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Boise's Dynamic Beer Scene

The City of Trees is turning into the City of Taps

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Bittercreek Ale House doesn't generally condone crowd-surfing. But when Stone Brewing Co. CEO and co-founder Greg Koch showed up to a tap takeover, he gave a rousing speech before diving off the brewpub's bar into the rowdy crowd. If brewers like Koch are the new rock stars, then beer events--like tap takeovers, verticals, pint nights, meet-the-brewer events and beer and food pairings--are the new rock shows. And Boise has a surprisingly thriving scene.

Over the past couple of years, Bittercreek has hosted a number of popular beer-related events, including a sour beer blending symposium with brewers from New Belgium, and a four-year vertical featuring Deschutes' high-caliber Abyss paired with food specials like Welsh rarebit (a rabbit dish) with Abyss cheese sauce.

"My goal with events is to expose people to craft beer in ways that maybe they haven't been exposed before," explained Bittercreek's David Roberts. "I like doing events with beers that are interesting and incorporate brewing techniques that are either uncommon or untraditional or new."

Bier:Thirty recently hosted one such event: craft beers paired with donuts from Boise's Guru Donuts. On a lazy Saturday morning, patrons enjoyed a glass of Odell's Fernet-Aged Porter with a chocolate fudge-glazed cake donut, Epic's Big Bad Baptist Imperial Stout with a maple bourbon bacon bar, and New Belgium's 2013 La Folie with a brown sugar rhubarb fritter.

"We originally started off doing [beer events] to kinda kick start slower days of the week, but now it's just who we've become," said Bier:Thirty's Chris Oates. "A huge chunk of our customers expect us to do something at least once a week, and we're happy to oblige; we really enjoy doing them. Events have just become part of our culture. We like it when we have some controlled chaos with a throng of beer lovers."

So why does it feel like there are so many beer events in Boise, compared to other food- or drink-related events? According to Payette Brewing's Sheila Francis, the nature of the industry encourages experimentation--with seasonal releases, collaborative brews and barrel-aged beers--which leads to a steady stream of new releases.

"What's really cool about beer is there are a lot of choices and people have the luxury of trying them out at a lot of different locations, and then bars and retailers have a ton of products to choose from so they can often change them out," said Francis.

In Oates' opinion, there's also an integral social component to trying out new brews.

"There are literally new releases of beers every week in Boise right now and people like to get together socially to try them out versus buying and drinking at home by themselves," said Oates.