Monday, May 27, 2013

A Visit to 10 Barrel Boise - Guest Post By Sean Deter

“Have you been to 10 Barrel yet?"

Weeks after its Boise debut, the phrase is likely to come up in conversation among even casual beer drinkers around town.

10 Barrel Boise location
I have, and I’m ready to make a bold yet accurate statement: With one fell swoop,10 Barrel Brewing has not only changed the city’s beer climate, it has already transformed the landscape of downtown and its bold design earns it the title of Boise’s newest landmark.

From about a block away, it hits you that you’re in for something special. The formerly historic, but somewhat nondescript 1920s-era Sherm Perry Building at 9th and Bannock streets might as well be a new structure. The old facade has been wiped away in favor of a look that could be described as industrial chic. Almost fully open to 9th, the design offers an illusion of no walls on that side of the building, and, taking a cue from the Bend pub, the Bannock side’s walk-up bar offers a perfect spot to park your bones for a cold one.

But what to have? Not an easy choice, and don’t plan on trying all the gems during just one visit.

During a tour and a tasting with renowned Northwest brewer Shawn Kelso, that became clear early on. Kelso ended a legendary run at Barley Brown’s in Baker City to become 10 Barrel’s Boise brewmaster and moved here with his family last summer.

On this particular Saturday in May, he was coming off a “light” 75-hour work week after putting in many 100-hour weeks to get the place ready for its April 22 opening.

“I’m still trying to recover from it,” he said.

During this visit, there were 19 selections on tap. The plan is to have 22, including two cask handles.

10 Barrel taplist
My favorite early on, which I tipped back while enjoying a conversation with Kelso amid the shiny new fermentation tanks from Portland Metalcraft, was the Warwicks Best. Cited by Kelso as his proudest accomplishment as a brewer during his time in Boise, he named it after his grandfather. A very sessionable English pale hovering around 5 percent ABV, it’s one killer ride with a nice malt pop and not-overpowering hop back provided by the East Kent Goldings.  

Also a highlight, even though I wouldn’t normally drift to a porter at 2 in the afternoon, was the DT10. Taking its namesake from premier Boise coffee roaster Dawson Taylor, this surprisingly smooth – and I’ll go so far as to say sessionable – gem features Dawson’s Dark Sumatra Roast.

Shawn Kelso and Sean Deter
Moving on to lunch with Shawn, the uniqueness of the place in comparison to other Boise pubs became even more apparent. From looking up at the original timber beams, exposed as part of the renovation, to the barrel-aging room a few feet away from our table featuring whiskey barrels from High West Distillery in Park City, Utah and the fermentation tanks, boiler and other equipment in the middle of the place, I felt like I was in another city.

One of the primary things setting 10 Barrel apart from competitors right now is the food. There are less than a handful of places in the area right now where you can get quality, locally brewed craft beer and upscale pub food in one location. 10 barrel has it all.

Chef Paul Faucher has crafted a menu featuring unique takes on classic pub fare, including mac and cheese, burgers, sandwiches and wings. The emphasis is on local ingredients. They butcher whole lambs themselves, and they cure the bacon and grind the beef in house.

On my visit, the pizzas appeared to be a popular pick, and there is no shortage to choose from. You can go for a basic pepperoni, or you can get more adventurous with, say, the All-American Cheeseburger Pie. This monster features a house-made 1,000 island base, ground chuck, applewood-smoked bacon, onion, lettuce, tomato, pickles, mushrooms and Swiss cheese.

Speaking of adventurous, Shawn started us out with the the highlight of the appetizer offerings: Charcuterie. This is a plate with Sasquatch ale-infused brats, honey-glazed pork belly, Manchego cheese and pickled veggies. There were also almonds on the plate that, when challenged by Shawn to figure out what they tasted like, I failed miserably to come with the correct response. Then, when he said it, I realize he nailed it: They taste like bratwurst.

We followed that up with a bounty of other offerings from the menu. Shawn’s Chicken Fried Chicken with sweet chili mayo was solid, as was my friend’s Snake River Farms Kobe Sando, featuring house smoked and roasted Kobe and horseradish aoli.

My favorites were the deceptively spicy Sriracha and lime wings, with a delayed kick that caught me off-guard but in a good way, and the rich-beyond-belief mac and cheese with smoked gouda and cheddar, bacon and jalapenos.

And to polish it off, the brew that changed my life: the unexpectedly essential Swill. This Berliner Weiss brewed with grapefruit soda and running a cool 4.5 ABV is, as it’s billed, the perfect summer beer – and refreshes like no other after mowing the lawn.

I've mowed mine five times this week.

Sean is a beer enthusiast, music freak and journalist who grew up in Salem, Ore., and has made his home in Boise for the past decade. Follow him on Twitter @babysean.