Portneuf Brewing Company
615 S 1st Ave
Visited on February 16, 2009
It’s amazing how even little tiny conservative cities in the middle of the desert Idaho still had at least one brewery five years ago, before the giant boom hit. I was on business on the eastern side of Idaho and obviously had to hit his place up, even if it was an hour drive from my hotel. I recall a nice wood-heavy space upstairs, rooms for the local school bands to practice (or something like that), pretty good pizza, and beer that seemed to have a consistently “off” flavor to them.
Set at the base of some gorgeous mountains in the small city of Pocatello, the brewpub is located in an ancient building just outside of downtown. It must have been a multipurpose building in a former life, because the upstairs is used for events that range from jazz concerts to tap dancing sessions. Obviously, the first is quite enjoyable. The latter is not. Make sure to check a schedule before you come in.
The restaurant itself is long and narrow. An open space with about six tables greets you when you walk in. The bar is set at the end of this space with a narrow corridor running to more seating in the back. It has a charming feel. A local feel. I like the location.
Most of the menu is dedicated to pizza, which is what I tried. I was not disappointed. The toppings were huge chunks of artichoke, Canadian bacon, black olives, and sundried tomatoes. The crust made with spent grains from the brewery was chewy yet crisp on the bottom. The flavor was flawless. This is one of the best two or three pizzas I have ever had. Now if only I didn’t have to wait for over an hour to get it. I also tried some cheesecake for dessert. It was an excellent example for its style. Heavy on the sour cream with just a bit of flour to make it both light and creamy. I prefer less sour cream, more sugar, and even more fluffiness, but all in all, it was pretty tasty.
Here’s where the review really gets tricky. The sampler comes with about eight varieties of beer. The initial impression of the light lager was, “Wow, this is great!” There was this sweet flavor I couldn’t place but absolutely loved. But when the amber had the same predominant taste with slight modifications to the malt background, and the IPA the same sweet flavor overlaying the hoppiness, and the same for two other varieties, I began to wonder. There are three possibilities. One, they don’t clean their lines well and the lines were used for their homemade soda. Two, they use the same fermenters for beer as soda. Three, most the beers are the exact same recipe with slight modifications. I think it’s the latter because the brown ale and silk stout did not have this sweet flavor. As for those, the stout wasn’t hopped enough for my liking, but the nut brown was one of the better examples I’ve had and the clear winner of the group. However, I did like this sweet taste I mentioned. So even though the other six beers tasted nearly the same to me, they were quite good.
The service was downright awful. Fifteen minutes after ordering my waitress reappeared and asked if I was ready to order. This should have clued me into the fact she may have forgotten to place my order with the kitchen. I drank a sampler, a put down a pint, and ate a pizza and cheesecake. It took about two hours. I ate the pizza and cheesecake in about the last 15 minutes I was there. Does it take 90 minutes to bake a pizza? I don’t think so. But the waitress was quite nice and pleasant. My beer did not sit dry for long after finishing the sampler. So again, I’m on the fence, except it took a long time to get my order taken in the first place, and they were definitely not busy.
The bottom line is that this place needs a second visit for a true opinion to be reached. I will return next time I’m near Pocatello.
Like that’s going to happen.