Have you ever tried to convince yourself that you had a bad idea; that wouldn’t turn out as planned; might even be dangerous; and definitely wouldn’t be fun.
That’s how Gene Colling and I were feeling as we inched into Wibaux, Montana. We were on our way to Minnesota for some muskie hunting, and I’d convinced Gene we should take the opportunity to see the only microbrewery I hadn’t visited while doing my Microbrew Montana Series last year.
He agreed, somewhat reluctantly, and I had to admit, the first impression wasn’t great. Wibaux, population 481, like thousands of small prairie towns, looks a little rough around the edges as it tries to find a way to survive.
But those concerns vanished as soon as we walked through the door of the Beaver Creek Brewery.
It’s a major re-model of a historic building in downtown Wibaux, and it looks like a lot of taprooms–a chalkboard with the beer names and descriptions, a few tables and a bar with three or four regulars enjoying their local brews, but unlike the rest, it has a big beaver overlooking it all. All taprooms are friendly places where it’s easy to meet people, but I’d have to say Beaver Creek Brewery has taken this dynamic to new heights.
We sat down and ordered a beer. Gene got a fresh chocolate chip cookie, but not me. I was about to complain–“Hey. Where’s my cookie”–when I figured out they only give them out with the stout. That’s what I get for being an IPA guy; no cookie for Bill.
Then, the manager and co-owner, Jim Devine, came over, introduced himself, and we started talking about the beer biz, his expansion plans (already expanded once in his first year and close to his 400 barrels/year capacity), his country western music career, the upcoming hunting season, how he quit his day job to work full-time at the brewery, Wibaux Gold, his “Bud Light transformation beer,” and other worldly issues.
About then, his wife Sandy brought around fresh bread, baked on site, and gave all customers a free sample. You know how it smells and tastes just out of the oven!
We arrived about 5 pm, and after a few minutes looked around, and viola, the place was packed–50-60 people having nothing but fun on a Sunday evening in Wibaux.
We helped ourselves to dinner at a big cooker of beer brats and fresh-out-of-the-oven, whole-wheat buns, and they were soooo good. No more worries about finding a restaurant.
Then, a Beaver Creek loyal named Charlie Dennison brought in his guitar and started strumming away. Seeing this, Jim grabbed his guitar, and they launched into a their version of All Night Long. People started singing along, and before you knew it, we had a little party going on.
But this is “just a regular night at the Beaver Creek Brewery,” Jim assured us, between songs.
“But it can get difficult tending bar with a guitar,” he admitted.
We ended up closing the place down at 8 pm and having one of the best times we’ve had while out on the road. When we finally forced ourselves out the door, Jim and Charlie were still behind the bar singing Bob Dylan’s Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door.
Earlier, Jim had given us a CD of his songs to listen to on our long drive across North Dakota in the morning, which is exactly what we did. It sure made North Dakota go by faster.
When I did my series last year, I called the Beaver Creek Brewery “Montana’s Microbrew Oasis.” I was referring to finding a great beer out in the Budweiser Desert (at the only microbrewery between Billings and Fargo), but now, I know the rest of the story. Beaver Creek Brewery is also an Oasis of Unexpected Good Times.
Instead of eating a chain restaurant and enduring a domestic beer, we had the good stuff in a friendly, small-town setting no chain or mega-brewery could ever replicate. And you can take the kids, too, and treat them to one of Beaver Creek’s fabulous root beer floats or a pint of root beer brewed onsite.
So, if you happen to be out in eastern Montana, for any reason, plan ahead, so you get your chance to see the Beaver Creek Brewery. Taproom hours are 4-8 pm, Thursday through Sunday. We stayed at a nice local motel right in Wibaux, the Beaver Creek Inn and Suites.
Be prepared for a fun-filled night at the Beaver Creek Brewery where the beavers taste better and everybody has fun, and as Jim warns, “you never know when a song will break out.”
Footnote: To read the entire Microbrew Montana Series, click here.