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Belt’s Beer Garden: I found some “Gems” here for you

This week I have two new brews both from Idaho!

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I was able to find some beers from a state that doesn’t get too much beer love - Idaho (I don’t know how much you all know about Idaho, but I will say my headline makes much more sense if I tell you that Idaho is called the Gem State, get it now?).

I’ll start first with one of the states most celebrated beers: Sockeye’s Dagger Falls.

Sockeye comes from Boise, Idaho. As you guys know I’m one of the NIU writers here…so while you might think I’d hold a grudge against anything Boise after the NIU-Boise State bowl “game” last year I can assure you I’ll do my best to keep it unbiased. After all, beer and football are two totally different things.

Sockeye is celebrating their 20th anniversary this year. In those 20 years they sure have done a lot right; amassing over 132 medals at different festivals (that’s about two medals a year and the most by any brewery from Idaho…by far). Currently they are only available in their home state and northeast Washington.

I decided on picking up their flagship beer…one they’ve been making since 2002: their Dagger Falls IPA. To be completely honest, I don’t remember how much this beer cost but I can say it wasn’t anything over $10 for a six-pack of cans.

When I poured Dagger Falls almost two full fingers of sticky, vaporous, white head topped the beer. Slowly the foam began to disperse but not before covering the rim with a plethora of bubbles.

This golden amber IPA clocks in at 6.5% ABV and is made with five different hop varieties so it was no surprise that it had a veritable bouquet of smells coming from it. As soon as I popped the top there was an explosion of big, bold smells. There were earthy pine notes, hints of light citrus, some bready qualities, and even some toasted pale malt. I wasn’t sure which way this beer was going to go flavor-wise. And my first sip didn’t make it any clearer.

Dagger Falls starts off with some nice carbonation to it that continues to build throughout the sip. Like the aroma though, the taste was very balanced but rotated between lots of flavors. The beer began with pine before transitioning to grapefruit and some lemon.

The toasted and doughy malt followed the citrus flavors before Dagger Falls ended with that same piney hoppiness it started with. The beer itself had a watery mouthfeel while still carrying a medium body to it.

Only one real negative stood out – this beer was a touch bitter and, at 100 IBU, that’s to be expected. But the bitter sting lasted the entire sip and then continued on with the mostly dry finish the beer leaves you with. There is one other thing this beer leaves you with…and that’s some huge lacing. Every time I removed the beer from my lips there was a new, thick line of foam denoting where the beer used to stand…all the way to the rim.

Overall this is a really balanced, really well made IPA. The flavors were solid throughout the beer and the only real negative I could find was the long lasting bitterness…but I never fault a beer for too many hops.

I quickly learned that there is a lot of great beer in Idaho and Sockeye has a good one here…it’s no wonder it’s been selling like crazy out there. It was the 13th most sold craft beer in the United States back in 2013…and it was only available in Idaho!! That’s all you need to know about how good this beer is. 8.5/10

8.5

From Boise if you head about 400 miles north into the neck of Idaho, you’ll come across Coeur d’Alene and Trickster’s Brewing.

Trickster’s is a smaller brewery that’s been open since late 2012-early 2013 from what I’ve found. Currently you can find them in only in Idaho and eastern Washington.

I found their Juice Box IPA in a 22-ounce bomber. The bottle cost me $5.99 which is well within reason for a larger bottle like that.

Juice Box poured a light amber, dark orange color with lots of bubbles and yet quite a little amount of head. There were tons of tiny bubbles that were rushing to the surface but only a few actually build up along my glass, leaving less than a finger of thick, sticky white foam atop the beer.

I could immediately tell why they called this beer Juice Box…there were copious amounts of tropical fruit juices being emitted: mostly orange, tangerine, grapefruit, and a dash of melon. There were some pale caramel malts and a slight hoppy dankness hiding behind all the other smells…but this was very fruit forward.

As I sipped the beer for the first time, there was a light carbonated fizz up front before the juices took hold of my palate. Like in the aroma, the orange and tangerine jumped out front and led the flavors. Some light lemon zest and grapefruit backed them up. As the flavors began to fade away, the caramel malt and tiny hop bitterness were the only things that lingered after it was all said and done.

For all the dankness in the aroma, it really didn’t come out in the flavor at all. Instead it was the malt that appeared more in taste than in smell (especially at the backend of each sip).

With its lighter body and smoother mouthfeel, Juice Box was pretty easy to drink…however, with the end of each sip came that slight hoppy sting and a dried out tongue. And I say only slight hop sting because, despite the 85 IBU that were packed inside, it really didn’t feel that bad at all.

Along with the higher IBU, Juice Box also has a higher ABV – 7.0%. And, while it might not be terribly high, as I approached the half way point in the bomber, the alcohol began to make itself known…not in the taste per say, but in the warming of my chest as each sip went down. Quite the small price to pay for drinking a good beer.

Once the beer became warmer the flavors seemed to become more muted as they blended into each other more which, while not a terrible thing, seemed to increase the hoppyness of the beer. Those that don’t like the bitterness of hops might want to keep this as cold as possible.

Overall, this is one juice box I recommend sharing with a friend. There are some really nice flavors packed into this bottle and it’s quite easy to drink but be warned! Imbibing them by yourself could lead to drunkenness. Keep this one as cold as possible but do not miss it! Idaho has once again surprised me with their brewing capabilities. I never thought I’d find so many tasty beers in the Gem State. 8.5/10

8.5