Colabeeration Baltic Porter now on tap at Bitteroot Brewing

October 15, 2009 | admin

Really need to get down to try this beer, but if any of you happen to be down in Hamilton this week, stop in to Bitterroot Brewing and grab a growler and bring it back to Missoula. I’m moving to a new house this week, and I don’t think I’ll be getting out of town. If nothing else, stop in to Bitterroot for a pint and let me know what you think of this beer.

Colabeeration Baltic Porter is now on tap!

(About 9% ABV) A strong Baltic Porter brewed with organic specialty grains and hops.  Unfiltered and aged in freshly emptied bourbon barrels for 69 days.  Paul did a great job on this one, do yourself a favor and get a taste before it’s gone!



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A porter to be proud of

January 27, 2009 | admin


Like a worn and favorite tool kept with you on fire line after fire line through a summer of infernos, Pulaski Porter is a rich and pleasant experience, like a fine memory. With overtones of coffee and hints of dark licorice and vanilla bean, Blacksmith Brewing Co.’s Pulaski Porter carries an alcohol warmth in the seven-percent range and a comfortable, almost familiar taste.

Brutally black with a light-brown head, Pulaski Porter reminds me of another porter from many years ago. Not in taste or style, but in its ability to conjure up fun memories. It was Olallie Lake Porter, and it was brewed by a guy who loved the outdoors, and specifically a small central-Oregon lake called Olallie. We spent many summer nights camping by that lake, and every time I drank an Olallalie Lake Porter, I flashed back to fat rainbow trout and nights under a blanket of blue velvet and stars.

There is something familiar in the smoothness of Pulaski Porter. Maybe its the water, maybe its the fact that the brewery sits in the oldest community in Montana. Whatever it is, this is a fine beer.



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The Story of Bobo

January 13, 2009 | admin

Just had to post this comment. I hope this doesn’t screw things up for the ladies in the tap room, this being a contest question and all, but it’s fun to know the history of Big Sky Brewing Co.’s Bobo’s Robust Porter, especially in a town that loves dogs as much as Missoula does.

From Mike Mahns:

And now for the rest of the story . . .

In the early days of the brewery, during the last millennium, there lived a small, yet valiant Chihuahua named Bobo. ( I have this story on good authority from one of the founding partners who left the brewery some time ago; parts of the story have been changed to make it more interesting.)
Bobo’s family took a vacation on the Rocky Mountain Front, enjoying all that good mother nature had to provide; fishing, swimming, camping, etc. And Bobo was a part of it all! Alas, the day came to depart the wildlands there on the eastern side of the Bob Marshall Wilderness and so with heavy heart, but fond memories, Bobo’s family packed up the car and headed back to Missoula. Unfortunately, Bobo was not with them! Of course they went back ( or maybe just called up the Sun Canyon Lodge to see if a “small and ugly dog was laying around), but, too late, Bobo was gone.
What to do? Search and Rescue wouldn’t go out and look. And Bobo was too small to see from the air. Also, he didn’t have anywhere to out pocket change so that and a lack of opposable thumbs made it difficult to use a phone. So the family grieved and they vowed to keep Bobo in their hearts for at least another week or so.
A month and a half went by. Summer began to turn to fall. Bobo was, by and large, nearly forgotten. Then one day, as the family stood around the car in the driveway, the littlest child turned to look up the street, only, incredibly, to see a small, ugly chihuahua limp-running toward the family! It was Bobo! The little girl shouted, the family all turned, smiles blossoming on their faces! Bobo was home! He was 20 yards out and running faster, so close and now one saw the black Dodge Ram backing out of the driveway across the street, not the family, and not Bobo. And guess who didn’t see Bobo. Yup.
So when you lift a glass of Bobo’s Porter, remember the little dog that made it home through the wild heartlands of Montana,braving icy streams, the talons of eagles, the snarling lips of Ursus Horriblis(Uh?) dodging all that Mother Nature threw at him, to be taken out by a Dodge Ram!

Cheers to you Bobo!




Bobo’s Robust Porter

January 12, 2009 | admin

Just got the January newsletter from Big Sky Brewing Co. I was pleased to find they’re putting out a new beer called Bobo’s Robust Porter. I know there’s a story behind this one, and I intend to find out what it is. More on this later.





More on organic beer

May 14, 2008 | admin

Though he doesn’t address the hops or water specifically, I thought this comment from Brad Simshaw, a co-owner of Blackfoot River Brewing Co., is fairly informational about what it takes to become certified organic.

There is much more to an organic beer than just ingredients. In a truly organic beer not only must all ingredients be certified as organic but also the production process used in brewing the beer must be certified as an organic process. All parts of the process are scrutinized; the storage of the organic ingredients, the milling of the organic grain, the flow of the wort and beer through pumps and hoses, etc. The organic certification process is a rigorous inspection that even involves a check of sales records to determine if more organic beer is being sold than was produced. This inspection is completed annually. Only then are you allowed to declare that the beer is an organic beer. At Blackfoot River Brewing Company (which, for the record, I am part owner) we are glad for the strict regulations regarding organic beers. This guarantees an organic product for the consumer. Our organic beer does not come in bottles, but the tap handle does sport the USDA/Organic label, something allowed only if the beer has been certified organic. For those who would like to try an organic beer on tap I believe our organic porter is in the Missoula market.

Thanks Brad, and I’ll be looking for some of that organic porter around town.




Missoula Community Brew

February 26, 2008 | admin

Here’s a short interview with John Masterson, who won this year’s homebrew contest and created a porter with help from the brewers at Big Sky Brewing Co. Proceeds from the sale of 600 gallons of Masterson’s porter will be split between Garden City Harvest and the Zoo City Zymurgists homebrew club.

1. What did you brew? Elaborate, if you will, on the style.

This is a ‘Robust Porter’, which I named ‘Pure Soul Porter’: Described here.
In my recipe, it started out at 1.068, a fairly substantial beer (and slightly bigger than the guidelines suggest). My homebrew version was at
7.4% alcohol.

2. Why did you choose this particular beer for the competition? Talk
about what intrigued you, or, perhaps where you found the recipe or

The competition was about Porter — so I had just three substyles from which to choose — Brown Porter, Robust Porter, and Baltic Porter.

As an amateur homebrewer, I’m neither a purist nor a scientist with recipe creation. I guess I would say I have something of an instinct for what might make a good recipe, but I rarely consult anything but the style guidelines during recipe formation.

This was batch #92 for me, so I have a little bit of experience, and I knew I wanted to brew something dark as night, something that FELT dark, but wasn’t too thick or heavy-bodied. I used just a bit of Centennial hops for taste & aroma — a hop variety often used in Pale Ales and IPAs
– because I love those styles. Of course I had to go easy with them because this is a Porter, but the essence comes through, subtly.

3. What was it like brewing 600 gallons of your beer? Was this the
largest batch of beer you’ve ever brewed?

The biggest for me by a long shot — I brew beer 5 and 10 gallons at a time, so 600 gallons was mind-blowing.

But, as I said at the inaugural tasting last week, I use a 24″ stainless steel spoon to stir my mash, while Big Sky uses a really big machine. I use a 5 gallon plastic water cooler to mash my grains — they use a really big machine. And I use a 25′ coil of copper tubing to cool my brew, and, you guessed it, they use a really big machine.

So really, the process the same, and, as Matt Long noted, it’s almost EASIER to brew 600 gallons than it it to brew 5 gallons, because the machines do so much of the work for you. Of course, watching the brewing team at Big Sky, running those machines demands a certain art, timing, skill, and aerobic fitness. :)

4. Tell us about your beer? Tasting notes?
In addition to base two-row barley malt and a good amount of so-called Chocolate Malt (moderately dark barley malt), we used a small amount (~6% of the total grain bill) of a malt called ‘Extra Special Malt’, which is described by the manufacturer as follows:

“This is a unique malt that is used in many types of beer to achieve the profound raisiny flavor notes often associated with darker high gravity beers such as dopplebock. Adds a raisiny, chocolate, slight coffee flavor and aroma and a deep red to copper color. Here’s the description. ”

It’s subtle but it’s there.

The hops are understated but lingering, hinting at hoppiness but never really going there.

I just took a growler of this beer to a dinner party last weekend and got a lot of comments about how this is how dark beer is supposed to taste — several people said it reminded them of fond memories of touring breweries in Germany (the Tettnang bittering hops are indeed German in origin).

5. Why should people pick up a growler of this beer?

Well, first of all, it’s cooler-than-cool that Big Sky Brewery has partnered up with the local homebrew club to make this possible. We are very fortunate to have such a great example of business-nonprofit-community collaboration here in Missoula.

Second, it’s great beer! Even if you don’t generally drink dark beers, this is a good one. Strong too. Stop into Big Sky’s tasting room and check it out.

Third, the chosen non-profit beneficiary of this year’s Community Brew is Garden City Harvest. They are good and deserve your support.

Thanks for sharing John.

I just think it’s really cool that a brewery partners with local homebrewers to create something beneficial to the entire community. That’s what I love about this place and these breweries.




A beer from down yonder

October 10, 2007 | admin

It’s sad, but I haven’t been down to Hamilton to visit Bitter Root Brewing Company yet. Despite that, I’ve had the pleasure of tasting their bottled beers. Porters are a hit or a miss for me, and more often than not they are a miss.


I suppose it’s because I like big stouts, so weak or watery porters don’t often do it for me.

But, Bitter Root Brewing Company’s porter was a nice late-evening drink, all the more so for the slightly smoky flavor on the finish, which really gave the beer a unique taste.

We sipped the ale slowly, and, as it warmed, it gained a headier aroma of chocolate malts with a hint of licorice.



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Porter: A BJCP description

October 9, 2007 | admin

I’m going to post the Beer Judge Certificate Program’s guidelines for various beers that I want to review so that you, the reader, can judge for yourself.

Here’s what the BJCP says about Porter:

Aroma: Malt aroma with mild roastiness should be evident, and may have a chocolaty quality. May also show some non-roasted malt character in support (caramelly, grainy, bready, nutty, toffee-like and/or sweet). English hop aroma moderate to none. Fruity esters moderate to none. Diacetyl low to none.

Appearance: Light brown to dark brown in color, often with ruby highlights when held up to light. Good clarity, although may approach being opaque. Moderate off-white to light tan head with good to fair retention.

Flavor: Malt flavor includes a mild to moderate roastiness (frequently with a chocolate character) and often a significant caramel, nutty, and/or toffee character. May have other secondary flavors such as coffee, licorice, biscuits or toast in support. Should not have a significant black malt character (acrid, burnt, or harsh roasted flavors), although small amounts may contribute a bitter chocolate complexity. English hop flavor moderate to none. Medium-low to medium hop bitterness will vary the balance from slightly malty to slightly bitter. Usually fairly well attenuated, although somewhat sweet versions exist. Diacetyl should be moderately low to none. Moderate to low fruity esters.

Mouthfeel: Medium-light to medium body. Moderately low to moderately high carbonation.

Overall Impression: A fairly substantial English dark ale with restrained roasty characteristics.

To read the full account click here.

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September 23, 2007 | admin

I don’t mean the kind of fins that Jimmy Buffet sang about. I mean the kind from Finland. These wonderful people have some of the most dramatic idiosyncrasies I’ve ever encountered, like a love of coffee that borders on obsession and an ability to visit for prolonged periods of time that could rival your great aunt Mildred.

Turns out the Finns do beer like they do everything else, with depth and complexity.

Baltic Porters have a long history inexorably tied to imperial stouts and 18th century British porter exports. But it took a little more than 50 years for the Finnish to make their own unique version.

Here’s a description from

Sinebrychoff Porter
“Brewed in Helsinki, Finland, by the country’s oldest surviving brewery, founded in 1819 by Russian Nikolai Sinebrychoff. It is believed that “Koff” has been a porter brewery since its inception. Substantial in strength at 7.2 percent ABV, the brew is malty, with a nice bitter, roasty finish. Black as night, with a long-lasting creamy brown head. This beer survived Finnish prohibition.”


I love the Finns. In my life I’ve been privileged to know a few well, and I’m proud of that fact. I know my mom counts some of her best friends among the Finnish, and now that I’ve tried their beer, I have to say they may be a complete society.



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Rare beer sighting

August 14, 2007 | admin

During a brief checkup on the lineup at the Rhinoceros I found a tap handle I hadn’t seen in a while. Full Sail Brewing Company’s Imperial Porter is a rich and roasted beer that goes down smooth like aunt Maud’s triple-chocolate brownies.

I know it’s still too warm to be sucking down porters and stouts, but this was truly a dessert beer you could enjoy on a smoky summer evening.

The Imperial Porter is 7.5 percent ABV and 60 IBUs, so it’s nothing to laugh at. But it’s silky with no faces made as it hits the different parts of your tongue. It’s black in color, but the malt body on this beer balances the high IBUs beautifully.

The Full Sail website says this beer is only available March and April, but if I know Jamie, the brewer at Full Sail, he probably had a few extra kegs, and I’m sure he thought of his friends here in Missoula enough to throw an extra keg on the truck.



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