Two articles ago I described a shorter road trip up California and Oregon. This road trip? A bit further. Several long days of driving took us from Portland, OR all the way back into the Midwest. This article is dedicated to my wife, as 3 of the 4 breweries I am about to discuss were hit only due to her patience. My stops in Boise, ID, Laramie, WY, and Norkfolk, NE were not places we spent the night, they were simply along the route we were taking and she graciously allowed me to take time to pull off and hit these breweries so I could check those states off my brewery list. Much of our expedition was beautiful, especially the mountain views through the Rockies. Also, part of this journey included an extra day and night in Denver, but we will cover that city in the next article.
- Sockeye Brewing: Boise, ID
- Talisman Brewing: Ogden, UT
- Altitude Chophouse & Brewery: Laramie, WY
- Divots Brewery: Norfolk, NE
If you like a cabin or lodge feel to your taproom (like I do), Sockeye is a place for you! Huge logs are used throughout the interior and exterior, which fits perfectly for Boise’s outdoorsy area. A large covered patio surrounded by pine trees provides a place to enjoy fresh air, but inside is what impressed me most. An expansive space, the bar area is on the right, with a plethora of seating options elsewhere. My favorite section was in the back where a stone fireplace welcomes you to take a seat and a salmon is mounted above. If you need a bite to eat with your beer, they also serve food (and salmon is on the menu of course). A huge picture of the Sawtooth Mountains towers above the taproom, which is a nice local touch. I also always appreciate when a brewery has a unique flight board, and of course Sockeye’s is shaped like a salmon!
I tried a bunch of beer at Sockeye, but a few stuck out. Their flagship IPA, Dagger Falls IPA is a truly a great mix of being highly drinkable, while still retaining the qualities of an IPA you come to expect (mild bitterness, pine, and citrus throughout). Of the two sours I sampled, BA Oud Bruin Sour was my preference, as this darker sour had a nice hint of bourbon on the nose. That said, Sour Puss was no slouch either, as their seasonal Raspberry Sour uses Nancy’s Probiotic Yogurt, which is from the Pacific Northwest. All that is well and good, but the big winner was Maple Bourbon Bock. This was a mouthful of a beer, with maple unsurprisingly taking center stage among the malts and bourbon (that was more present on the nose). The other beer I’d like to mention was their Hazy Imperial IPA Sunbeam. Pineapple and grapefruits both abound, and this one drinks much lighter than the 8.5% ABV tag.
Since I could only hit one Idaho brewery on this trip, I could not be more pleased that it was Sockeye. From the environment to the beer, I felt they represented the state quite well. This is definitely a place I would frequent if I lived nearby.
I could write a whole article trying to explain the odd rules and laws that plague Utah breweries and beer. For starters, they cannot serve any beers on tap above 4% ABV, meaning brewers must get creative with their recipes. However, they can sell bottles of their beer (although you cannot consume them there) that are higher in ABV. Some places even had some that reached into the double digits. On top of that, new laws force breweries to choose between the distinction of being a ‘bar’ or ‘restaurant’. If you visit a brewery that falls into the ‘restaurant’ category, you must order food to go with your beer. Enough about that nonsense, as I enjoyed my visit to Talisman! They have two separate spaces, one for the bar and taproom, and one for a gift shop where you can purchase merchandise and beer to go! The brewery is located in the back, and depending on where you sit you can view the brewhouse.
I was thoroughly impressed with what Talisman is accomplishing with their beers on tap. Again, everything was right on 4% ABV, but they did not lack in body or flavor. Top of the list for my palate was Killer Grove a Honey Wheat with blood oranges. The citrus notes shone, but there was a slight tartness in back that I enjoyed. Uplifted was a fairly typical Scottish Ale with a nice mixture of caramel and nuttiness coming through. While I did not have a true IPA, Comin’ in Hop should give those seeking one enough of a kick if they are in Utah. A Session Wheat IPA, citrus is again at the forefront. I should note they make a typical IPA, called The Dagda, but since it comes in at 6.5 % you cannot get it on tap. Finally, the dark beer I tried was Udder Chaos, a Chocolate Milk Stout that leans fairly sweet, but has enough roastiness to keep it balanced.
Yes, Utah has strange beer guidelines, but that does not mean there are not quality breweries there! And if you are able to buy some beer to go, you truly can appreciate what they are accomplishing.
Colorado is a known craft beer state, and Montana has become one as well in its own right. Sandwiched between them is Wyoming, and if Altitude is any indication, they are not far behind. Located in Laramie, Altitude has been bringing award-winning beer to the area since 1999. Though expansions and renovations have occurred, they are continuing to pump out great stuff. The most recent renovation has turned the space into something that more resembles a slightly upscale restaurant, which plays well with the nice food menu (they do beer pairing dinners occasionally). Pat, the head brewer, was kind enough to show me around, and I enjoyed getting to see behind the scenes and hear about their beer. Speaking of that beer, two that they brew are consistent medal winners..
Tumble Wheat not only takes top prize in my book, but won gold at GABF in 2016, as well as a silver in 2011. I loved the bolder flavors while still retaining a crisp drinkability, as often wheat beers tend to somewhat muddle together. The other most notable winner is ALTitude, the German Altbier. It has taken home a medal the last two years at the World Beer Cup, including a Gold for 2018! Everything here was well-made and delicious, but the other one that stuck out was The Keg Whisperer, a deliciously roasty Black Lager that went down smooth. Heat and Repeat is their year-round Chili Ale and strikes that wonderful balance where the heat level can do its thing without overpowering the beer. The other two I had were both excellent, to-style resprentations, 7200’ Stout and Topher’s Dis-grace, a West Coast IPA.
I’d also like to mention they have won at least one medal at the North American Beer Awards the last four years, including TEN medals in 2017. It may be surprising to some to find such a successful brewery in Southern Wyoming, but you will not be disappointed if you stop by!
Divots is an interesting spot, and outside of Talisman (because of Utah laws), they are probably the most unique brewery in this article. Norfolk, Nebraska is a budding city in Northeast part of the state and has been home to Divots Brewery since 2014. At one point there was a driving range and putt-putt course here, but now the physical activity you can enjoy outside is sand volleyball. Divots currently does not have their own brewery-specific taproom, but instead serves its beer in The Sand Bar restaurant, which is connected to the brewhouse. It has a sports bar feel, complete with tons of TVs, a pool table, and plenty of bar seating. I got to step into the 7bbl brewhouse after meeting with the head brewer, and he explained that they are outgrowing the space, with hopes of building their own taproom down the road.
Divots is not a place to go if you want to try fancy ingredients or the latest fad. They are focused on making solid, to-style beers. Bromance Coffee Stout is brewed to be an Irish Stout, but with that added kick of coffee. This was my favorite of the four, and the coffee seems to build as you get more into it. Honey Wheat and Ben’s Belgium IPA both sat about right where I would expect. The Honey Wheat of course has a subtle sweetness to go along with the Belgian background. And of course the Belgium IPA was similar, in that the Belgian base added a nice bready and floral touch. Howlin’ Mad Maibock didn’t do much for me, but not every beer will! I recently checked out the menu, and wished I could have tried Ben Motivated, as the New England IPA was not on tap when I stopped in.
I’ll be interested to follow up to see where Divots is in the future. It appears they have a good thing going, and hopefully they can find the right situation to expand. I’m optimistic that I will someday return to check out more Cornhusker State beer!
My wife and I definitely put some miles in for this article. And as I mentioned in the introduction I am grateful for her putting up with this hobby of mine, especially when we make specific side trips just so I can hit a brewery. Also, to say these four breweries were varied would be a massive understatement. Of course that is at least partially due to the vast difference in the locations, but even looking at them strictly from a beer standpoint shows the diversity.
We’ve discussed San Diego (in depth), Portland (both OR and ME), and further back Burlington, VT, and Asheville, NC. Next up is another Capital of Craft, Denver, Colorado! Settled just to the east of the Rockies, it’s a phenomenal city in many ways, but our focus will of course be on the amble breweries that call the Mile High City home.
Current Brewery Count
380 breweries across 165 cities in 37 states. Current as of 7/21/18 For up-to-date numbers and to follow along, check out my social media accounts: