One trend has become preeminent in the six years that we've been conducting our annual Coldest Beer test: The chain restaurants have the locals beat, time after time after time.
If we look back on restaurants that hit the top five coldest beers regularly, we find that a chain has been there more often than not. T.G.I. Friday's, that perky bar chain that's in every mall in America, was in our top five list of coldest beers of Boise for four years running. Everyone else only got into that top five twice. And who were those bars? Hooter's. Romano's Macaroni Grill.
And only Lindy's Steakhouse has cracked the top five twice. When we look at our rankings year over year, we find that the chains are keeping them colder, and doing so more consistently.
This shouldn't surprise anyone; maybe they've got the money to have better keg cooling systems, or a rigid procedure that ensures uniformity in their beer storage and delivery. Surely they've got a business back end that's been doing this for years. They don't have a manager trying to re-create the wheel every year. Instead, they have instruction manuals. Never run a bar before? Here's how to keep the suds cold.
The debate over chains vs. independents is a perennially tense one, in Boise and beyond. The lineup on either side is never what you'd expect, because, we are often reminded, many of those chain restaurants are run by locals who own the franchise. Yep, that's a Boisean who might be running that chain there, mister, and your shoot-from-the-hip disdain is worth precisely what you're charging for it.
Still, it's comforting to look out at Boise's barscape and see the local joints. Whether it's the distinctive A-frame of the Vista Bar, the bustling patio scene of Bardenay or even The Torch, which longtime locals recall as a family place that used to serve outstanding finger steaks, these places are the ones that have Boise written all over them.
Maybe locals really do pay close attention to the beer snob's rule that a beer with ice in it is one you can't taste. Maybe they're daring locals to tough out a beer that's good and cold, but not headache-inducing, and instead enjoy the atmosphere. That's what you came for, after all.