bottle, it is done so by hand and only in small batches.

In recent years, beer drinkers have become a bit more adventurous when it comes to their beer. Now, 70 percent of Sockeye's sales are from its Dagger Falls IPA, a hoppy, bitter beer that was once scorned by customers. Other favorites include the Helldiver Pale Ale and the Powerhouse Porter.

And while King is inundated by (half-) joking requests to be his official taster, he quietly points out that it's a lot of work. "It's not all fun and games," he said with a smirk.

Coldest Beer Hall of Fame

In the eight years Boise Weekly has scoured local bars in search of the coldest brew, we've noticed a few things. Certain names keep popping up either at the top or the bottom of the list. Patterns begin to form and wild jumps are made.

Here are some of the observations we've made looking back over the last five years.

Big Movers

This year's top three coldest beer winners weren't even in the top 10 in 2008. In fact, the grand champion, 4-E's Bar, made an impressive 7.5-degree decline to take the title. Coming in second, Cheerleaders only dropped a modest 3 degrees, although Barbacoa must have updated its cooling system to drop 7.4 degrees to take third place.

On the other end of the scale, Grainey's Basement (formerly JT Toad's) pulled off a come-from-the-middle move to claim the warmest-beer spot on the list with a rise in temperature of 11.7 degrees. Pair ended up in the second-warmest-beer slot with an increase of 5.2 degrees since last year, and Bar Gernika rounds out the bottom three with a 7.7-degree climb.

Frosted Star

You've got to love consistency, and for some bars on our list, that means staying frosty when it comes to beer.

The Outpost Cafe in the Boise Airport gets a special nod this year for offering just plain cold beer year after year. This is the first year in the last five that Outpost has failed to make the top 10, narrowly missing it and landing in the 12th position while warming just 1.8 degrees since last year. So remember, if you need to numb your pain, and your hand, while dealing with air travel, the Outpost is looking out for you.

Also earning frosted stars this year are Lindy's Steakhouse, which has placed in the top 10 for three of the five years (every other year to be exact), as well as Characters, which can claim the same accomplishment.

Melted Star

For some bars, the object isn't to get it cold, it's to get it perfect. Many local bars pride themselves in serving beer at what the experts say is the optimal temperature for each variety of brew, and that's not necessarily cold. The results mean they usually end up near the bottom of our list, but they wear the melted star award with pride.

Among the consistently warm is Bar Gernika, which has been in the bottom 10 for four of the last five years. Coming in right behind, with three years at the bottom, is Front Door Northwest Pizza and Tap House, although we have to point out the bar actually got 1.4 degrees cooler this year.

After a three-year run, River Rock Alehouse rose out of the bottom 10, cooling down a whopping 4 degrees. Finally, Pair held on to its spot at the near-bottom for three of the last five years.

Not bad, champions of warm beer, not bad at all.

Want to find more Treasure Valley Bars? Check out Bar Bar, BW's bar guide at boiseweekly.com.

Comments

Showing 1-1 of 1

 

Comments are closed.