San Juan Capistrano, Calif., has its swallows, Washington, D.C., has its cherry blossoms, Scottsdale, Ariz., has its snowbirds, but Boise, ah, Boise has the very best sign of the season: cold beer.
Every year, just as summer hits its stride, Boise Weekly rolls out the annual Coldest Beer issue like a harbinger of the frosty, suds-laden afternoons to come. Yes, just like sailors spotting an albatross, this, the 11th annual Coldest Beer issue is your signal that happier shores lie ahead—shores where they serve really cold beer in frosty mugs.
Each spring, in our truly selfless way, we send out a mini beer army with only thermometers and their soon-to-be-fuzzy wits to test more than 200 locally owned and operated establishments that keep the taps flowing. The testers scatter across Ada County in search of the coldest, the warmest and everything in between, sacrificing any carb-restricted diets they might be on in the name of our completely unscientific survey.
And for such an unscientific survey, the competition can be rough. Many a tester has been on the receiving end of a lecture on the optimal temperature at which beer should be served, and that temperature is nowhere near the freezing point.
To that, we must simply applaud the beer joints that show such dedication to the art of the brew that they fine-tune their taps. Unfortunately, "The Most Precise Temperature for Each Variety of Beer" contest would be a lot harder to organize—and did we mention this is a completely unscientific contest?
Thanks again to our dedicated soldiers of beer for their swilling sacrifice. And remember, dear readers, we do it all for you.
Testers: Emily Anderson, Sarah Barber, Harrison Berry, Tabitha Bower, Jaclyn Brandt, Amber Clontz, Andrew Crisp, Todd Dvorak, Josh Gross, Anne Henderson, Jennifer Hernandez, Christina Marfice, Sarah Masterson, Amy Merrill, Jessica Murri, Trevor Villagrana, Sheree Whiteley, Carissa Wolf
Players Pub and Grill
- Laurie Pearman
- Players Pub and Grill, 27.1 degrees.
There are bowling alley bars and then there is Players--home of beer so cold it's not only below the freezing mark, but it's the winner of the 2012 Coldest Beer Contest. But it's not just about the frosty brews. The $4 BFD special gets you a burger, fries and a drink (beer or soda) before you head over to your lane for an evening of cosmic bowling. The kitchen inside Westy's Garden Lanes also whips up a respectable bowl of clam chowder and other soups from scratch. 5504 Alworth St., Garden City, 208-376-6563, playerspubandgrill.com
The brightly decorated taqueria with large windows and plenty of booths in the heart of downtown is already a lunch fave, now it can compete with the bars, too. 222 Eighth St., Boise, 208-345-0323, polloreyboise.com
Harry's Bar and Grill
Harry's is making an attempt at being a sports bar--an attempt that seems to have been thwarted by the neighboring movie theater. Still, there are plenty of distractions for the kids and those who want a few games, and the beer is undoubtedly cold. 20132 E. Overland Road, Meridian, 208-888-9868
Attached to the lobby of The Red Lion Downtowner, this bar decorated heavily with sports memorabilia offers games, out-of-towners and free popcorn. 1800 Fairview Ave., Boise, 208-344-7691
While other bars along Chinden Boulevard are known for their high levels of drama and testosterone, the Quarter Barrel stands as the mellow, easy-going cousin at the west end of the Garden City strip. Wednesdays are popular for free pool (7-10 p.m.) and an open mike band jam session. 4902 Chinden Blvd., Garden City, 208-322-3430, quarterbarrel.com
The River Rock Eagle
This family friendly, Northwest-style pub features 24 tap handles and an enormous Double R Ranch steak dip sandwich served with au jus and French fries. 228 E. Plaza Drive, Eagle, 208-938-4788
Idaho Pizza Company
Nothing about this pizza joint implies the coldest beer on Broadway Avenue, but that's what Boise Weekly promises you. After testing them all, the winner for this strip is IPC. The staff may have to search in back for someone old enough to pour, but when tapped, the beer is cold as an ice bath. 1010 Broadway Ave., Boise, 208-343-1011, idahopizzacompany.com
Dim scarlet lighting and velvet art on crimson walls are complemented by a black tile bar. Though the space feels simultaneously antique and Gothic, the indie musicians who dominate the stage will keep you grounded in the present. 1519 Main St., Boise, 208-331-0956, redroomboise.com
Grab a beer or glass of wine and play some pool with the scariest, friendliest crowd in Boise. Choose from a huge selection of microbrews and get ready to make friends; you're guaranteed to be chatted up by someone in leather. 10704 W. Overland Road, Boise, 208-376-9800
This classic cowboy bar offers a 25 percent VIP discount to all veterans. Seven tap handles, six pool tables and a spacious dance floor keep the six resident ghosts entertained and will keep country music-loving mortals occupied, too. 5467 Glenwood St., Garden City, 208-378-7363, shortyssaloon.com
The African jungle-themed steakhouse and bistro with low lighting is perfect for high-maintenance dates. 999 Main St., Boise, 208-342-4900, angellsbarandgrill.com
Montego Bay could be the set of a Jimmy Buffett music video--as close to the sea as you can get in Boise, complete with a bay, beach music and some of the coldest beer in town. 3000 Lake Harbor Lane, Boise, 208-853-5070, montegobayidaho.com
Lindy's Steak House
While specializing in steakhouse fare, including Parmesan-encrusted halibut, sinful burgers and prime rib, this Chinden bar still revels in providing nightlife. While the restaurant/bar is now smoke-free, Lindy's still belabors over bringing the smoky flavor to its wide array of meats. After food, Lindy's serves up a variety of beers on tap and in bottles, and provides darts, billiards and shuffleboard to work off PBR-and-roast-beef benders. 12249 W. Chinden Blvd., Boise, 208-375-1310
Outpost Cafe at Boise Airport
So maybe it is your typical airport watering hole, but the Outpost has one way to get you ready for takeoff: Buy a beer and get a shot for $3. 3201 Airport Way, Boise, 208-941-0210
Like many Boise bars, this longtime fixture on the Bench is adapting to the no-smoking policy. Here, it's a new covered patio out back with speakers. There is shuffleboard for gamers and Thursday nights promise $2 shot specials and an open mic. 3907 Overland Road, Boise, 208-336-4707
This authentic dive bar has many dive-bar requisites like a dart board, jukebox, pool tables and a winning bowling team. The small patio out back is the icing on the cake. 4079 Chinden Blvd., Garden City, 208-342-9906
Foodies find fresh seafood, legendary steaks and generally haute cuisine in an ambiance that would make the James Bond in all of us feel at home. If that's not enough, the 10-minute Vesper reconstituted martini has a way of turning folks a little 007. 981 Grove St., Boise, 208-383-4300, chandlersboise.com
Sockeye Grill and Brewery
Sockeye needs no introduction. To find chicken wings, live music and craft beers under one roof is the Boise boozer's dream. The handcrafted brews will get you in the door and the staff will have you coming back to "drink like a fish." 3019 N. Cold Road, Boise, 208-658-153, sockeyebrew.com
Flatbread Community Oven
Real Italians never order cheap beer and crappy, dense pizza. And you'll find neither on the Flatbread menu. Gluten-free options, including pizza, are also available. 615 Main St., Boise, 208-287-4757, flatbreadpizza.com
Tucked into a strip mall, the linoleum bar and big windows make this sports bar eerily sterile, but plenty of games, 23 beers on tap and five televisions almost than make up for it. 6928 W. State St., Boise, 208-853-0526, brewsbrothersonline.com
Pinnacle Sports Grill
If the large clean-cut stone fire pit at the entrance doesn't look the epitome of inviting relaxation, the large horseshoe-shaped booths, Boise Cherry Picker baseball team memorabilia plastering the walls and the stained glass windows spell comfortable with a capital C. 2902 N. Eagle Road, Meridian, 208-884-4400, pinnaclesportsgrill.com
The Stagecoach Inn
Plate-size steaks, hand-breaded jumbo prawns and thick slices of chocolate cream pie have kept the clientele coming back since 1959. Get a mean pour and affordable drink prices all the time. 3132 Chinden Blvd., Garden City, 208-331-0336, stagecoachboise.com
Willowcreek Grill and Lounge
Escape the heat on the breezy, east-facing patio, where a burbling creek and lush foliage soothe the senses. Wash down cedar-fired salmon or cioppino with a selection from the rotating tap handles, wine list or full bar. 1065 Winding Creek Road, Eagle, 208-938-3010, willowcreekgrill.com
Buster's Bar and Grill
- Laurie Pearman
- Buster's Bar and Grill, 33.6 degrees.
Strolling into to Buster's before 5 p.m. may score you a spot at the bar, but forget trying to get a word in with the pretty bartenders. You'll get served, but their attention is captured by the men asking if they have boyfriends. This is a great place for a girl to get an ego boost. 1326 Broadway Ave., Boise, 208-345-5688, busterssportsbar.com
What Suds Master and Commander Griffy says was stupid luck landing the location, the rest of Boise recognizes as a blessing on the Broadway bar scene. Best-kept secret: Suds' courtesy taxi that will pick you up and take you home. 1024 Broadway Ave., Boise, 208-345-9656, sudstavern.com
Two burbling waterfalls and an unobstructed view of the Boise River make Bella Aquila's patio the finest in Eagle for enjoying a cold beer or chilled glass of wine. This classy little hideaway serves contemporary Italian fare under the direction of chef David Knickrehm. 775 S. Rivershore Lane, Eagle, 208-938-1900, bellaaquila.com
Easygoing atmosphere and always-unorthodox brews on tap make Pizzalchick a fun little eatery--and drinkery. 7330 W. State St., Boise, 208-537-7757, pizzalchick.com