Missoula in known for a number of greats: scenery, people, fishing and (of course) microbrews.
Two of my favorite local beers are Cold Smoke and Summer Honey, from Kettlehouse Brewing Co. and Big Sky Brewing Co., respectively. Both are great for different reasons, and in case you’ve been living in the cave above Mount Sentinel, here’s a quick breakdown:
• Cold Smoke is a dark Scotch Ale imbued with roasted barley, giving it a “smoky” flavor.
• Summer Honey is of lighter fare, combining Northwest hops and Montana honey.
Being a notorious tinkerer, I decided to mix the two one night while barbecuing with the fam. The result? Quite possibly the best beer I’ve ever experienced. The two brews balance each other perfectly, dancing on the palate before smoothly slipping away.
I highly recommend that you stop reading this and immediately make your own. … But be warned: The blend is so fantastic that you may have a hard time drinking anything else. Seriously.
The tentative name for this delightful mix is Cold Honey, but here are some alternatives for your enjoyment:
• Summer Smoke – Depending on our fire season, this one may take the top slot.
• Missoula Black & Tan – Not as smooth on the tongue, but has the potential to unite the clans.
• Austin Ale – Shameless promo for the inventor, but clever use of the “AA” abbreviation.
Whatever you call it, please enjoy responsibly. And fret not, Jürgen, as I am sure there will be a Bayern blend very soon!
- Rod Austin is a Missoula native and local beer enthusiast. Reach him at rod.austin (at) gmail.com
Big Sky Brewing’s monthly video newsletter turns its focus to the limited, Montana-only release of Summer Honey in cans, which, according to the video, will be available April 15.
- Matt Pritchard
Here’s the news out of Big Sky Brewing Company:
The rumor is true! Scape Goat and Summer Honey in Cans!!! Both for sale in the Taproom this weekend and elsewhere next week. Summer Honey will only be around for a short time in Missoula only so get it while you can!
Make sure you pick some up for softball league on Sunday. Hint, hint, Fritz!
Here’s the latest roundup from Big Sky Brewing Company:
2 kegs of Powder Hound left!!! And it is $5 fill day! Other brews on tap: Summer Honey, Trout Slayer, Scape Goat Pale Ale, IPA, Moose Drool Brown Ale, Bobo’s Robust Porter and India Brown Ale-Community Brew $10 growler fills benefit the Watson Children’s Shelter)
As far as popular craft beer goes, Big Sky Brewing Company’s Summer Honey doesn’t just indicate a change of seasons, it actually introduces a whole way of life. My wife, for one, will be intensely happy to see this beer in growlers in our refrigerator again. Yes, spring is on the way, and this light, dry beer is a favorite of ours for its versatility with food, its structure and its easy drinking enjoyability.
For you craft beer loving men out there, don’t let the name fool you. Yes, this beer might be marketed to women, but it’s not a chick beer by any means. And by chick beer, I don’t mean to offend anyone, but lightly fruit-flavored wheats are typically not consumed by a lot of guys.
Summer Honey is lightly spiced, but not so that you taste a lot of spice. It’s vaguely Belgian in its characteristics, which allows for a lot of food interplay, but it’s a dry beer, and at 4.7 percent alcohol by volume, it’s easy to drink a couple without feeling too full.
If you wanted to compare this to a wine, a big, oaked California chardonnay comes to mind in its complexity and dryness. And when it comes to food, well, much like the wine, this beer was made for food.
I’ve had Summer Honey with robust spring salads, spicy central-Asian noodle dishes, grilled chicken and vegetables and many other dishes, and I haven’t found a bad pairing yet.
The fact that this beer is out so early this year is really nice, but it makes me wonder if we’ll be sipping our Summer Honey inside our air-conditioned homes in mid-August due to the potential for forest fires this year.
Is on tap at Big Sky Brewing Co. Now most of you know that dry hopped, nitro and cask conditioned can be buzz words for marketing. What you may not know is that if you like your local beers and want to try a slightly different interpretation of them, these techniques can offer a fun way to see how new flavors play with your favorite tastes. And if you’re a big, manly man, and you don’t tend to try Summer Honey based on its name, remember this, it’s the driest beer on tap, and with the dry hopping, it gives off an incredible aroma and a deep, hoppy taste that brings it into the realm of pale ales.