We beer lovers can get to feeling pretty bad about our situation here in Montana, so it is good to sometimes walk a mile in someone else’s shoes, or, maybe, drink a beer in their state.
This little reminder from an Alabama reader brings the point home:
“antiquated beer laws”…Well, you don’t know how bad they can be…I’m in Alabama with a 6% cap on alcohol by volume (I’d love at least a 8.75% cap) and a limitation on bottle size of 16 oz. – so no bombers, no growlers, no 750 mls… Plus if you want to have a brewpub, you have to operate in a Nationally Historical Registered Building and are not allow to bottle your beer, but if you want to bottle your beer, you can but can’t serve any on-site plus the 6% cap is inforced…and of course, home-brewing is illegal, too. One bright spot…you can buy fortified wine and low gravity beer in the grocery store on Sunday and you can make your own wine! If you want to know all the details of Alabama citizen’s efforts to get their laws changed, then visit http://www.FreeTheHops.ORG … and if you feel very sorry for us living in Alabama, we will be happy to let you join our “Alabamians For Specialty Beer” cause and get a T-shirt for $25!
Thanks for the reminder -
Here are a couple of good questions from readers:
Hi Tim, I am new to the Missoula area, actually live in Hamilton. I was looking for a place to buy ingredients so I can make my own beer. I was wondering if you know of a place in Missoula?
Craig, thanks for reading. In Missoula, members of the local homebrew club, Zoo City Zymurgists, tend to like to buy their brewing supplies at Lolo Peak Winery and brewing supply. I’m told you can also find supplies at the Axmen store on Highway 93 on the south end of town. That might be a little closer to you, but I haven’t seen what they carry. On another note, you might want to buy your local brewer a pint or take him out to dinner. I know that some brewers here in Montana tend to support local homebrewers by allowing them to purchase small amounts of grain or other supplies for homebrewing. That’s not the case with all of them, but it never hurts to ask.
Hey, Tim. I’m on my way to Missoula for a few days during my mid-tour leave from Iraq and I wondered if you could recommend a few “don’t miss” brews for me to try during my trip. I am a budding beer enthusiast (or was before I left for Iraq) and I’d like to freshen up on my skills a little while I’m home. I’m a big fan of Fall and Winter Seasonal Ales and a good Amber Ale. Can you help me out? Thanks!
Sam, thanks for reading. If you’re going to be in town, you won’t want to miss Kettlehouse Brewing Co.’s Lake Missoula Amber Ale. The brewery, if you’re not familiar with it, is centrally located on Myrtle Street, about a block off of Higgins and the Hip Strip. If you’re in the mood for fall seasonals, you could ask if they have any Hemptoberspliff left, it’s a great take on Oktoberfest beer. Bayern Brewing, the only German brewery in the Rockies, has an authentic Oktoberfest lager that is amazing if you like the dark marzens. If you want to try some beers from around the area in one place, I recommend checking out the selection at the Old Post. You can try great beers from Bitterroot Brewing Co., Flathead Lake Brewing Co., and Blackfoot River Brewing Co., as well as local favorites.
Send me an E-mail when you get to town. I’d love to buy you a beer. It’s the least I can do to say thanks for your sacrifice.
Just got this story as a comment from the last post. But I thought it was such a good illustration of what I’m talking about this week that I’d post it for all of you to read.
A couple days ago my wife sent me a little story that fits right in with your column and this comment. It’s a little lengthy and some of you may have seen it somewhere else, but I believe it’s worthy to read it and appreciate the simple wisdom of “The Mayonnaise Jar and Two Beers”.
“The Mayonnaise Jar and 2 Beers”
When things in your life seem almost too much to handle, when 24 hours in a day are not enough, remember the mayonnaise jar and the 2 Beers.
A professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him. When the class began, he wordlessly picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls. He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.
The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls. He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was.
The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else. He asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded with an unanimous ‘yes.’
The professor then produced two Beers from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar effectively filling the empty space between the sand. The students laughed.
‘Now,’ said the professor as the laughter subsided, ‘I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life. The golf balls are the important things—your family, your children, your health, your friends and your favorite passions—and if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full.
The pebbles are the other things that matter like your job, your house and your car. The sand is everything else—the small stuff. ‘If you put the sand into the jar first,’ he continued, ‘there is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls. The same goes for life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff you will never have room for the things that are important to you.
‘Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. Spend time with your children. Spend time with your parents. Visit with grandparents. Take time to get medical checkups. Take your spouse out to dinner. Play another 18. There will always be time to clean the house and fix the disposal. Take care of the golf balls first—the things that really matter.
Set your priorities. The rest is just sand.’ One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the Beer represented. The professor smiled and said, ‘I’m glad you asked.’
The Beer just shows you that no matter how full your life may seem, there’s always room for a couple of Beers with a friend.’
Should’ve posted something on the old firkin a while back, being as I love to say it so much.
Blog buddy Mike Mahns, from Big Sky Brewing Co., posted this item recently:
Hey Tim, just wanted to let you know that every Wed. at the Old Post Pub, starting Aug 6th, there will be a different Big Sky Brewing Firkin ale available. The tapping takes place at 4 pm! Maybe a little earlier to run the waitstaff through the pouring procedure.
So that begs the question, from some people, what is a firkin ale?
To be as simple as possible, a firkin is a small keg, which holds nine Imperial gallons or a quarter of a barrel (40.91481 litres), and which is often made of wood but sometimes metal, from which cask-conditioned beer is served between 50 and 55 degrees in temperature. Some call it “Real Ale,” others just like it because it reminds them of drinking beer in an English pub.
Why the firkin should we care? Because to really understand the goodness that is ale, one must break it down to its essentials. Drinking beer out of a can or bottle will not impart the hop or malt profiles to your nose and those all-important taste receptors in your mouth. Pouring a super-cold beer into a frosty beer mug will not release those flavors either.
Really tasting a beer requires the correct glassware, the correct temperature, and, if at all possible, a firkin to pour it from. Now this might not be your cup of tea. If it’s not, then go back to drinking that ice-brewed swill with the born-on date on it. But if you really love beer, I mean REALLY love it, as in capital-letters-love-it, then do yourself a favor and try some Big Sky from the firkin. See you there!
I had to post this comment from the last post. It makes some good points, and perhaps I need to clarify my previous statements. But not much. I stand by what I said. Swill is swill regardless of its history.
Hi Tim, just read your post and some interesting thoughts! However, swill is a really strong word to describe a beer style that is a product of the very history that wiped out the vast majority of breweries in this country! World Wars, scarcity of products, and the times (light bodied lagers actually became popular in the late 1800s, they became even lighter and more popular much later) all shaped the world of domestic beer that we have today. A-B and Coors both use state of the art equipment and spend more on quality control than most smaller breweries will ever spend on materials, land, equipment together! To each their own, I say, but at least as far as Coors and A-B are concerned, a Busch or a Coors has been active in both companies since before Prohibition. Not a bad feat. And by the way, since when does any for-profit company want to see its market share evaporate? I don’t care what any other craft brewer might say, but if they are not turning a profit or do not own some market share, then they won’t be around for very long. Companies like A-B and Coors worry about the craft beer segment in so far as they can see to earn their share of the pie. Success of brands like Blue Moon (Coors) or Shock Top (A-B) are dependant on consumers. If they are liked, then folks will keep buying them, regardless of who makes it. They’ll keep trying to mimic that success by creating beers that have a craft feel, but that is a far cry from “squashing” brands like Sierra, Big Sky, Kettlehouse, or any of the other hundreds of breweries or brands out there. Your enemy to diversity lies not with the big three, but with state, federal and local laws that seek to limit who can serve what when, or what strength a beer can be. Your enemy of diversity lies in the minds of the retailers who see a threat from breweries selling beers on their own premises and not in those of the tavern owners. But the big three are not sitting behind mahogany doors concocting plots to rid the world of craft beers. They’re too busy coming up with Super Bowl commercials!
Thanks for the read.
Comment by Mike Mahns — February 13, 2008 @ 4:33 pm
Hmmm, good point about swill, it might be too strong for Bud or Coors. I’ll give you that one, only because they sell a lot of it, and if it were swill, they probably wouldn’t sell so much of it. Let’s call that one a personal opinion.
Good point about lighter beers becoming more popular in the 1800s. I can almost guarantee you that light beers in the 1800s were far tastier than light beers today. The reason I say this is that I spent some time in Eastern Europe, where the some of those early light beers came about, and those recipes haven’t changed much. I’d prefer a Slavutich any day over a Bud or Coors. In fact, many European cheap, export light lagers are more flavorful than our big two.
And yes, a Busch and Coors have been at the helm of those companies for decades, but that doesn’t mean what I said is not true. They are not passing brewing techniques down from father to son, they’re passing memberships to country clubs and controlling shares down. Big difference from what Chuck in Butte wants to do by including his kids in the family brewing business so that they at least feel a part of it if they don’t want to take over for dear old dad some day and continue to give Butte the brewery it deserves.
No, I’m not a conspiracy theorist putting tin foil on my head in case big brother (Coors and A-B) is trying to spy on me. But I disagree with your theory on where the “enemy to diversity” is. Governments may control who sells what where and at what price and what ABV, but they don’t do it ignorantly.
I blogged during the last Oregon legislative session when the state wanted to raise the beer tax. Craft brewers united to fight it, but they had to put up some serious money. You see A-B was there with some high-paid lobbyists. Now the beer tax would affect A-B, but not as much as it would small craft brewers. So it was worth it for A-B to lobby for the tax if it could quash some of that competition. You can deny this all you want, but I’ve written stories about this very issue, and I’ve interviewed lobbyists for both Coors and A-B. Many of the controls they seek in Congress hurt smaller breweries. Sure they don’t want to see their market share go down, who would? But I’m not an advocate for beer in general. I’m an advocate for real beer, micro brew and craft brewers in small towns that haven’t had a brewery in 90 years.
So, we might agree to disagree on this one, but I’ve got one more point to make. I don’t want to do anything to hurt the brewers in this state. But I want to see legislative change that will make for fair practices when it comes to owning breweries, crafting beer and distributing it. Tavern owners have a strangle hold on brewers that has nothing to do with their own profitability, and they have many ears in Helena
Tavern owners, this is my own opinion, it is not necessarily shared by the brewers of this town or any other. But I believe in the craft brew industry and what these breweries mean to the towns and cities of Montana.
Mike, I’m not dumb. I know Big Sky is a big brewery that would like to get their beer in more places. I know that all these issues affect what the brewery does. But every person I’ve met at the brewery is a craft-beer lover, a community advocate and a local’s local. It doesn’t have the feel of a big, for-profit enterprise with no heart or soul.
But then I get comments like this…
This was from Dave in Polson:
Do you ever visit and write about Montana breweries north of Missoula (like in Polson or Lakeside or Woods Bay or Whitefish or west of Marion)?
Dave in Polson
I’m glad you asked. Yes, in fact I have visited the breweries in Polson, Woods Bay and Whitefish. Tamarack in Lakeside wasn’t open at the time. You can read a later Lakeside post here. I would really like to get out to Marion to visit Lang Creek Brewing Co., but they are the most remote microbrewery in America.
I had a video tour of the other breweries that I shot with a small digital camera, (not a video camera) so the quality is not very good. But here it is anyway.
But I do need to get back up there, and now that I’ve featured all the Missoula-area breweries in Missoula.Com magazine, it’s time to check out all those great breweries around Flathead Lake. Part of the problem is that I have responsibilities that keep me busy in town much of the time, so brewery tours are often on my own time. My spring and summer plans include checking out the breweries around the state that I haven’t visited yet, as well as reviewing as many Montana beers as I can.I’d love to start a growler exchange program, you know, like if you plan to visit Missoula and wanted to trade a growler of Kettlehouse IPA for a growler of Peg Leg Porter from Flathead Lake Brewing Co. That kind of thing.
Here’s a comment I thought I’d post because the man who wrote it is a true devotee of great craft beer and a fellow beer blogger. Curious about where to drink beer in the Midwest or just want to read something about a different part of the country? Check out the Beer Philosopher. Damn I wish I’d thought of that name first.
In response to I am craft beer:
Well said, Tim. I echo your sentiments. I’m 35, married and my idea of a vacation is to thoroughly chart out the best places to buy and drink beer within a reasonable proximity of wherever it is we’re going. Is that so crazy? After all, people do this sort of thing for wine, no? With American craft brewers, like Dogfish Head for example, producing complex and exotic beers to rival the rarest of wines, why wouldn’t there be a “sub-culture” of devotees willing to (literally) go the extra mile to find and imbibe in these storied beers. This phenomena isn’t exclusive to our generation, as you point out, but there is little doubt we are the driving force. After all, we’re a little too old to go bar-hopping with the express purpose of loading up on whatever swill happens to be on tap for .50 cents a draught at the local college bar. By the same token, we’re too young to resign ourselves to drinking our “father’s beer” simply because that’s the way it’s always been …
The craft beer industry’s lifeblood is it’s experimental spirit. Sometimes, perhaps, it’s a little too unrestrained, but more times than not it is the taste of invention and innovation in a glass. And my glass generally tastes pretty darn good.
We’ve had a flurry of comments recently, which I’m very happy about. (It shows the bosses that this is indeed and interactive forum for brewers and beer lovers)
I’d like to share a few with you.
From blog reader John Masterson:
“I went to a Dogfish Head alehouse out east last month and took a snap of their menu. Incredible.”
Thanks John. I can’t wait to visit there.
From blog reader S:
“Where can we find these beers in Missoula? Any idea who has the best price? Reading this blog makes me want to have an official reason to sit around and try new brews!”
You can’t find all these beers in Missoula, but you always can ask our area beer purveyors if they can start carrying them. Here’s a blog post that highlights the places to purchase beer in Missoula, among other things. I’ve found that beer prices are relatively similar around the city.
And here’s part of a review from blog reader Dan L on Caldera Brewing Co.’s IPA:
“The aromatic top hop end is not super significant until you taste either product and then it becomes more obvious–especially at 42-48F (aromatic top end is much more obvious above 48F–but who can wait…). The middle malt portion lingers briefly on your tongue and is very similar to Kettlehouse IPA–being just a bit more British in that character. This middle malt characteristic is probably due to the choice of malts and mash temperatures during brewing–more than likely a more consistent single temp mash. The upfront and back of the throat bitterness is very pleasing and refreshing… not a lot of sweet here– but strongly piney and citrusy from the choice of hops. Terpenes rule!”
Thanks Dan, your reviews are well written and informative. Keep them coming.
When I stopped by the brewery this week, I found out they are nearly sold out.
That’s either a some seriously popular beer or they didn’t make enough.
Did you try it? And what did you think of it?
I don’t get to get around to all the people who make great beer happen, in fact, I tend to focus on the head honchos when it’s the silent majority that puts that nectar on your table every day.
This from someone who puts it better than ever I could:
Thank you for the kind words Tim. We enjoyed your company and you are welcome anytime. Someday the rest of the world will realize what we already know about the Missoula beer scene.
Additionally, I would like to extend credit to Derek Stepanski, our quality control technician, for his contribution to our specialty beer operation. He is a passionate and talented brewer who participates in all aspects of the specialty beer program from recipe development to bottling. In fact, the Belgian Strong Dark Ale that we had at Brouwer’s was his creation.
Like a successful sports team, it takes more than just one person to make things happen. Here at Big Sky, we are blessed with a wonderful group of hard working folks from the front office, sales and marketing, packaging, cellaring, and brewing. The collective effort and support from our team allow Derek and I a great outlet for our creative expression.
Matt Long - Big Sky Brewing Co.
Well said Matt. Thank you Derek, and all of you whose names I don’t get to mention regularly in this blog. Your contributions to the craft brew we love is greatly appreciated. We’d shake your hands and buy you all a beer if we could, so don’t be shy in the tap room.