When Boise Weekly started the Coldest Beer contest in 2002, Boise's beer landscape was vastly different. In watering holes around town, our readers chugged frosty domestic light lagers to keep the summer heat at bay. So, year after year, we sent our trusty army of thermometer-wielding suds soldiers to test the temperature of those icy macro-brews--some years it was Bud Light, other years Coors Light. Cold was king. And watery beer flowed like water.
But Boise's tastes have evolved. Now, there are at least 12 microbreweries cranking out craft beers around the Treasure Valley, with more on the way. According to the Idaho Barley Commission, craft beer sales in the United States have nearly doubled over the past five years to more than $12 billion, and are projected to increase to $18 billion annually over the next five years. Craft beer consumption levels are as high as 50 percent among millennials (25- to 34-year-olds), according to the Brewers Association.
And this rapidly growing craft beer market doesn't like their brews served at subarctic temps; in fact, industry experts recommend serving craft beers between 40-55 degrees Fahrenheit, depending on the style and alcohol content. By comparison, last year's Coldest Beer winner--the all-time coldest temperature we ever recorded--was an icy 26.5 degrees at Buster's on State Street.
So we decided to switch things up this year. We packed up our thermometers and called up some of our craft brewer friends around town. We thought what better way to wave goodbye to our 13-year tradition than to once-and-for-all settle the question that has caused innumerable bar brawls over the years: Which domestic macro-brew tastes the best?
To test this question, we asked six local, professional brewers to blind taste test six random domestic brews we bought at the corner store. We cloaked each 16-ounce can in a high-tech white paper jacket to conceal its identity and then messily poured samples of each beer into industry-standard clear plastic cups crudely labeled with a Sharpie.
On the following page, you'll find the results of our highly technical experiment, including the winner of BW's first (and probably last) Domestic Beer Blind Taste Test. You'll also find a map featuring data we gathered from local distributors on which bars around the Treasure Valley serve the largest quantity of different domestic beers.
Read on to find out what happens when you give six local brewers access to a fridge full of free beer. For a slideshow of the tasting and aftermath, click here.
Coldest Beer, we bid you a warm farewell.