With 24 breweries, Montana ranks 3rd for most breweries per capita, just behind Oregon and Vermont. Photo courtesy of the Montana Brewers Association.
IN A TOWN with a resident population of about 2,000 people and no major supermarket, you don’t expect to find a microbrewery next to the village post office.
But in Big Sky, Lone Peak Brewery has been pumping out delicious craft beers since October 2007 – before the unincorporated town even had its own high school. To locals, this doesn’t seem so strange. Beer is a part of the true Montana experience, the beverage perfectly paired with everything we do here; what’s a good day on the mountain without a Cold Smoke après ski, a day of fishing on the Gallatin without a river-chilled cold one in between casts?
There are 24 breweries in Montana, and while that might not sound like a lot, it’s enough to put Montana at number three when it comes to states with the most breweries per capita. Granted, there aren’t many “capitas” here – Montana is home to less than a million people - but a stat like that just goes to show what we’ve known for a long time: the people that are here sure do love their beer.
So it makes sense that Big Sky Resort would celebrate with a Brewfest each summer, gathering regional breweries together to celebrate the wonderful world of IPAs and hefeweizens, summer ales and oatmeal stouts. Last Saturday eight craft breweries with over 16 different microbrews on tap gathered in Big Sky to give everyone a taste of Montana and celebrate the important things in life: mountains, sunshine, music, and beer.
With beer permeating every aspect of our ski town, it's no wonder they call it a Brewski, but summer is the season for beer-lovers at Brewfest '11; McDealy and I take advantage Blackstar Brewing's photo booth inside the silver bullet trailer they drove all the way from Whitefish, MT.
Drive the Yellowstone Brewery Trail
For the ultimate experience in Montana brews, set out on the Yellowstone Brewery Trail – four days, seven towns, nine breweries, and a jaunt through Yellowstone National Park. Cut down on drive time by tightening the loop with this weekend itinerary:
Day 1: Bozeman
Arrive in Bozeman and hit the Bozeman Brewing Company for their signature Bozone Select, a light amber ale with a medium malt body gently balanced by a hint of hops for a clean, refreshing finish.
Day 2: Big Sky
Spend the day ziplining and downhill mountain biking, then refresh with a Nordic Blonde and a game of shuffle board (loser buys the drinks!) at the Lone Peak Brewery. Back at Big Sky Resort, sample a Kettle House Cold Smoke on tap at Chet’s Bar and Grill or time it right so you’ll be there for Big Sky’s annual Brewfest, where you can sample beers from across the region and boogie down to live music in the Mountain Village.
Day 3: Yellowstone
Grab a couple growlers of Lone Peak IPA and Hippy Highway Oatmeal Stout from Lone Peak Brewery for your lunch stop at Old Faithful. Head north from there for a dip in the Boiling River before exiting the park through Gardener and heading to your next beer stop – Neptune’s Brewery in Livingston where you’ll savor a Clipper’s Nut Brown Ale.
Day 4: Bozeman
Cap off your brewery loop with a stop into Bozeman’s newest addition to the beer scene: 406 Brewing Company, named for Bozeman’s local area code.
See Brewfest action live in this video from Chris Kamman
Cheers to local brews and rockin' band Milton Menasco and the Big Fiasco!