It's no secret that the Silver Valley has its fair share of beer lovers.
One could argue that drinking beer (Rainier to be precise) is just as much a part of the area's history as the rough-and-tough miners who consumed it over the last 100- plus years.
Although Rainer may always be “the one” for many in the area, a new trend has been developing over the past several years that may be a threat to this time-tested relationship.
The Silver Valley is currently home to two craft breweries, the Wallace Brewing Company (WBC) and North Idaho Mountain Brew (NIMB).
These two Wallace-based microbreweries have been quenching the thirst of locals and visitors alike since 2008 and 2011 respectively with craft beer made right here in the Silver Valley.
With Radio Brewing Company (RBC) set to open its doors in uptown Kellogg sometime next month and become the third microbrewery in the area, it begs the question: Is the Silver Valley becoming a craft beer destination?
WBC owner Chase Sanborn argues it already is.
“One half of our customers who visit our taproom come here to try beer,” Sanborn said.
Sanborn also said many of these taproom patrons come from Spokane and Coeur d’Alene.
The popularity and emergence of craft beer is not solely a local fad. Microbreweries have been popping up all over the Northwest and the country since the early 2000s. There are more than 10 microbreweries and cider houses in North Idaho alone, not counting the local ones in our area.
Back in 2016, Idaho even made craft breweries more family friendly and aligning them with wineries by passing a law to allow minors into the establishments (although business are allowed to keep minors out if they so choose).
With atmospheres more reminiscent of coffee shops than bars, craft breweries often offer taproom tours that have become almost as common as wine tasting tours.
Speaking of tours, both NIMB and WBC are members of the Inland NW Ale Trail, a local craft brewery tour that helps beer lovers “plan trips to the amazing breweries in the region and sample some of the best beers made.”
The Ale Trail offers participants a prize growler for completing (visiting 12 participating breweries) the tour.
RBC also plans to be a participating member once they open.
Sanborn says the Ale Trail is a huge factor in bringing people to the Silver Valley for a beer and that the three local breweries being on the map helps all of them bring in business.
The idea behind it is that if an individual drives out to one and checks it off their map, they will go to the others as well to get more stamps.
With spring just around the corner, assuming we ignore Punxsutawney Phil’s prediction of six more weeks of winter, the Silver Valley’s tourist season is quickly approaching and is bound to be partially comprised of thirsty beer connoisseurs looking to taste some local brew and get their Ale Trail maps stamped.
RBC taproom manager Adrianne Vest hopes the Valley will be a premier craft beer destination.
“This area has everything a beer enthusiast could possibly ask for,” Vest explained. “Outdoor recreation for miles and miles and three fantastic breweries to choose from. The Silver Valley is the perfect spot for a long weekend 'beercation.'”