Distilled

Idaho has a long and sometimes complicated relationship with alcohol. From humble beginnings as the site of the Inland Northwest's first vineyard in 1864 to today's microbrewery boom, the scene has flourished in recent years. It hasn't been without growing pains, though.

Idaho's attempts to regulate booze have sparked fierce debate from seeds to sips and have left some questioning who they benefit.

Join Boise State Public Radio the week of January 22 for Morning Edition as we explore how the alcohol industry has evolved over the past century and what it may look like in the years to come.

screenshot / Brewers Association

The Idaho craft beer industry has exploded in recent years. Between 2011 and 2016, the number of craft barrels produced in the state more than tripled. (For reference: A barrel is equal to two kegs.)

Clairvoyant Brewing

On a recent winter afternoon, Mike Francis stood on the brew deck at Payette Brewing Company in Boise. He pointed to four large stainless steel vessels surrounding him.


Josh Delp via Flickr Creative Commons

Take a drive west on Highway 19 towards Wilder and you’ll start to see rows of poles more than a dozen feet tall, piercing the southwest Idaho sky.

It’s here that farmers grow one of the most critical components of beer: hops.

Matt Guilhem / Boise State Public Radio

In Idaho, the state controls how many liquor licenses are available and only releases new ones when populations rise enough to warrant. While entrepreneurs say a skyrocketing secondhand market for licenses stifles new local businesses, state officials say their hands are tied until sweeping reform happens.

Idaho State Historical Society, 72-172-81

Jeff Anderson, the Director of the Idaho State Liquor Division sums up this story in one short sentence:

“It’s just terribly complicated and the beverage alcohol laws have been kind of kluged together over decades,” Anderson says.