When I started Grizzly Growler three years ago, it was with the intention to bring awareness to Montana’s craft brewing scene. I envisioned travelling around the state making videos and interviewing brewers while tasting the myriad offerings. Unfortunately, and most of you know this already, it’s almost impossible for me to get around to all the breweries with any degree of timeliness, and I know you brewers are a busy lot. It’s not always easy to update me on new styles via E-mail all the time. So, I’ve decided to invite a good friend of mine to participate in GrizzlyGrowler 2.0. His name is Will Moss, and he’s our man in the Bitterroot. Literally. He is the online version of me at the Ravalli Republic, and just like me, he loves good craft beer. But here’s Will in his own words:
Born in Arizona and raised on the South Carolina coast, I attended a geographically diverse series of high schools as a teenager, starting in new England and culminating in California. After graduation, I moved to southern Idaho where I worked in the desert, lived in a van and fell head over heels in love with the West. From Idaho, I moved to Missoula where I attended The University of Montana, earning a degree in photojournalism. I now live in Hamilton, heart of the beautiful Bitterroot Valley, where I write for the local paper, snowboard ten months out of the year and drink awesome local beer. Growing up in the South, I never fancied myself a beer-lover, as I couldn’t stomach the domestic schwill available to a youngster back then. It wasn’t until I moved West that I discovered the wonderfully diverse and delicious world of beer and I have taken great pleasure in the education that has followed. I don’t consider myself an aficionado, per say, but I know a thing or two about brewing and I’ll drink anything once. Peace, Porter, and Powder Turns …
There you have it, Will in all his glory. Mr. Moss will be updating the blog on all things Bitterroot and beyond. Oh, and Bitterroot breweries, this doesn’t mean I’m not coming down to your brewery events or tastings, it just means you’ll have more regular coverage. Will also will be writing about various beer finds other than the lovely valley he spends a good portion of his time in, and, most importantly, he’ll add another dimension to the blog.
So, we welcome Mr. Moss to the Growler.
Could Missoula soon become a Mecca for brewery taprooms from around the state? The idea is not inconceivable. With the new Tamarack slated to go live sometime this fall, and Flathead Lake Brewing Company opening up a tasting room here, it’s a safe bet that other breweries are thinking about it. Scratch that, they ARE thinking about it. And why wouldn’t they be?
I love that there are breweries in small towns like Stevensville, Lakeside and Hamilton with good local followings, but let’s face it, brewery owners aren’t explicitly in the business for the good of others, though you’d think so some times. Growth is a factor in all brewery projects, and growth over time is something they all think about. In Montana, resort towns might see a boom in business during summer or winter high tourist seasons, but there is a fall off during the opposite season. It can be difficult to maintain continuity during that time in staff quality and education.
The first logical step for many production craft breweries is getting their beer into bigger markets like Missoula. When I moved here, it was tricky to find any Red Lodge Ales, Glacier Brewing Company or Great Northern Brewing Company beers in or around Missoula. It made for fun road trips to visit those breweries, but that’s not going to sustain a business.
After getting your bottled or canned beer into cities like Missoula, opening a tap room might be the next great evolution for breweries needing a revenue stream during times when the traffic stream through Big Fork, Polson or Stevensville is reduced to a trickle.
The benefit for Missoula is more beer choices, of course. I would love to see a Blackfoot River Brewing Company tap room in Missoula. To be able to try their great selection of beers fresh and more than once or twice a year would be awesome. I’d love to see the Billings breweries here in Missoula. I’ve tried only a handful of them, but they are really good.
My point is that making Missoula a Mecca for Montana’s craft beers is good for the city, good for tourism and jobs and craft beer lovers.
Would it be good for our local breweries? Probably not. In fact, I suspect they would take a hit early on as the novelty of new and generally hard-to-find beers excites local beer drinkers. But in the end, making Missoula the city of craft beers even more than it already is would make those breweries shine. A little competition can be a really good thing.
As far as the Tavern Owners go, well, I suspect they’ll throw a world-class fit and throw a lot of money at their expensive lobbyists and raise a stink about these evil craft breweries. I don’t care. Montana is rapidly becoming a craft beer Republic. Defeating the TOA Empire is reality.
You know craft beer has permeated your life when you see Stone Imperial Stout flavored gelato at your local cafe. That craft beer should become a part of your dessert vocabulary is not surprising given how people have taken to things like beer floats and pairing chocolate with stout beers and barrel-aged beers. What surprises me is how few people understand how approachable craft beer is, whether served in a bottle, a can, a glass or whipped into your favorite dessert.
A quick trip around Missoula’s taprooms will produce a myriad of beer flavors and styles that only a beer geek could understand. And yet so little is done to educate people on how craft beer can enhance their lives. A quick taste of that Stone Imperial Stout gelato would reveal that it’s a tremendously rich dessert with all kinds of depth to it, and yet it was the fullest container in the display case. That tells me that people are unwilling to try it or that it’s so popular they’ve had to pull out a fresh tray. I’m going to go with the first possibility.
My point here is that craft beer can be consumed in fine glassware, made into dessert or used to prepare a whole chicken on the grill. And yet the majority of the population has no idea that such a varied product exists for more than just plain old drinking.
I’m grateful for all the beer geeks out there who keep shops like Worden’s stocking great beer and places like Caffe Dolce serving up stout-flavored gelato. But it’s time for breweries to start reaching out beyond the traditional craft beer consumers, i.e., beer geeks. Craft beer should be a household word, and there should be a growler in a place of honor in every refrigerator.
Travis Zeilstra leaving Montana Brewing Company to start Black Tooth Brewing Company in Sheridan, Wyoming
One of my favorite brewers and one of Montana’s most awarded is leaving Montana Brewing Company to start his own brewery in Sheridan, Wyoming. Travis Zeilstra sent me a note today to tell me of his plans and introduce me to the man who has taken over for him at MBC.
It’s one Evan Taylor, a past recipient of the Glen Falconer Scholarship and a graduate of Siebel. Taylor came to Montana from Bend, Oregon and spent some time brewing at Silver Moon Brewing Company. Zeilstra has a lot of faith in Taylor, and to fit into Zeilstra’s award-winning shoes is a tall order, so things are looking good in Billings.
I first met Travis at the Great American Beer Festival in 2007. He won numerous awards, including the prestigious Small Brew Pub of the Year, beating out thousands of other small breweries across the United States.
Since then, he’s been a great advocate serving as President of the Montana Brewer’s Association and otherwise providing leadership and advocacy for the craft brewing industry in Montana.
Here’s a little note direct from Travis:
The new brewery will be called “Black Tooth Brewing Co.” it is named after “Black Tooth Peak” which is located in the Bighorn Mtns. and this peak can be seen from the town of Sheridan. I have been planning on opening my own brewery for several years but this was the year that seemed the most realistic. I chose to open a brewery/taproom in Sheridan because one there is no brewery in town like this at this time and the red tape in Wyoming is significantly less than in Montana.
While I’m sad to see him leaving Montana, Sheridan is only about 30 miles from the border, so I’m going to keep a good eye on the happenings at Black Tooth Brewing Company.
Cheers Travis, and good luck. I look forward to sitting down to a pint of beer with you at the new brewery soon!
This just looks really fun.
Here’s what Big Sky Brewing Company has to say about it:
Don’t miss the Missoula Wide Open Put-Put Tourney this Sunday Aug. 22. Sign-up at Charlie B’s from 12-3PM, Shot-gun start at 4PM. Costs $10 to benefit the Montana Food Bank Network. 4 hours, 9 Holes, 9 Bars: Al’s and Vic’s, Red’s Bar, Old Post Pub, The CENTRAL Bar & Grill,The Rhino, The Top Hat, and the last hole party at Ironhorse Brewpub (8PM)
I didn’t make the first festival, unfortunately, but I know it went well, and the 2nd Annual Montana Brewers Festival looks to be even better. Here’s some information about the festival. For more information, check out the Montana Brewers Association website.
This is the annual Montana Brewers Festival and just our second event. Intended as the marquee annual celebration of Montana Craft Beer, this festival will have all 21 Montana Brewers Association Members in attendance, with over 60 Montana Made Beer. Brewed from mostly Montana grain, these beers are a taste treat indeed. And for the first time ever, Montana brewers and their staff will be serving their own products, so it’s a great opportunity to get to know the brewers and rub elbows with them.
People say I like beer, but as this Imbibe Magazine interview with BeerAdvocate founders Jason and Todd Alström proves, one can never have too much love for the nectar of the gods.
I’ve always admired their dedication to providing a venue for tasting and comparing beers. And I find it really cool that these guys turned a hobby into a full-time job.
Three cheers for BeerAdvocate.com.
Hip, hip, hooray.
Hip, hip, hooray.
Hip, hip, hooray.
This just came across FB a few minutes ago, and I thought it might be worthwhile to those beer and seafood enthusiasts out there.
This Friday, August 20th, Glacier Brewing is hosting the Polson PEO’s Annual CRAB CRACK! All you can eat crab and the fixins’ for $25.00.
Get your tickets now in the tasting room.
I ran into Bjorn Nabozney at Big Sky Brewing Company the other day, and he asked if I’d been on vacation. It wasn’t the sun-tanned skin and the tank top and shorts I was attired in that gave me away, it was a week away from my Grizzly Growler beer blog. Not long before that, Nabozney had returned from a 110-mile north to south traverse of the Bob Marshall wilderness with his kids, and he happened to check out the Growler looking for updates on what is going on in the beer world in Montana and elsewhere. Unfortunately, the last posting was from August 5th.
I broke the cardinal rule of blogging, which is some variation of; Post often, Post Every Day, Post Frequently, Post Regularly, etc., etc.
But I’m not all that sorry I did, and here is why.
The digital world is in constant flux and keeping up takes a diligence I didn’t know was available here on earth. Keeping up with blog posts, Facebook, Twitter and other social media is like keeping up with newborn triplets. There are an awful lot of diapers to change right after feeding time, if you know what I mean.
Information comes rolling in at a pace that can be difficult to keep up with, so this year I decided to turn my phone off and unplug for a week, which was almost impossible, because we took a “staycation” this year.
I wasn’t able to completely live out my week Internet free, as I posted some photos and updates to Facebook, but I spent my evenings talking to friends and my days tooling around enjoying the best of Western Montana, including some great craft beers.
I didn’t take photos or make notes of each beer I tried, I just really enjoyed the circumstances surrounding each experience. In this way, I come back a little refreshed and ready for the fall beer season, which is arguably the real power-ale season in Montana and around the country.
That said, there were a few craft-beer highlights from my week off.
1. Enjoying some cold Scapegoat in cans after riding roller coasters all day at Silverwood Theme Park.
2. Having an old Rasputin and eating super chocolaty brownies with the first guy I ever had a craft beer with.
3. Sharing a growler of Imperial Pilsner from Big Sky Brewing Company with my friends as we floated down the Blackfoot River on Sunday.
Sometimes a little getaway can really clear the mind, and with our lives becoming increasingly digital, it’s important to be able to disconnect once-in-a-while and feel, well, disconnected again.
The mighty brewers from Bayern Brewing will be releasing a little Oktoberfest, the king of fall beers, early this year. Get a sneak peek tonight at 5:30 in the Beer Garden.