Fruit and herb infused ciders.
Pale ales, pale ales, pale ales.
Craft beer has been setting up shop in North Idaho for quite some time. It's now at the point where beer connoisseurs can walk right through those shop doors and have a world of locally created flavors at their finger — and tongue — tips.
"The craft beer scene is kind of like people who are into vinyl records," said Phil Hottenstein, co-founder and co-owner of Bombastic Brewing in Hayden. "It means something when you get a bottle that only 249 other people have. There’s a sense that this is actually something, and you can’t get that by going and buying a 12-pack of Coors Light at Safeway. You’re not going to get that same experience."
Bombastic Brewing is a small-batch production facility with big flavor and high alcohol content. Its brews are sold exclusively online at www.bombasticbrewing.com, although people are welcome to drop in during brew days and bottle releases and a couple very select locations have their brews on tap.
Bombastic is part of the reason the local craft beer presence is growing stronger.
“There’s an explosion in this area for sure,” Hottenstein said.
Bombastic believes in community, collaboration and connectivity. One of its mottos is, "Beer brings us together." Hottenstein said he and his partners, Russell Mann and Matthew Skillicorn, would like to build the scene into something akin to what is happening in Bend, Ore., where breweries such as Deschutes, Cascade Lakes and 10 Barrel Brewing Co. beckon to thirsty visitors.
“It’s a tourist destination for beer," Hottenstein said. "I think there’s like 13, 14 breweries there. We’re looking for something like that here in our area."
A larger-scale goal is to not just bring patrons to pubs, but create community among brewers and establishments, ultimately making for even better experiences for all involved.
"I would love to see all the breweries come together and work together," Hottenstein said. "It’s not so much a competition. I don’t feel that if somebody comes into our establishment and has a beer that I have to keep them to myself. I have no problem telling them, ‘Go grab a beer at Downdraft, go grab a beer at Daft Badger.’
"The more we do that as a community and pull together as a community like that, I think we’re going to see a windfall of more diehard patrons in this area and actually get Coeur d’Alene known for a beer destination."
Brewer Ginger Cantamessa, who owns Downdraft Brewing at 418 W. Seltice Way in Post Falls with husband Josh, has been tapped into the craft world since a young age.
"I started home-brewing when I was 17,” she said. “I did it off and on and as something to do with friends. I used to make my own soap, I had a darkroom and did film photography. I always enjoyed the chemistry of things, the science. Making beer was cool."
The Downdraft facility features several massive pieces of equipment for big-batch brewing that produces brews such as the Exit 5 Brown, Black Beryl Stout and the new Gin n Juice.
It's a lot of work, but for those who enjoy the industry, it's a labor of love.
"Nobody should go into the craft beer business expecting to get rich,” said Ginger, who purchased the business from the previous owner in December.
“I think there is money to be made, but we do it because we love it. If you don’t love it, you’re not going to stay in it. It can be lucrative," she said. "We’re just getting started so it’s really hard to say. We get busier every month. We've only been in operation for exactly four months, so it's really hard to say for sure what to expect. The business did well before, we’re just continuing in that and it's continuing to do well."
Small breweries are able to create their own blends and flavors, as well as provide entertainment, events and sometimes unique food menus that set them apart from taverns or pubs. Downdraft offers a running club each Thursday, with specials for those who participate in the three or so mile run from the brewery and back.
"Ginger does a really good job putting on events. That’s why we’re here, because of the running club,” said Doug Jessup, 29, of Coeur d'Alene. "A lot of other places put on trivia nights and stuff like that. It’s a good reason to go out rather than just go have beer. You actually have a reaon to go out and have beer."
Flavor, variety, chemistry, social time. Craft beer is more than a trend. It's becoming part of North Idaho's culture.