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I've been off the beer beat for a while, and the brewers have been as busy as beavers. Here's a brief wrap up on what's been happening….

Back on the Beer Beat II

I’ve been off the beer beat for a while, and the brewers have been as busy as beavers. Here’s a brief wrap up on what’s been happening….

Montana Brewery Trail Website Goes Live After a year in researching, writing and website development, the Montana Brewery Trail website (click here) has finally gone live on the Travel Montana website, visitmt.com.

The new website includes nine local, regional and statewide routes through and within Montana, so if you’re planning a trip to or within Montana and want to add visits to the state’s craft breweries to your agenda, this website is made for you. In addition to the suggested routes, the website has lengthy articles about each brewery and detailed sidebar information such as location, hours, details on beers, and recommendations for nearby eateries and lodging.

The genesis for the new website was the Microbrew Montana series posted on NewWest.Net and Travel Montana website throughout 2008. Some information is similar, but all of it is much expanded and updated–and it will continue to be updated every three months.

The Montana Brewers Association (MBA) has simultaneously published a new brewery trail brochure to go with the website. You can pick up one at any MBA member brewery.

Beers & Gears Blog Starts Monday With some trepidation, I’m publicly announcing that starting Monday, May 24, a fellow crazy cyclist and microbrew fan, Will Selser, and I will embark on a 13-day, 740-mile, 12-brewery “first ascent” of the Great Divide Brewery Trail, one of the nine suggested routes featured on the new Montana Brewery Trail Website.

Oh, and did I mention, we’re doing it on our bicycles, not in our pickup trucks.

Being older and wiser (but not Budweiser), we’ve conned our good friend, the ageless Chuck Micklewright, into doing the route with us in his 34-foot mobile home. So, every night after a long day in the saddle and a short visit to the taproom, we can enjoy the luxuries of home instead of sleeping in a tent, going without a shower, and wearing the same shorts for two weeks of hard riding.

The route starts and ends in Helena with 12 brewery stops, in this order: Quarry (Butte), Bitter Root (Hamilton), Blacksmith (Stevensville), Big Sky (Missoula), Kettle House (Missoula), Bayern (Missoula), Glacier (Polson), Tamarack (Lakeside), Flathead Lake (Woods Bay), Great Northern (Whitefish), Harvest Moon (Belt), Lewis & Clark (Helena) and Blackfoot River (Helena).

That’s a lot of miles and a lot of taprooms, but we think we’re up to it. Hopefully, I don’t have to eat crow (or worse, drink a Bud Light) and fail to make it to the finish line.

If interested, you can check out our progress, or lack there of, for yourself. We’ll be blogging every night from the taprooms for both NewWest.Net and on the Adventure Cycling Association website. Click here and here for the exact pages.)

Montana Brewers Are Hoppy Campers Montana currently has 23 craft breweries and all but two (Big Sky in Missoula and Yellowstone Valley in Billings) have joined the re-invigorated MBA, according to executive director Tony Herbert. MBA also has over 20 associate business members and about 80 individual “Brew Crew” members….Herbert also said sales were up 8 percent in 2009, not bad for one of the worst years ever for the U.S. economy…MBA just printed up 100,000 coasters featuring the “Grown and Brewed in Montana” seal that you may have seen on some craft beer six packs. The coasters have been distributed to breweries, taverns and restaurants statewide…Brewers must use at least 50 percent Montana-made products in their beer in order to use the seal for promotional purposes….At least 50 percent of Montana’s beer is already made from Montana grown barley and wheat, but not hops, most of which is still purchased out of state. Where are all the Montana hop growers?…The second annual Montana Brewers Festival has moved from October to September 10 at the Haines Pavilion at the Gallatin County Fairgrounds in Bozeman. At the festival, 21 Montana breweries will feature over 60 Montana-made beers and at least two bands, the Hooligans and Keegan Smith and The Fam, will provide entertainment. Don’t miss it…MBA has also added a calendar of events to its website. Check it out here.

Shorties: Lewis & Clark Brewing of Helena is working madly on its new, expanded facility at 1517 Dodge. Owner Max Pigman predicts an opening date “sometime between late August and early October,” and he’s quite excited about it, to say the least, noting: “We’ll have four times the capacity and four times the space in our taproom.”…Harvest Moon Brewing in Belt is still negotiating for an additional location in downtown Great Falls and is now bottling Charlie Russell Red, an Irish-style red ale, with original Russell art on the labels, courtesy of the CMR Museum in Great Falls…Blackfoot River Brewing of Helena has started Firkin Thursdays, but don’t try to say that in public after two pints. Blackfoot puts a new, special brew in a sealed cask, or firkin, before fermentation is complete, which produces a gentle, natural carbonation. It’s also part of the company employee fitness plan, as servers have to use a hand-operated beer engine to pump each pint out of the firkin…Bourbon drinkers beware; you could be converted. Tamarack Brewing of Lakeside has two new beers coming out in June–Cherry Bourbon Brown and Vanilla Bourbon Stout…Tamarack is considering opening an alehouse similar to its place in Lakeside in Missoula to feature all of its beer, but only a restaurant, not a production facility…Coming soon. Kettle House Brewing in Missoula is adding a deck to its new northside location….Brewery Bowl Off? Kettle House and Big Sky Brewing, friendly rivals in Missoula, plan a big “bowl off” at the Westside Lanes, 5 pm, June 13. Each brewer gets to decide the costume theme for the opposing team, and yes, the public is welcome to join the party. The winner only gets “bragging rights,” but I suspect that could be huge.…Big Sky has started selling Scapegoat Pale Ale in cans and has new summer hours (11-6 Monday-Saturday and 11-5 on Sunday)…One more from Big Sky. Montana’s largest brewery, is planning a BBQ Festival on Saturday June 12 with four bands, kid activities, face painting and a “bouncy house.” You’ll have to go to see what that is. Click here for details. It’s a benefit for the Montana Food Bank Network…Beaver Creek Brewing of Wibaux, Montana smallest brewery, is expanding again, adding more capacity, to keep up with growing distribution, now ranging all the way from Bismarck to Billings.

Rumor Mill: I’ve heard repeated rumblings of at least three and perhaps as many as five new craft breweries in various stages of development. Rumored locations are Bozeman, Lewistown, Stevensville, Columbia Falls and Wolf Point. Stay tuned.

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One comment

  1. Dennis Himmelberger

    I think I make 3.