Long one of the American Northwest’s best kept secrets, the cat is officially out of the bag on Boise, Idaho. The capital city and its surrounding suburbs count for some of the fastest growing cities in the country over the past half-decade. Serving as a reflection of the city itself, Boise breweries are also increasing in number with new and innovative brewers opening in Boise every year.
It’s not hard to understand why Boise is such a draw. The mountainous city is connected to its surrounding nature while simultaneously offering major attractions, diverse restaurants and a buzzing nightlife for residents and visitors alike. Few cities are better intertwined with their surrounding nature than Boise; a 25-mile greenbelt trail through the city connects hikers and bikers to 850 acres of natural areas.
Boise also has a lot of craft beer history to build off, making it an attractive destination for brewers and beer drinkers alike. Idaho’s first-ever microbrewery opened in Boise in the early 1990s—well ahead of the craft beer explosion of the following millennium.
Dozens of Boise breweries have set up shop in the time since and the city now boasts an active (and growing!) beer scene. Several Boise breweries feature the unique flavors of the American Northwest, with fresh and resinous hops at the center of their efforts. Other local beer makers are opting for innovative styles, historic recipes or sessionable beers that are designed to be enjoyed in Boise’s wondrous nature.
Boise is rapidly changing and new breweries, restaurants and shops are frequently popping up. To help you get around on your visit to Idaho’s capital city, here is a guide we’ve compiled on the best breweries, bites and sights in Boise.
BEST BREWERIES IN BOISE
There are dozens of great breweries in Boise to check out. Here are a few highlights.
Where the Hop Heads Go
Open since 2017, Lost Grove Brewing has blossomed into an attractive watering hole for Boise’s beer denizens and boozy travelers. The brewery features a large taproom connected to its brewhouse where you can catch frequent live music and a rotating cast of food trucks.
Of course, the draw at Lost Grove Brewing has always been the brewery’s impressive beer selection. Lost Grove Brewing always keeps a couple of well-hopped IPAs on draught, but hop lovers will be particularly drawn to the brewery’s Double IPA series and Hazy IPA series, which each feature new beer releases 3 to 4 times a year. No matter when you visit Lost Grove Brewing, you are guaranteed to find a fresh IPA brimming with fresh hop aromas and flavors.
Where to Score a Stout
Boise’s Mad Swede Brewing Company has a reputation for cranking out fantastic brews that are truly a representation of Idaho. The brewery uses malted barley and hops grown by Idaho farmers, giving their brews a distinctive, local flavor.
And Mad Swede Brewing Company makes beers FOR Boiseans, especially when the area is dug under fresh snow and freezing temperatures. Mad Swede Brewing Company loves to make stouts, porters and other dark beers that are ideal for consumption next to a fireplace. Notable beers include the brewery’s Shield Maiden Cascadian Dark Ale (a local specialty) and the First King of Kyiv Imperial Stout, which is loaded up with rich coffee and roasted malt flavors
Where to Snag a Sour
While a lot of breweries in Boise (and indeed the American Northwest at large) focus on hop-forward IPAs, the team at Barbarian Brewing have their hearts set on sour beers. The braintrust at Barbarian Brewing all year releases unconventional drinks (like cocktail-inspired ales) served beside barrel-aged stouts, spontaneously fermented farmhouse ales, fruited hard seltzers and much more.
You have to visit one of Barbarian Brewing’s two taprooms to try out most of these small-batch concoctions. Here’s a pro-tip: opt for a beer flight so you can try out as many of Barbarian Brewing’s unique brews as possible.
AN AFTERNOON IN BOISE – WEST DOWNTOWN
Check out this collection of local hot spots in close proximity so you can eat, drink and see Boise in one afternoon.
Like most American cities, the downtown area of Boise serves as the city’s heartbeat and home to numerous restaurants, financial centers and museums. Just a few blocks northwest, though, West Downtown is an underrated hub worth your time.
Boise’s West Downtown is first and foremost home to some of the city’s best breweries.
Found near the shores of the Boise River, Payette Brewing Company is one of Boise’s older breweries in the scene. The brewery consistently releases reliably refreshing ales to be enjoyed on its shaded patio space. Visitors should also keep an eye out for Payette Brewing Company’s rotating porter series, with previous beers including a Cinnamon French Toast Porter and a Chocolate Hazelnut Porter—perfect for drinking when the snow falls.
Cloud 9 Brewery is another one of Boise’s old guard breweries and is also found in West Downtown. The small-batch brewhouse only keeps 6 year-round beers on tap at all times, so you can expect to find a brand new taplist every month. In all, Cloud 9 Brewery states it makes 53 styles of beer throughout the year, mostly made from organic ingredients.
West Downtown has a few great watering holes that serve as neighborhood beer gardens for the surrounding community. Clairvoyant Brewing Company is on the western edge of the neighborhood and serves a diverse option of its in-house beers, but the brewery also offers guest taps, ciders and wines for choosy drinkers. The brewery also hosts food trucks and hosts live music for guests.
For a totally unique drinking experience, head down to the Backyard at the Franklin House, a “Bed & Beer” in the city center. Built in 1896, Franklin House is one of Boise’s original ice houses and now serves as a boutique 5-room hotel for travelers. The Backyard at Franklin House is an intimate beer garden nestled behind the restored B&B that is open to the public. The beer garden has a rotating selection of local beers on tap, as well as cocktails, ciders and wines on the menu.
West Downtown in Boise is further home to unique bites. Fanci Freez Burgers and Shakes has been a local favorite for 50 years, slinging classic American diner food. The retro-themed restaurant is perhaps most well known for its soft serve ice cream and malted milkshakes. Try one of the dozens of milkshake flavors available, including huckleberry, butter rum, cherry chip and much, much more.
If you truly have a luxurious sweet tooth, pop over to Janjou Patisserie in West Downtown. The French pastry shop and cafe uses local ingredients and imported butter to create immaculate baked goods hard to find anywhere else in the city. Janjou Patisserie on any day is serving delicacies like Grenobloise, Petits Gâteaux and Kouign Amann, as well as delicious standards including croissants and Pain Au Chocolat.
After a long day of drinking and eating, a long walk probably wouldn’t hurt you. From West Downtown, head into Boise’s main downtown area to check out a couple of interesting interactive art installations.
A brand new public art piece called “Gentle Breeze” is the centerpiece of the Cherie Buckner Webb Park in downtown Boise. The public art installation is a giant pink tree sculpture with leaves that move with the breeze and swings for anyone to sit on and enjoy.
Just a 5 minute walk from Cherie Buckner Webb Park, visitors can stumble upon Freak Alley Gallery, a free and open-air mural gallery. The first piece at Freak Alley Gallery was created in 2022, and the street mural gallery has since blossomed to include works from hundreds of artists across an entire alley of downtown Boise. Artists add new works to Freak Alley Gallery every year, meaning the space is constantly changing, ensuring that each visit to the alley is a unique and irreplaceable experience.
Swing by these sites to document your trip to Boise.
Boise Whitewater Park
The Boise Whitewater Park is part of the city of Boise’s Parks and Recreation Department, meaning this urban whitewater park is open to the public. If you’re an outdoor or whitewater enthusiast, there is no better place in Boise to enjoy a day of surfing, kayaking or stand-up paddle boarding than here. For everyone else, Boise Whitewater Park offers a rare chance to catch surfers in an urban setting. The park even has a live “Wave Cam” available to stream online!
Boise Union Pacific Depot
First opened in 1925, the Boise Union Pacific Depot is a Spanish-inspired architectural wonder. The former train depot has since been transformed into an event space and tourist attraction and is home to the Platt Gardens with panoramic views of Boise.
Ice Cream Potato
What visit to Idaho would be complete without the famous local potato? One Boise restaurant, car-service American diner spot Westside Drive-In, has put an interesting twist on the spud: the Westside Famous Idaho Ice Cream Potato. That’s right, get vanilla ice cream with cocoa, whipped cream and chocolate shavings all designed to smartly resemble a baked potato.
WORTH THE DRIVE
Looking to get out of the city? These nearby attractions are Worth the Drive.
Found due west of Boise, the city of Meridian has experienced an unprecedented explosion of population growth. According to the U.S. Census, the city of Meridian saw the highest percentage growth of any city in Idaho from 2020 to 2021, and ranked in the top 15 highest growing cities across all of America.
What was once a bedroom community suburb of Boise is now an attractive town worthy of your attention. Meridian is home to breweries, art galleries and entertainment attractions for people of all backgrounds and interests.
Just east of Meridian city limits, Sockeye Brewing is one of Boise’s largest and most established breweries. Its Fairview Sockeye Grill & Brewery location serves up its wide selection of award-winning craft beers. Try one of Sockeye Brewing’s seasonal releases, or try and catch a barrel-aged stout.
Nearby Sockeye Brewing, the Village at Meridian is a popular shopping destination for the entire Boise area. This outdoor shopping mall is home to local and nationwide stores, including luxury brands. If shopping isn’t your thing, there are several dining stops at the Village in Meridian and even a movie theater for late night entertainment.
Meridian is also a cultural destination for local Idaho artists. Downtown Meridian is home to the Idaho Art Gallery, which includes both studio and gallery spaces. The Idaho Art Gallery always features multi-medium works from local artists and guest artists.
The city of Meridian itself owns a public gallery that features works from new artists every single month. Located inside city hall, the Initial Point Gallery has long spotlighted aft from local talent.
Meridian is also home to a large and vibrant Basque community, with estimates of the Basque population in Idaho sitting at 10,000-15,000. Basque Country is the area between north central Spain and southern France, and the region has a unique cultural totally different than the rest of Spain.
Stop in at Epi’s Basque Restaurant in Meridian to get a taste of traditional Basque cuisine—something that is incredibly hard to find across the country. Enjoy dishes such as slow roasted leg of lamb, ink fish and pork chops with pimentos.
Interact with the map below to navigate to every stop mentioned in this article, and have fun exploring Boise!