By Lex Nelson
Idaho's beverage scene has two distinct sides — and both of them will have you buzzing!
On the one hand, the Gem State is the largest producer of barley and second-largest producer of hops in the country. Idahoans harvested 43.6 million bushels of barley in 2021 alone. On the other hand, there are more than 70 Idaho wineries and no fewer than three American Viticultural Areas (AVAs) in the state.
So what's a thirsty traveler to choose, beer or wine? We recommend the third option: enjoying a bit of both! Read on for a list of spots for both wine and beer drinkers to explore and tips for where to stay along the way.
Boise, Idaho, is one of the fastest-growing cities in the country — and its beer and wine scene is keeping pace! Here you'll find dozens of tasting rooms and taprooms, often within walking distance.
Telaya Wine Co. (Garden City) This family-owned winery was launched in 2008 and has been a destination in the Boise suburb of Garden City since 2016. It's located just off Chinden Boulevard, a thoroughfare sometimes called “Craft Beverage Corridor” for its plethora of drinkeries. The winemakers at Telaya craft syrahs, chardonnays, malbecs and more with Idaho and Washington grapes. Sip at your leisure in the tasting room just feet from the Boise River, or book a tasting and tour of the production facility for $45 per person.
Payette Brewing Co. (Boise) Payette Brewing Co. is the brainchild of Mike Francis, a Boeing engineer-turned-beer aficionado who launched the brand in 2011. Today, the massive brewhouse, taproom and beer garden sprawls in downtown Boise beside the river, welcoming locals with 20 taps of what is arguably the best beer in Idaho. Payette specializes in hoppy brews like the Rustler American IPA and light beers like the zesty Urban Surfer wheat. Its beer garden features bocce ball and a full-time food truck, its taproom is dog-friendly and it gives back to nonprofits weekly through its Kegs 4 Kause program.
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The Riverside Hotel is conveniently located just a short walk from Telaya Wine Co. on the Boise Greenbelt. Known for its live music, Riverside Grill restaurant and poolside bar, this is a great spot to rest after a day of tastings… or switch to cocktails.
Located just a half-hour drive from the heart of downtown Boise, Canyon County boasts the famed Snake River Valley AVA, the Sunnyslope Wine Trail (dotted with 17 rural wineries and Idaho vineyards) and a serious dose of down-home beer culture. Unwind with a craft brew fresh from hop country, or take a seat on a winery patio with a view of Idaho's version of Tuscany.
Huston Vineyards (Caldwell) This winery and vineyard is a jewel in the Sunnyslope Wine Trail crown. It's run by farmers/winemakers Gregg and Mary Alger and opened with an original vineyard of all-red grapes: cabernet sauvignon, merlot, syrah and malbec. Today, the winery offers glasses of riesling in its tasting barn alongside reds from its 100% AVA-grown Huston Vineyards Snake River Valley Series and its line of Chicken Dinner table wines, which are named after the road where the winery is located. Another perk: Huston regularly teams up with local chefs for farm-to-fork dinners.
Crescent Brewery (Nampa) Crescent prides itself on serving “damn great beer” without the hipster vibe of a stereotypical craft brewery. You'll find a stellar lineup on tap, including the British-style Tilted Kilt Pale Ale (made with Idaho and British barley) and the Coconut Porter (a tropical chocolate porter brewed with real fruit). If you want to learn the trade, Crescent will also help you master the art of brewing. Founder Jerry Fergusson sells homebrewing basics like yeast, hops and old kegs to beginners.
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Trinity Ranch Bed & Breakfast is the best place in Canyon County for a taste of the Idaho country lifestyle. Trinity is more than a bed and breakfast — it's also a working horse ranch that offers “equine-assisted therapy programs, riding and natural horsemanship lessons” as well as cozy visitor cabins. It's located in Nampa near Deer Flat National Wildlife Refuge and Lake Lowell.
Journey to the Idaho panhandle to find unparalleled hunting and fishing, spectacular mountain views and, of course, drinks! This region includes the Lewis-Clark Valley AVA — a 479-square-mile tract with more than a dozen wineries — and the eastern leg of the Inland Northwest Ale Trail.
Lindsay Creek Vineyards (Lewiston) A family of fourth-generation farmers owns this vineyard, and it shows! Brothers Art and Doug McIntosh are incredibly proud of the northern Idaho terroir and strive to show it off in their wines: a selection of rosés, malbecs, cabernet sauvignons and more. Guests at the large indoor-outdoor tasting room — which doubles as an event venue — can order small plates with their wine and enjoy live music on Friday and Saturday nights.
Groundwork Brewing (Lewiston) Groundwork Brewing is part brewpub, part pizzeria — truly a match made in heaven. Do as the locals do, and swing by for trivia nights, live music and seasonal craft beers like the recent GW Maibock: a malty, sweet blonde bock brewed for May Day. The brewery offers 12 taps, several of which pour beer crafted in-house from traditional recipes. Favorites include the Down Under Blonde ale and Isolation Amber lager.
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Hells Canyon Grand Hotel proudly proclaims to be the only full-service hotel in Lewiston. Located just minutes from Hells Canyon — the deepest river gorge in the United States — it offers an on-site restaurant, Meriwether's Bistro, as well as its very own brewpub, MJBarleyhoppers Brew House. Be sure to stop in for a microbrew before calling your beer tour a day.