Finally got the chance to head over to the Bitterroot Valley’s newest brewery, Higherground Brewing Co., over the weekend. The brewery, located in Hamilton at 518 N. First St., opened about a month ago and has a bit of different feel. It seems more like a cafe with a brewery inside, with checkerboard floors and wooden tables throughout. On the Saturday afternoon that I was in there, plenty of families stopped by not to drink but to have some wood-fired pizza that’s available in the brewery. The pizza is pretty good, by the way.
There’s good news today from Flathead Lake Brewing Co.
Preparations for opening a new eatery and tasting room in Missoula are moving right along.
Here’s the latest from Sandy Clare:
Things are going well in Missoula and it looks like a Nov. 9th opening. We will have Montana hand crafted beers from Flathead lake Brewing Company, Kettlehouse, and others. For those grape lovers we will also have a few wines on hand. We’ll be serving Shrimp Po’ Boys, Glacier Buffalo Chili, and The Bar Burger (featuring local beef) dishes to name just a few. We’ll have live music on the weekends and be doing community events on Wednesdays. More info to come soon. You can check out Flathead Lake Brewing Company of Missoula on Facebook for more updates.
Watch, too, in Monday’s Missoulian – when reporter Betsy Cohen will have a story on the plans for not only Flathead Lake Brewing, but for a new downtown restaurant and a cooking school.
Imagine being able to walk into a cafe and sit at a fine table with a mosaic floor under your feet, high, painted ceilings and windows that go all the way up. Not difficult to imagine? Well, what if the server brought you a menu that had some of the world’s best beers on draught and in the bottle? Still not difficult to imagine? You must be living in New York or San Francisco.
Now imagine this in Missoula, Montana.
Many people already know that Red Bird has a fine selection of world-class beers on hand for your enjoyment, but the Missoula craft-brewing scene got a little better when Cafe Dolce opened its doors. I was able to visit the cafe yesterday for a small tasting with my friend Mike Saxton of BeerTrips.com, the world’s foremost guided beer tour operator and Belgian beer aficionado.
If I didn’t look at the icy snow covering the grass outside, I could’ve been in Italy again, and the beer menu made me think of some of the best high-end beer cafes I’ve visited in places like Auckland, New Zealand, Copenhagen, Denmark and Kyiv, Ukraine.
We settled on a beer from Dieu du ciel!, a Canadian microbrewery, called Rosée d’hibiscus, 5 percent ABV. This pink-hued beer was served in a red wine glass, and the fruity esters coming off the nose were almost over the top, but a sip revealed an acidic wheat beer with hints of tropical flower and that dusty graininess characteristic of wheat. It is Mike’s assessment that the yeast plays a huge role in this beer, and I’m inclined to agree. Though the hibiscus flowers added during the brewing process certainly figure prominently in this beer. I’d like to find a whole lot more of this wonderful beer before summer, as I have a feeling it would taste wonderful on a hot day.
And though I could’ve been somewhere in Italy, the reality was that snow covered the ground outside, and we’re just the other side of the holiday season. So perusing the holiday beer list, Mike and I settled on a collaboration called Special Holiday Ale from the brewers of Nøgne-Ø, Jolly Pumpkin and Stone Brewing Co. This spiced beer, 9 percent ABV, was not understated at all, but it wasn’t grandiose either. The herbal tones on the nose are replaced by hints of sage and nuttiness on the palate. When you taste this beer, you’ll know why they call a spiced ale spiced. This might be one of the better examples of that out there. Deep brown with some chocolate and clove, the Special Holiday Ale is a sign of good things to come from breweries collaborating together.
For our third selection, we chose to try the Jenlain #6, ABV 6 percent, a light, blonde Belgian lager that is almost like Champagne in its light, floral and crisp structure. A perfect apertif, this beer has a slight bitterness that is just held aloft by a rounded malt base. The grain comes through on the nose like a freight train, followed by hints of dried tropical fruit. It comes in a green bottle, so like many of your favorite imports, it’s likely to have just a bit of skunk, though I could detect very little in this particular bottle.