The Northside neighborhood of Missoula is abuzz with rumors of a second coming.
The Kettlehouse Brewery just keeps growing and has its sights set on opening a new brewing and tasting facility on the north side of Missoula.
“We need more production space. We’re hemmed in on both sides. We’re at this transition,” says Kettlehouse founder and owner Tim O’Leary. “We’ve got to make a big jump.”
So, faithful consumers of Kettlehouse beer who currently cross the tracks to get to the brewery’s Myrtle Street taproom may soon be able to get that sweet nectar a little closer to home.
O’Leary is planning to make that jump into an old 10,000-square-foot railroad building on the north side of the tracks. The Pacific West building is a single-story brick structure on 1st Street straddling the Orange street underpass.
If you’ve ever tried to buy a pint at the Myrtle Street taproom at 5 o’clock on a Friday afternoon you know what a popular Missoula hangout it has become. O’Leary doesn’t plan to change that.
“We don’t want to rob from what Myrtle Street does. We always want to have that,” he says. “We just can’t fit any more tanks in there.”
The new space will help the Kettlehouse keep up with the skyrocketing demand for its canned beer. Currently cans of the brewery’s Double Haul IPA and its Cold Smoke Scotch Ale are available in Missoula, Bozeman and Kalispell, but with more production capacity O’Leary hopes to expand the reach of the can.
“Anywhere there’s mountains, rivers and ski hills is where we want to have beer on the shelf,” he says.
Opening a second location will also provide a larger venue for hosting fundraisers and serve as a fallback taproom in the event that the brewery’s lease on the Myrtle Street property is not renewed.
The Myrtle Street taproom became such a sought-after venue for local non-profits to host fundraising events that the fire department stepped in to enforce capacity limits.
When the lease on the Myrtle Street building runs out in two years O’Leary expects it to be renewed, but he wants to have a back-up plan if it’s not.
“As a business owner I’ve got to protect my business long term,” he says.
Assuming the original location stays in business the north side facility will primarily produce beer for the canning operation. By law breweries can only serve beer they brew on the premises, so Cold Smoke and Double Haul will likely be the only varieties on tap.
O’Leary has an agreement with the owners of the Pacific West building to lease with an option to buy. But since the land underneath it belongs to Montana Rail Link he has to have final approval from the railroad. O’Leary expects to get that approval by the end of the week and to pour the first beer by the end of the year.
“I think it will be a good addition to the north side,” O’Leary says. “A lot of our people are there, our beer drinkers.”