Beer festivals! These two magic words can make a beer lovers knees quiver. Sadly, in Boise, we’ve been without a honest to goodness beer festival for the past few years as costs, permitting and other issues with the city brought about their untimely demise. Last year, I was fortunate enough to attend (and volunteer) at the inaugural Boise Brewing Hoptober Freshtival (read about it here). The initial event in 2014 brought out mostly local brewers to a central location (5th & Broad St) in front of the Boise Brewing brewery. Beer lovers heard the call and purchased their $25 tickets and received a taster mug (roughly 5oz) and were treated to unlimited tasters until the beer was gone or until 8pm.
This year, the Hoptober Freshtival was bigger and better in all the ways that count. Instead of 13 breweries we had 25+ for a total of more than 50 tap handles to choose from. All the local players were on hand and some regional breweries made the trip up as well, including Fort George, Deschutes, & Mazama Brewing. Sadly, we did loose the “all you can drink” component due to permitting changes with the city, but that may have been for the best. Who wouldn’t get into trouble at an All You Can Drink craft beer event? The new system offered attendees their taster mug and 20 tickets which, if fully redeemed, would equate to 80+ oz of beer. Still, a pretty damn good deal for a $25 ticket ($30 at the door). Once again, Broad Street between 4th & 5th was blocked off in front of Boise Brewing. At noon, with people lined up along the fence, the gates opened and people started filing inside.
As a volunteer, I spent the first few hours of the event at the EDGE Brewing table, pouring their Fresh Hop (the last keg to come out of the brewery this season) and Pumpkin Porter. Being one of the first possible stops after patrons made their way inside, I got to meet and chat with most of the early attendees. Like last year, the crowd was happy if not downright jovial. Why wouldn’t they be? After all, at noon when the gates were thrown open they had 8 magical hours of beer drinking ahead! Despite a few hiccups early on with our jockey box, I was slinging beer like a madman for 4 hours without pause. Well, there may have been a moment or two here and there when I could take a step or two to my right/left to grab a beer from one of the surrounding tables. I needed to try to make the rounds to avoid drinking all the Fresh Hop. That seemed like a moral imperative! As you can see… sampling as much beer from my neighboring tables was really all for the greater good! Don’t say I don’t look out for my fellow beer lovers. 🙂 Thankfully for me on my right was Fort George & Grand Teton, to my left was Crooked Fence, Deschutes, County Line & Barbarian. Honestly, everything that came my way was great. Being stationed next to Fort George, I quickly fell in love with their MOSAIC IPA. I’m sure, like food cooked over a camp fire on a camping trip, beer at an outdoor beer fest is always at its best. You’re outdoors, surrounded by other craft beer lovers, people are chatting about beer and all things are right with the world. Drowning in hops. I can think of worse ways to go
There was so much beer flowing that, even if you wanted to, I’m not sure how you could have gotten around to sample all of it. On multiple occasions I had people request half pours or less for their tickets so that they could ensure their continued sobriety in order to make it to 20 (or more) stations. Putting away 80 oz of liquid can be a daunting task for the uninitiated. Of course, for the die-hards who planned to camp out from open to close, additional tickets were available for purchase. Also on hand were multiple food trucks, not to mention foozball, corn-hole, and Radio Boise DJ’s spinning tunes throughout the day. When my shift ended at 4pm, as far as I could tell, all stations still had beer and it was time for me to devote myself make the rounds as quickly as possible. One thing that I learned last year, when kegs start to blow they fall like dominos.
I took a quick lap on the inside of the tables so that I could pop over to introduce myself and say “hi” to the guys from Powderhaus and meet up with a fellow volunteer, Larry, who was slinging beer for Postmodern at the table next to them. The Triple IPA from Postmodern was excellent and could quickly escalate your afternoon from feeling great to face-plant. Coming in at around 9% if memory serves, two pours were all I could risk. While I had planned to try to make it to as many different taps as possible, being at a dedicated station for the first 4 hours, and getting thirsty pouring all that beer (as one does) my plans fell apart as the day progressed unfortunately. Having beer reps for almost every brewery on hand was nice and while the plan was to have them at their respective stations, more often than not they were out in the crowd, surfing from one station to the next drinking beer and mixing it up.
Chalk this event up as yet another smashing success. Bringing together 25+ breweries and over 50 different taps with more than 2000 attendees with no major issues *that I am aware of*. Yes, there were a few people who got a little carried away… like the guy who yaked in the street right next to two BPD officers. While we may have lost the large beer festival in the park, this is absolutely an event worth blocking out on your calendar well in advance. I hope that the Boise Brewing crew can continue to nurture this event and continue it long into the future.
I’m pretty sure that everyone that made it down had an incredible time. Check out the photos below to see for yourself!