At the corner of Main Street and Sun Valley Road stands the Warfield Brewery & Distillery, the only combination brewery and distillery in Idaho. This combination brewery, distillery, and gastropub opened in 2015 and has been a go-to dining and imbibing destination ever since. Whether you’re hitting the roof-top bar in the summer for drinks and to sit around a fire pit or stopping by in the winter after spotting the blue light (which means it’s snowed over three inches in town and beer specials will run until it stops snowing), the Warfield serves up food, beer, and spirits like no other.
The Warfield had some big shoes to fill when taking over the building that previously housed two local institutions: The Roosevelt and Slavey’s. The property itself has been in the Werry family since 1936; the Werry siblings were even born in the Sun Valley Lodge and raised in Ketchum. In 1952, the main street saloon known as Slavey’s—or sometimes “Slimey’s” by locals due to its atmosphere and clientele—moved in. Known as Ketchum’s last “honky tonk”, Slavey’s was famous for its live music and dancing, its drinking and brawls, and its annual 4th of July tradition of a horseman riding through the bar. An obituary to Slavey’s published in the Mt. Express in 1980 marked the end of the infamous spot’s heyday and the beginning of a rotation of other businesses in the building until the Sawtooth Club owner Tom Nickel took it over and started the Roosevelt Grille in 1997. Another Ketchum institution, the Roosevelt was a destination restaurant for visitors and locals alike to enjoy a rustic ambiance while eating hearty, Idaho-inspired food. But alas, in 2012 after 15 years of business, Nickel closed the doors, leaving the possibilities open for a new institution.
To fill that vacancy came Warfield co-founders Ben Bradley and Alex Buck. The short story of starting the Warfield is that these two simply wanted a space to create organic beer and spirits from the highest quality organic ingredients. The longer story involves a passion for home brewing and a love of the Sun Valley area.
Bradley had been living in Sun Valley for a handful of years and a home brewer for almost 10 when he met Buck in 2013. “I wanted to stay here indefinitely and looked at people who had made a living long-term here and almost all of them had started their own business,” Bradley said. After working in a myriad of different jobs including Higher Ground and Club Ride, he decided to strike out into the business world and met Buck through a mutual friend.
Buck and his family had been contemplating moving to the mountains for a long time—him and his wife even made a promise to move to a mountain town by the time his daughters were two. Buck’s family had also been doing home brewing for several years, but merely as a hobby while Buck worked as a lawyer.
“When Ben approached and said he wanted to start this thing, I thought it was a great opportunity that we couldn’t pass up,” Buck said. The two hit it off, motivated by a mutual passion for brewing and distilling and a love for Sun Valley and the possibility of raise their families here. After looking around town at spaces, they came across the old Roosevelt/Slavey’s building which had recently become available. It was a perfect match and the duo took the building and started the process of putting their style into the building while maintaining its roots.
“We wanted to preserve what we thought was a community landmark,” Buck said. “So many people had ties to it so we didn’t want to change it, just update the inside and bring it to what we thought could be a community place.”
In addition to Alex and Ben, who can be found behind-the-scenes at Warfield, there are a few other key players that make this establishment run.
On the brewing side is Kieran Burns, brewer extraordinaire from New Zealand who is constantly working to add new beers to the Warfield’s roster and managing the large brewhouse.
On the restaurant side is chef Jay Veregge, executive chef and all-around leader of Warfield’s gastropub since 2019. With more than 25 years of culinary experience, Veregge has created a fun pub-inspired menu with a focus on seasonality and sourcing locally.
While it might be the restaurant that brings you in, it’s the beer and spirits that will keep you coming back. What originally started as a small 10 brewer barrel (there are 31 gallons in a brewer barrel) brewhouse has now expanded into a 30 barrel; 12,000-square-foot warehouse dedicated to brewing organic whiskey, gin, barrel-aged gin, vodka, brandy, and beer using only organic malt and whole leaf hops. The warehouse has the capacity to produce about 5,000-6,000 barrels a year.
In addition to the Warfield, several local locations including Grumpy’s, Sun Valley, and Albertson’s in Boise and southeast Idaho carry Warfield products as well. Warfield liquors are also in most Idaho liquor stores (depending on whether the store chooses to carry them or not) and Buck and Bradley hope to allocate spirits to locations in border states. Convincing those states shouldn’t be too hard—the Warfield’s whiskey has won two gold medals, one at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition (the only whiskey from Idaho to ever win a gold at this competition) and one at the American Craft Spirits Competition.
For more information on visiting Warfield Distillery & Brewery, head over to their website.