Boise Beer Wars – A 31-Beer Salute to the IPA

By Dale Spangler

By Dale Spangler

I must confess I was a bit apprehensive about taking up this challenge. A blind four-ounce taste test of 31 different IPAs from throughout the west with the beer that receives the most votes taking the win. Yes, you read that correctly: 31 four-ounce pours! That’s the daunting task of drinking 124 ounces of beer within an allotted time of three hours where participants cast votes for a maximum of five favorites. As much as I thought I was up for the task, after about five samples I realized it was simply going to be impossible to accomplish for this admitted craft beer snob.

Hosted by 10 Barrel Brewing and its local Boise location staff, proceeds from the Boise Beer Wars IPA Fest were to benefit the Idaho Horse Rescue. Not only was there lots of beer on hand, there was live music from bands The Sextones and Great Bait who provided an enjoyable backdrop for those in attendance quaffing hoppy beverages.

This year's event took place in the El Korah Shrine parking lot in downtown Boise which provided plenty of room to mingle without feeling claustrophobic.

Beers in the lineup included IPAs from California, Oregon, Washington, Colorado, and of course Idaho and I was curious how well the local brews would fair against the likes of powerhouse national brewers Stone, Oskar Blues, Ballast Point, Elysian, and Lagunitas. Boise was well represented with beers in the mix from Payette, Barbarian, Powderhaus, Bear Island, County Line, Sockeye, Boise Brewing, Edge, and Woodland Empire. A pretty decent representation of the burgeoning craft beer scene here in Boise, Idaho—with even more on the way. It’s a good time right now to be a craft beer drinker in Boise.

The full list of beers that were part of the blind tasting. The list wasn't revealed until after the winners were announced.

Fun appeared to be had by all, the mood was jovial, the staff pleasant, and I didn’t see a single person projectile vomit. I’d call that a good day. I was able to make it through 17 of the 31 beers before I tapped out. Not bad for three hours of “work.” Most of the beers I sampled (in my opinion) were pretty average and the more I drank the harder it became to distinguish good from average from bad—so my deciding factor became level of bitterness. Even though the days of super-hopped, high IBU IPAs seem to be on the way out (once again, in my opinion) I sampled quite a few that were nothing but bitterness that lingered on my tongue as if superglued there. One was so bad that it was almost traumatic. Ever had a beer that not only smells, but also tastes like smoked bologna? Unfortunately, I can say that I have, and without naming the brewer’s name, needless to say I won’t be having any of their beers anytime soon. (Yes, it was that bad.) My favorites were the smooth and juicy beers, and surprisingly the two that I really liked (and that I ultimately voted for) ended up in the top three, so I guess there were quite a few of us on the same wavelength.

A 10 Barrel Brewing staff member pours a sample of the winning IPA.

So, who took the win? And who rounded out the podium? Below are the top three of the 31 beers tasted. The two that I voted for were 21st Amendment and Elysian. Both were standouts to me and it was cool to see others thought the same. Congrats to local Boise area brewers Mother Earth (Nampa) and Bear Island Brewing Co. (Garden City) for making the top three. The Boise Brewing scene just keeps getting better and better and events like Boise Beer Wars will only continue to help grow the scene. See you next year!

Boise Beer Wars IPA Fest Top Three

1st Place: Brewery: 21st Amendment Brewery / Beer: Brew Free or Die Blood Orange IPA

2nd Place: Brewery: Mother Earth Brew Co. - Nampa / Beer: BooKoo IPA

3rd Place: TIE: Brewery: Bear Island Brewing Co. / Beer: Idaho Potato Ale | Brewery: Elysian Brewing / Beer: Day Glow IPA

Scenes From Boise Beer Wars IPA Fest 2017

[Click on an image to see enlarged view]