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Montana Microbrew

Blacksmith Brewing: Montana’s Newest Brewery, Montana’s Oldest Community

Well, here we are, at the end of the Microbrew Trail, my last taproom visit for this yearlong series of articles, and what did I find? An old buggy salesroom and blacksmith shop transformed into Montana's newest microbrewery, Blacksmith Brewing Company. Is that Montana-esque or what?

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Baucus Bets Microbrew on Carroll Game, But Which One?

This story gets a little personal for three reasons. First, my hometown school, Carroll College, is playing the University of Sioux Falls tomorrow in the NAIA National Championship, again. The Fighting Saints beat the Cougars last year. And this is the sixth time in seven years Carroll has been in the championship game--winning all five times they played in the big game, by the way, and four it a row, 2002-2005. I'd like to see that other college over in Missoula try to match that record. Second, my yearlong endeavor, the Microbrew Trail, has made me a big fan of Montana's amazing craft beer producers. Read it all here. Third, my hometown U.S. Senator Max Baucus made a friendly wager with fellow Democratic Senator Tim Johnson of South Dakota, and he bet a case of Montana microbrew against a case of South Dakota beef jerky. (Doesn't seem quite fair, does it? If Johnson wins he gets a whole case of the Nectar of the Gods, and Baucus gets what's left of a dried up cow.)

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Quarry Brewing: Where They Dig Beer

In Butte, America, they dig things, like copper and silver, big statues on big hills, hunting and fishing, labor unions, big pits, and now, they dig beer, too, all because of Quarry Brewing, one of Montana's newwest microbreweries. Butte has a long tradition of brewing beer and has many long-ago-closed breweries, but for many years, the Mining City has been without a brewery. Now, the Schnabels have come to town and fixed that problem, launching Butte's first microbrewery.

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Bayern Brewing: The Only German Brewery in the Rockies

When you walk into some Montana microbreweries, you get the feeling you've stumbled across somebody's expanded home brew operation, but that is hardly the case when you visit Bayern Brewing of Missoula. It's more like you beamed yourself to Hamburg or Munich for real masterbrew instead of those "malt-flavored beverages" sold by mega-brewers. In fact, owner Jurgen Knoller is mighty proud of being "the only German microbrewery in the Rockies." And he's always anxious to elaborate.

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Flathead Lake Brewing: Great View, Great People, Great Beer

The Flathead Lake taproom. Photo Courtesy of Flathead Lake Brewing. Below: The easy-to-find brewery along Hwy. 35, and owner Terry Leonard. Photos by Bill Schneider.

Some Montana microbreweries are hard to find, tucked away in alleys or side streets or even up in the timber at the end of an unpaved road, but not Flathead Lake Brewing. You can't miss it; it's right in the middle of Woods Bay along scenic State Highway 35 at mile marker 26, which is also the name of one of its award-winning, handcrafted beers. And when you walk into the taproom, you don't find owner Terry Leonard in back room brewing beer or counting his money. Instead, you find him sitting at the bar enjoying a cold brew with his customers.

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Neptune’s Brewery: Where the Brew is Taylor-Made

Owner Bill Taylor and his only employee, Katrina Lawson, in Neptune's tasting room. Photo by Bill Schneider.

One thing I didn't expect to find when I launched into the Microbrew Montana series was a brewery with a maritime theme. But then, I didn't know about Neptune's Brewery in Livingston, the self-proclaimed "Heart of the Rocky Mountains," and a small market (8,000 population) for a brewery. At Neptune's, everything is about the ocean, ships, sailing and maritime culture and lore--the logo, art, taproom furnishings, beer names, even the owner's only employee, Katrina. You'd think a brewery in Livingston would feature a ranching or outdoor theme, or maybe even a movie star aura to appeal to all the local stars who have escaped Hollywood and landed in the Paradise Valley. So, of course, I had to ask why.

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Kettle House Brewing: The Little Brewery That Cans

Above: The Kettle House was the first microbrewery in the state to can. Middle: The new Orange Street location and owner Tim O'Leary. Photos Courtesy of Kettle House Brewing.
Below: The Kettle House parking lot. Photo by Bill Schneider.

When you go into the Kettle House taproom, which is tucked away on a hard-to-find side street in mid-town Missoula, you find something you see at most Montana microbreweries--a crowd of local folks enjoying good beer and good conversation in their adopted neighborhood pub where it's always "Hoppy Hour." But when you peak into the back room or decide to buy some tasty Kettle House brew at the grocery store, you see something you don't see at or from any other Montana microbrewery, beer cans. Because Kettle House is the only little Montana brewery that cans.

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Lone Peak Brewing: Where You Get a Whole Pint

Montana's newest brewery and, below, Steve Nordahl, owner, brewer and general contractor. Photos by Bill Schneider.

Big Sky is one of the newest communities in Montana, so it seems fitting that it has one of the state's two newest breweries. Lone Peak Brewing opened the doors of its new building in October 2007, about the same time Quarry Brewing opened in Butte. Named after the mighty mountain casting its shadow over entire resort community of Big Sky, Lone Peak Brewery and its owners Steve and Vicky Nordahl definitely do some things differently than other Montana brewers. For starters, Lone Peak Brewery is the only taproom I've visited (which, I confess, is a lot) where I know I always get a whole pint.

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Montana Smith and the Temple of Malt Now Playing in Helena

The Temple of Malt. BELOW: Co-owner Brian Smith in his new production facility. Photos by Bill Schneider.

After many long delays, Blackfoot River Brewing of Helena has finally opened its new facility, and it has been a hoppin' good time ever since. Opened on October 7, the first week has been "incredible," according to co-owner Brian Smith. The first Friday night crowd was so huge, in fact, that his servers could barely handle it, so he had to institute a new system to manage the success--the three-pint check-off card used by many other microbreweries.

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Red Lodge Ales: Montana’s Greenest Brewery

If you've been reading the Microbrew Montana series, you may have noticed a lot of similarities among breweries. That's true, sort of, with Red Lodge Ales, but owner Sam Hoffmann also likes to blaze his own trail. That's why he has a Hop Diver, Forklift Cowboy, Office Slug, and Director of Good Times on staff, why he has a refrigerator door on his cooler that opens right behind his taproom bar, and why he drives around with recycled restaurant grease in his gas tank. "We have the passion," Hoffmann explains, "but other brewers do, too, but we're also pioneering some great things."

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