Beer glasses at Mad Swede Brewery

Spreading the Madness

Mad Swede Brewing prepares to open a second location in downtown Boise

Lex Nelson

Walking into the empty space off Bannock Street that will soon house a second location of Mad Swede Brewing feels like stepping into the hybrid of a coffee shop and a cathedral. Luckily, that’s exactly the vibe Mad Swede’s Eric Larson, son of owners Jerry and Susie Larson, was going for when he helped choose the new spot.

“As you can see, the space is kind of naturally divided into two sections,” Larson said, his footsteps echoing as he paced the empty, roughly 2,500-square-foot room. “I’m kind of thinking of it as two different vibes that we’re going for. Out here, [it will be] more of a chill, hang out, coffee shop kind of vibe.” 

As he spoke, Larson gestured to the area’s low ceiling and wall of street-facing windows. In late January there was little more to see than bare drywall dotted with paint patches, but that didn’t stop Larson envisioning its future. He described burnt orange and forest green walls, a long wooden bar, and deeply cushioned bench seating designed as a more polished version of Mad Swede’s four-year-old flagship. Still, all of that would just be prelude to the heart of the new bar, a high-ceilinged hall hidden from street view with a curved wall just begging for a stage. 

“I’m a bit of a musician basically my whole life, and now a standup comedian for the past year, so when I saw this area and my mouth watered, because this is the kind of space where you could put shows on,” Larson said.

The performance area will be cordoned off from the more casual seating to host comedy shows, live music, theater performances burlesque acts, and more. It will also double as a classroom for home brewers, professionals, and anyone else interested in learning the ins-and-outs of making beer. Larson is planning classes tackling everything from the basics of beer tasting to the environmental and economic impacts of the craft beer industry, starting all the way back at raw ingredients. Rye, for example, is a key crop for sustainable farming that also makes a tasty (and in Larson’s view, underappreciated) beer, and he hopes to host a class on it. 

“I love rye in a beer, just for my own personal taste, and I want to see stuff like the industry managing to sell more rye beer so that farmers have a reason to grow it, making it easier for them to have a sustainable crop rotation that requires less fertilizer and things like that,” he said.

Beer photos courtesy Mad Swede

When nothing is playing and no one is teaching, the performance space will serve as additional open seating across from a corner bar. 

While Mad Swede’s brewing operation will remain at its Cole Road location, the expansion was certainly planned with brewing in mind. When the new Mad Swede Downtown Brew Hall opens at 816 W. Bannock St. in mid-March, it will serve the full Mad Swede menu — and potentially open up space for new offerings.

“It’s going to allow us to experiment more with the beer we make, having a second outlet,” Larson said. Right now we know that if we make a full 15-barrel batch of a test beer, it’s going to take us probably too long to move through it just out of our one bar. But adding the other storefront means we’ll have twice as many spaces [to sell]. We’ll be able to get a lot weirder with the stuff we make, and really live up to our name more.”