This week, Sen. Max Baucus held the first meeting of the Small Brewers Caucus, which he co-chairs with Idaho Sen. Mike Crapo. The caucus aims to showcase issues important to craft brewers and push those issues forward. Montana’s barley and the role it plays in the brewing industry was the focus of this week’s meeting:
I wanted to let you know that this week we held the first ever meeting of the Senate and House Small Brewers Caucus to discuss the importance of barley to American agriculture, issues facing the industry, and barley’s critical role in developing malt essential for high quality craft beer. Barley contributes nearly a billion dollars to the U.S. economy and supports jobs in rural America. Although barley is the third largest feed grain crop in the U.S. it is increasingly used for nutritious food, malting and brewing.
I believe Montana’s barley is second to none and our craft beers are the finest in the nation. To elevate the profile of our growing number of Montana small brewers who are creating jobs when our state needs it most, I honored all of them as part of my “Montana Jobs Economic Engine Initiative.” Beer from one of our economic engines, Big Sky Brewing in Missoula, was showcased as we met with members of the National Barley Growers Association and the Brewers Association.
To read the full letter from Baucus, click here.
- Matt Pritchard
It was our first 4th of July celebration without kids in at least 12 years, so my wife and I decided to get out of town and go have an adventure of our own. Flathead Lake seemed a logical destination, surrounded as it is by great Montana breweries. After a good 4-mile run in Missoula’s north hills, we drove off in an abundance of sunshine toward the north. Gathering clouds in the north did not bode well, but we figured they’d just blow over.
By the time we got to Polson, the clouds were thick and rain seemed imminent. We pulled over at Glacier Brewing Company in search of the illusive Bald Beaver Barley Wine. We met up with brewer/owner Dave Ayers and chatted about the big beer and all the good things happening at the southern end of the lake. My wife and I agreed that the barley wine with a great name was a big malt bomb and indeed pleasant but perhaps better suited to a cold February night than a cool 4th of July, but who can complain when you get beers like this any time of year?
Moving north, we met up with good friends at the Tamarack Brewing Company in Lakeside for dinner. Head brewer Craig’s new black ale was the perfect beer for this kind of 4th, with a super light flavor profile on a seriously black beer. Light roasted malts are evident, but this beer is like an even more balanced version of Full Sail Brewing Company’s Session Black. Seriously sessionable and excellent with food, this black ale was my favorite find on this beer tour/holiday celebration.
The evening festivities took place at the lake front home of a Kalispell lawyer who is an acquaintance of the friends we stayed with. We shared a growler of Big Sky Brewing Company’s Saison as the Lakeside fireworks lit up the cloudy sky. Monday showed its hand early with clouds an rain showers over the east side of the lake, so we opted for breakfast and a drive to Flathead Lake Brewing Company instead of a boat ride across some choppy waters.
Very little has changed at FLBC, unless you consider a more minimalist approach to selling beer. When Terry owned the joint, there was a slightly different atmosphere, the lack of which you’ll notice right away. The good thing is that the beer still is good, as attested to by the Imperial IPA we had while watching a few Glacier campers waddle in for refreshments after a cold and rainy weekend in the park.
Among the differences at FLBC, food is now available, and you might end up with a smart comment from the bar tender, who can’t seem to find a simple way to let customers know that a certain beer won’t be available for another week or so. But I digress.
It was nice to see that things are rolling along, and that Montana has one of its most picturesque breweries up and running again.
On our way back to Missoula, we stopped into Tamarack to chat with head brewer Craig, and we tasted a new Rye beer concocted by a new brewer’s assistant. Light and dry with that unmistakable rye characteristic, this Roggenbier, as they call it, is an interesting take on a grain more brewers seem to be playing around with these days. It was also a good discovery for me, as I’ve been looking for what I call the Holy Grail of American sushi beers. Those light, dry beers that won’t over power the delicate nature of one of life’s greatest foods but that won’t disappear completely as some light ales and Pilsners seem to do.
All in all it was a good craft beer weekend with lots of new discoveries, catching up with a few of my favorite beer people and of course celebrating the birth of a great nation.
Here’s a note from Lewis & Clark Brewing Company in Helena. I think that distributing hop rhisomes among your beer loving public is a brilliant way to insure good hoppiness in the future. Way to go Lewis & Clark, Great Northern Brewing Company and other brewers doing the same thing.
Hey Hop Heads! Cascade Hop Rhizomes have been ordered and should be here the end of April. Stay tuned for a Hop Head meeting the first week of May with John so we can distribute and discuss hops! There is a sign up sheet at the Tap Room to reserve yours. When they are gone, they are gone for the season. $3 each rhizome (our cost).
The Montana Brewer’s Association has been working hard to forge alliances with Montana farmers to insure that the world-class barley grown here is used to produce the state’s amazing selection of craft beers. With the help from a Growth Through Agriculture Grant, you’ll begin to see this seal at your favorite Montana breweries that are using Montana-grown grains.
Here is a little more info from the Montana Brewer’s Association:
Montana’s history is coupled with a strong agricultural tradition of growing some of the finest grains in the nation. We live in the midst of the Golden Triangle, an area just off the Rocky Mountains that produces barley that is used throughout the country to produce fine beers, domestic and craft. Montana Brewers pride themselves in using Montana grown grain whenever possible to make their beer, and to partner with Montana farmers and producers. Our Grown and Brewed Seal depicts this pride and you can look for it around the state to identify beer made in Montana from grain grown right here. Montana Made Beer is truly Brewed from the Ground Up!
Check back at the Montana Brewer’s Association Web site for more information on where you can find T-shirts and stickers with the new seal on it.