It’s been a hectic couple of weeks with a bachelor party in Los Angeles and a wedding in Denver, and both trips surely did not leave me wanting for beer (i.e. I’m taking several days to dry out before Wilco at Big Sky Brewing Co. - or at least trying to.)
Probably the best place I checked out was in Anaheim, Calif., before watching the Angels get shut out by the Diamondbacks. The brewery’s called Noble Ale Works and it’s a little hole in the wall in an industrial park less than a mile from Angel Stadium. (more…)
Big Sky Brewing Co. has a far out take on one of their staples.
Cleverly called Space Goat, the beer is a variation of Scape Goat brewed with galaxy hops. That may sound familiar from another excellent beer that Flathead Lake Brewing Co. put out over the summer, Galaxy Pale Ale. Galaxy hops are an Australian variety that bring heavy doses of citrus flavors to beer. The difference can really be tasted in Space Goat, imparting pineapple and grapefruit and a burst of hops into Big Sky’s traditional pale ale.
Space Goat can only be had at the taproom in Missoula and there are no plans, at least for now, of bottling the beer. It’s in limited supply (around four to five kegs left) and it’s been pretty popular, so don’t wait. Plus, it’s free to taste.
- Matt Pritchard
The new (and giant) Lewis and Clark Brewing taproom/brewery has been open for a few weeks now and although I haven’t made it in there yet, it at least looks and sounds impressive.
The Helena Independent Record did a write-up of the grand opening, which was held Aug. 27, and with the taproom coming in at around 6,000 square feet, it’s safe to say the place can hold its fair share of beer drinkers. What used to be a jailhouse, icehouse and, most recently, a paint factory, is now an immense brewery with elements of the building’s past still hanging around.
From the barred windows that look into a sitting area, the paint-splattered stairway that leads to the mezzanine and even the stone walls of the men’s restroom — where employees have had to usher women out who are transfixed on the custom-made urinals — the bits of yesteryear stand out.
The urinals are made out of old Sleeping Giant Brewing kegs. There’s also a game room with a shuffleboard table and other goodies throughout. Guess I have a reason to head over to Helena.
Along with the grand opening, there’s also a nice story on Lewis and Clark’s canning operation, a worthwhile read.
- Matt Pritchard
Himmelberger Brewing Co. and Angry Hank’s of Billings are both launching separate expansions that’ll put them nearly within arm’s reach on each other.
Dennis Himmelberger of Himmelberger Brewing will be moving his operation out of a Billings home and into a building with six times the space, which will leave room for a new taproom and a coffee shop. He’s been brewing as a wholesaler for the past 17 years.
Angry Hank’s, which already has a Billings brewery/taproom, will have more than double the space at the new location and will likely keep the old taproom open for the foreseeable future.
Man, it’s tough to quench Montana’s thirst for craft beer.
Senate Bill 203, which clarifies a rule to allow taverns with all-beverage licenses to fill growlers for off-premise consumption, won unanimous approval in the Senate Business and Labor Committee on Tuesday morning. With the vote, the measure will almost surely pass the Legislature. Good news for beer drinkers.
The bill most breweries are waiting for, Senate Bill 202 by Sen. Ryan Zinke, R-Whitefish, which would shift the hours brewery taprooms are allowed to serve beer from 10 a.m.-8 p.m. to noon-10 p.m. (drinks have to be finished by 11 p.m.), is still awaiting action in the Senate Business and Labor Committee. A petition on the Montana Brewers Association’s website has garnered almost 900 signatures to date.
- Matt Pritchard
Here’s the Missoulian editorial board’s take on the legislative draft bill that aims to shift the hours that taprooms are allowed to serve beer, from the current 10 a.m.-8 p.m. to noon-10 p.m.:
For a brewer, it makes a lot more sense to start serving beer at noon and stop at 10 p.m. than to start at 10 a.m. and stop at 8 p.m. Really, who’s in the mood for a brew at 10 in the morning?
That’s the simple reasoning behind a common-sense legislative push to allow Montana brewers to shift their taproom hours a couple of hours later into the evening. The draft bill being sponsored by state Sen. Ryan Zinke, R-Whitefish, and supported by the Montana Brewers Association would move the taproom opening and closing times back so that breweries could keep more reasonable customer hours. It would not, however, expand the hours a taproom could be open to the public.
Taprooms have their own hours and their own set of regulations, apart from taverns or bars. Bars, for instance, may not only serve beer, but also hard alcohol, until 2 a.m. Unlike taverns, licensed tasting rooms may only serve 48 ounces per person of the brewery’s own product: beer, which is required by definition, by law, to contain less than 8.7 percent alcohol by volume (14 percent by weight) 14 percent alcohol by volume. As such, their offerings are more limited than bars.
Nevertheless, taprooms have a devoted client base of craft beer lovers, and their commerce helps support 27 microbreweries in Montana. Missoula alone boasts four brewing businesses and five taprooms, with more reportedly on the way.
According to an online petition from the Montana Brewers Association, “(S)hifting Montana brewery tap room serving hours to noon-10 p.m. makes sense because it:
• Shifts, but does not increase, tap room serving hours.
• Meets the expectations of Montanans and the visiting public and tourists.
• Provides for growth in the use of Montana-grown agricultural products.
• Creates jobs at Montana breweries.
• Enables reinvestment in brewing capacity at Montana breweries.
• Lifts unneeded restrictions that inhibit industry growth.
• Supports free enterprise concepts in the marketplace.
• Better fits with many Montana worker’s schedules, who work past 7 or 8 p.m.
• Aligns better with other regional state’s laws, which have no hours restrictions.
• Helps Montana small businesses grow jobs and make investments.
• Supports a viable, growing, and responsible industry in the state.
• Aligns with winery laws, which have no serving hours restrictions.”
Those are indeed all good reasons to support this legislative measure, which is perhaps why some 700 people have already signed it.
Montana’s elected leaders should take note of this opportunity to enact reasonable legislation that would encourage a promising industry.
The Montana Brewers Association is at work trying to shift hours taprooms are allowed to operate, from the current 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., to noon until 10 p.m. The association is trying to push through a bill in the upcoming 2011 Legislature and hopes the online petition will gather some attention and support. They stress that it’s a shift in hours, not an expansion of hours.
For me, this is a no-brainer. I’ve long wanted taprooms to stay open later, and I think I can speak for everyone I know who drinks craft beer. You can sign it by clicking here.
Here’s more on why the Montana Brewers Association is proposing the change:
- Meets the expectations of Montanans and the visiting public and tourists
- Provides for growth in the use of Montana grown agricultural products
- Creates jobs at Montana breweries
- Enables reinvestment in brewing capacity at Montana breweries
- Lifts unneeded restrictions that inhibit industry growth
- Supports free enterprise concepts in the marketplace
- Better fits with many Montana worker’s schedules, who work past 7 or 8pm
- Aligns better with other regional state’s laws, which have no hours restrictions
- Helps Montana small businesses grow jobs and make investments
- Supports a viable, growing, and responsible industry in the state
- Aligns with winery laws, which have no serving hours restrictions
- Shifts, but does not increase, tap room serving hours
- Matt Pritchard
The Myrtle Street Kettlehouse is no doubt one of my favorite haunts. I love going there, drinking a Double Haul and hanging out with friends. It’s always a great time.
The Montana Kaimin, where I worked for a time in college, recently interviewed brewer Thomas “Patches” Pacholik at work. Here’s the audio slideshow, enjoy:
And more from the Kaimin, reporter Josh Potter takes a look at the Missoula beer scene.
Craft beer and college, what a great match. And some nice work from my alma mater.
Recently, I decided to take my well-earned free time and limited coin down to the Blacksmith Brewery in Stevensville for a little “What’s on Tap?” investigatory “research.”
Over the two hours or so that I spent in that wonderful, vintage brick tasting room I had the chance to observe a good cross-section of the North Bitterroot citizenry.
There was the athletic couple who had just cycled in from Lolo; the old-timers reminiscing on the government bunglings of wildfires past; there were felt cowboy hats, young sweethearts and even an employee of the valley’s other brewery. There was (no big surprise on a Sunday afternoon) one bartendress.
There was also a sign on the wall for farm fresh eggs … only $3! While that was tempting, I instead opted for a selection of new and seasonal brews just to get a sense of what the modern Stevensvillian was drinking these days.
Hopper Hefeweizen – 6.0 %
Unfiltered with a mellow gold glow, the Hopper (surprise, surprise) is anything but hoppy. Sporting a rich malty, yeasty aroma, the first sniff brings to mind subtle visions of apricot and citrus. The flavor is full and satisfying with a texture that you can feel on your tongue. Stemming from the annual arrival of the summer grasshoppers (“The hoppers are out”) this brew has been on tap since the beginning of June.
Cuthroat IPA Nitro – 6.2 %
Cuthroat is the Blacksmith’s bread and butter IPA and one of their most popular beers; throwing it on a nitro tap offers some interesting and welcome diversity. For an IPA, this brew is extremely pale with a light wheatish yellow hue. With a slow-rising, delicate yet satisfying nitro head, this brew has a surprisingly subtle aroma compared with the usual Cuthroat. The usually robust flavor is somewhat downplayed by the smooth nitro texture but the aftertaste (BURP!) is quite pleasing.
Simcoe Pale Ale – 6.2%
Noticeably dark for a pale, this beer (the brewery’s newest offering) has a copper/sunsetty appearance. The aroma is striking; floral with a strong vanilla presence and the first sip is almost exotic with that same floral character with an excellent hoppy sustain. Robust, the aftertaste almost pushes itself out through the nostrils. This is a proud Blacksmith brew with the same underlying tones that I find in the Brickhouse Blonde among other Blacksmith staples. Very intriguing.
Blacksmith IRA – 7.4 %
Hold on to your hops, friends, because this Imperial Red Ale is strong and persuasive. Dark red with a slight yeasty haze the aroma is deceptively mild though hoppy and fully indicative of the beer’s flavor. The flavor is quite wonderful with a strong malty opening and a quick hoppy zing that rolls from the tip of the tongue to the back and settles nicely, lingering in the back of the mouth and into the throat. This would be a great beer to start off a Friday evening session.
Also on Tap at The Blacksmith
- Brickhouse Blonde
- Montana Amber
- Pulaski Porter
All great beers and worth a trip down the Bitterroot, but in the words of the great Lavar Burton, “Don’t take my word for it …” go taste ‘em yourself! Cheers!
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.