A blog about food
Bucksnort Root Beer
My “other” job is at a pizzeria where I sling slices, pies and tons of Bucksnort Root Beer on tap. Kids love it, healthy doses of sugar already coursing through their veins. Parents, hoping for a handcrafted (non-alcoholic) brew to pair with that slice of sausage and mushroom, order it too. Bucksnort is naturally flavored and doesn’t come from a box of corn syrup in the back kitchen.
The best part? Bucksnort is made in Bellevue by Kainoa Lopez, who upon getting laid off from a tech job a few years ago, decided to brew up and sell central Idaho’s only artisanal root beer.
Bucksnort’s “local” tag is great for a couple of reasons. Studies have shown that buying locally has a healthier economic impact on a community. Doing so also combats the long industrial supply chains that can harm the environment. And what’s more, consciously supporting such local businesses is what helps maintain the growing and unique character of the Wood River Valley.
Bucksnort Root Beer humbly finds your mug via a house-turned-brewery off Main Street, Bellevue instead of by way of a semi-truck sent hundreds of miles from a distant factory. Kainoa personally brews and carbonates Bucksnort. He delivers each keg, drives to farmer’s markets on summer weekends and keeps the company’s Facebook page rolling. Everything about Bucksnort is brilliantly unconventional.
The root beer gamble hasn’t been easy, Kainoa explains, but the increased support of all things local, for the above reasons and more, has helped. The fact that Bucksnort’s complex taste runs circles around the taste of generic sodas doesn’t hurt either.
Although still technically a “soft drink,” microbrewed root beer is more like natural tea than a Coke or a Sprite. Behind that classic flavor could be some combination of up to thirty-five roots and herbs. The Bucksnort palette contains clear hints of sassafras, licorice and wintergreen. Kainoa, having perfected the recipe over countless batches, first steeps the tested amounts of roots and herbs in boiling water. To the resulting aromatic vat of “wort” (what brewers call the malt and hops infusion prior to fermentation) he carefully adds cane juice, vanilla and molasses. Unlike Bucksnort’s alcoholic cousin, root beer contains no yeast and doesn’t need to ferment, dramatically speeding up the process. Kainoa’s final step is to force-carbonate the brew into kegs for distribution. Natural and handcrafted. Your mouth will taste the difference.
While an easy-going former islander, Kainoa’s got a busy schedule. However, if you’d like to try Bucksnort or just thank its brewer for this sweet root beer epiphany, swing by a farmer’s market this summer. Kainoa shares the molasses love in Hailey (Thursdays), Ketchum (Tuesdays), Boise (Saturdays) and the East Idaho Fair (September). But if there’s no waiting and the KIDS NEED BUCKSNORT, it can found fresh at thirteen establishments in the Wood River Valley and Boise (see below).
As a pizza professional, I can attest to the intrinsic goodness of matching root beer with a slice of pepperoni. Start matching the locally brewed, intensely awesome Bucksnort with your pizza and you’ll regret ever drinking the commercial treachery of “root beer” made by soda companies. More than that, you’ll probably run into Kainoa around town or ripping down Baldy, upon which you’ll understand the significance buying local and helping friends in the mountains doing what they love.
Hailey: McClain’s, Fresshies, The Power House, 5BBQ and The Wicked Spud.
Ketchum: Smoky’s, Lefty’s, Rico’s, the Bluebird Day Cafe, and Galena Lodge.
Boise: Bittercreek Ale House, Red Feather Lounge and Lulu’s Pizza.
Twin Falls: Kiwis.