Francis, a University of Washington graduate and
former Boeing engineer, is the beer baron of Idaho.
His five-year-old Payette Brewing Co. was Idaho's
largest brewer in 2015.
Idaho — You’ve got to love a little Kickstarter-funded
brewery such as Boise Brewing, with a mezzanine where you
can sip an IPA and play foosball while beer is brewing in
stainless-steel tanks below you.
what’s not to like about the 25-mile Boise River
Greenbelt, a system of paved riverfront biking trails
through the city’s center where honking geese and wading
herons may be your only company?
the two and you can happily bike between Boise breweries
while barely breaking a sweat in this flat expanse that
locals call Treasure Valley.
time I was in beer-soaked Bend, Ore., brewers there said
Boise was the next happening beer town. Now, almost 20
brewers ply their craft in Idaho’s capital city, with
more on the way.
a sample cycling tour taking in three breweries.
at Boise Brewing (521 W. Broad St., boisebrewing.com). It’s
on the edge of downtown, a few short blocks from the
Greenbelt. Tour with a friend or two and tasting flights
are the perfect thing (in quantities that won’t make you
a hazard to other trail users). You get six 4-ounce pours
for $8 here.
to brew touring? This is a great time to get a tutorial
from Erin Hicks, the assistant bar manager. On the board
listing beers on tap, ABV stands for alcohol by volume (4
percent is low in a craft ale, 8 percent is high) and IBU
stands for international bitterness units, a measure of a
brew’s tongue-rousing quality from hops, on a scale of 0
on this visit include brews such as the best-selling Hip
Check IPA, Snowboarder Porter and Seven Crane Cream Ale.
Visiting on a Tuesday? All pints are $2.50.
can also satisfy your curiosity about the taproom wall
covered with brown and blue mugs hanging from pegs.
the blue mugs are for people who contributed to our
Kickstarter campaign," helping the brewery to open in
2014, "and the brown mugs are for our owners."
13 employees, "We’re still small, we all do a
little bit of everything," Hicks says.
2: HIT THE GREENBELT
a block northwest to Capitol Boulevard and follow the
sidewalk southwest (street traffic runs one way, against
you) until you reach the Greenbelt trail — about four
northwest along the river, stop in one block to ponder the
moving Idaho Anne Frank Memorial, at the end of Eighth
Street. Dedicated to human rights worldwide, its stone
walls are carved with meaningful quotes from Anne Frank to
a half-mile on the path and watch for a right turn to
Pioneer Walk. It leads a half-mile through a neighborhood
and back into town, depositing you near the cross streets
of Myrtle and South 11th. Follow 11th one block to West
Front Street and turn left to find funky little Woodland
Empire Ale Craft (1114 W. Front St., woodlandempire.com).
Employees: 7. Output: about 1,800 barrels a year.
you get six 3-ounce pours for $6. Most popular is an IPA
called City of Trees — Boise’s nickname.
a young and lively beer scene in Boise, with a lot of room
to grow," says co-owner Keely Landerman, who
emphasizes local ingredients for flavoring. That means
foraging in the Boise Foothills for rosehips or fruit
lunch from the guy with the ZZ Top beard at Manfred’s (manfredscatering.com),
a recently opened restaurant inside the brewery building,
with choices such as the $8 Tacodilla (steak asada, melted
cheddar, lime-pickled onion and cabbage, with avocado
crema). Let your food settle, then it’s time to earn
your final beer stop with an honest bike ride. Where are
you going? To prison.
an easy half-hour ride on the Greenbelt southeastward from
downtown to the Old Idaho Penitentiary. Fans of movies
with the word "nightmare" or "Freddy"
in the title will love this antique edifice of sandstone
and eerie lookout towers nestled among sagebrush at the
base of the Boise Foothills. (Visit in late October for
the — no kidding — "Frightened Felons"
Halloween tour; history.idaho.gov/old-idaho-penitentiary-events).
there, as the trail skirted the riverbank, I watched
Canada geese bodysurfing on spurts of white water. At Warm
Springs Park, where the trail edges a marsh, red-winged
blackbirds clung to cattails.
go left on a spur trail that skirts backyards and connects
with Warm Springs Avenue, just across from Old Pen Road.
Idaho Historical Society manages the penitentiary, long in
disuse. The 1872 structure is open for touring ($3-$6),
with attractions ranging from solitary-confinement cells
to the old gallows.
door, a more family-friendly attraction: the Idaho
the trail back, or better yet, get a taste of Boise’s
highfalutin’ past with a ride toward downtown on
bike-friendly Warm Springs Avenue, a historic district
that includes palatial old homes. In about 1.5 miles, turn
left on Broadway to return to the Greenbelt.
THE BEER BARON
your day at the 32,000-square-foot, $4.5 million riverside
home of Idaho’s biggest brewer, Payette Brewing (733 S.
Pioneer St., payettebrewing.com), which relocated here in
May. (You passed it earlier, just off Pioneer Walk, a few
pedal twirls from the Greenbelt.)
owner, Mike Francis, was a Boise boy who went to the
University of Washington and then worked for Boeing before
choosing a hoppier future. He studied beer making in
Chicago and worked at Seattle’s Schooner Exact Brewing
before heading back to Idaho to open his own brewery in
age 32, he’s the beer baron of Idaho, producing more
than 10,000 barrels last year.
beer is canned, not bottled, "because it fits the
Idaho lifestyle," Francis explains. "We like to
run the river and you can’t take glass on the
sample a food truck while you sip a North Fork Lager and
chat up a local about your next Boise adventure: mountain
biking the foothills.
few rental options in Boise:
map of the Greenbelt is on the city parks website:
Brewing hosts Hoptober Freshtival, focusing on
fresh-hopped beers from 30-plus local and regional
breweries; Oct. 1, noon to 8 p.m., Sixth and Broad
streets, Boise; hoptoberfreshtival.com.
more Boise biking, the Ridge to Rivers system includes
more than 190 miles of mountain-biking trails in the Boise
Convention & Visitors Bureau: boise.org.