Idaho Panhandle Microbreweries

by Randy Scott / Photo ©  Randy Scott

According to the Beer Institute, microbreweries have reached an all-time peak in the United States, and Idaho is ranked 9th in breweries per capita. The craft brew frenzy is especially noteworthy in the state’s panhandle, where a handful of recently opened microbreweries offer unique handcrafted beers.

“It’s all math and science,” said Jeff Whitman, as he concluded my behind-the-scenes tour of Selkirk Abbey Brewing Company in Post Falls, Idaho.

I took another swig of Infidel, one of Selkirk Abbey’s signature Belgian-style beers, thinking, “Math and science never tasted so good.” I savored the spicy notes characteristic of a potent Belgian masterfully blended with the hoppy citrus of an American IPA. Unique taste is what craft beer is all about.

Whitman teamed up with renowned brewer Fred Colby, owner of Laughing Dog Brewery in Sandpoint, to create Whitman’s dream—yeast-driven Belgian-themed beers, which include a number of saisons. In line with the European-bent brews, the brewery’s gothic décor features antique cathedral lights and photos of historic monasteries.

The newcomers in the panhandle’s craft beer revolution opened Mad Bomber Brewing Co. The four owners, Stephanie Applegate, Tom Applegate, John Taylor and Alan Longacre—the latter three bomb squad soldiers who returned from Afghanistan before opening the brewery—have created a comfortable and casual taproom that celebrates great brews like their Powder Keg Cascadian Dark Ale.

BiPlane Brewing Company, owned by Doug and Nadine Martindale is another Post Falls microbrewery. “We make our beer for the locals,” says Nadine, who has zero interest in mass distribution. “We prefer the old-time European tradition where local pubs served homebrews to those living nearby.” BiPlane specializes in non-filtered beers, which Nadine says retains more vitamins.

In nearby Coeur d’Alene, Tricksters Brewing Company, owned by Matt and Emily Morrow, offers a small assortment of ales. Matt worked for Ska Brewing in Colorado before venturing off on his own. He has crafted his ales to near perfection, including a seasonal Vienna lager and a light German hybrid.

A short distance east in Wallace, North Idaho Mountain Brew is another newcomer, giving longer-established Wallace Brewing a bit of competition. North Idaho Mountain Brew is the only brew pub of this elite group with a full service restaurant, City Limits Pub & Grill, in a refurbished 100-year old building. Mark Burmeister is the brewmiester. His most popular beers are Loft Honey, a Belgian style ale, and Mountain Top Amber.

After a tour of the brewery, Burmeister said, “It comes down to math and science.”

So I’ve heard.