At some point in the last few years, Montana had more breweries per capita than any other state. I think Vermont has passed them by now, but they’re still way up there. So it should come as no surprise that a liberal college town like Missoula has a ton of breweries. Needing a day off, I decided to chill and visit as many of them as I could, in addition to the two I had already visited yesterday.
First up was Bayern.
The oldest brewery in Missoula and possibly in all of Montana (founded 1987), they specialize in German-style beers and even have a German restaurant as part of the brewery. To paraphrase a friend of mine, having a really good German-style beer is like having a really good hamburger: It’s still not a steak, but sometimes all you want is a hamburger and not a steak. So metaphorically speaking, Bayern makes a really good hamburger. I had their rauchbier and their dark hefeweizen (which I assume is a dunkelweizen, but they called it a dark hef), and I can enthusiastically recommend both. Of course, I also knew what I was getting into, having had their beer before; it’s readily available throughout Montana.
Walking a few blocks from Bayern and across a bicycle/pedestrian bridge brought me to Western Cider. No, it’s not a brewery, but it was within walking distance and I figured it wouldn’t hurt to throw some hard cider into the mix.
I learned from them that cideries in Montana are actually regulated like wineries and not like breweries, which means they don’t have to close at 8 and they don’t have to track how much you’re drinking. Mind you, it was 2pm so the closing time didn’t really affect me. Anyway, as you can see in the photo, they only serve flights of 6. On the one hand, it was nice to be able to taste that many varieties. On the other hand, there was no way I was finishing a full flight of 6, especially when the weakest ciders were 6.5%. If you go there, save yourself a massive tasting and go for the McIntosh or the sour cherry. Though you really can’t go wrong with any of them.
Only two blocks away from Western Cider was Imagine Nation. Adam had recommended this brewery to me yesterday as his favorite brewery in Missoula, but I first heard it as “Imagination” and couldn’t find it on the map until he pointed out to me.
Overall, the brewery has a definite social justice theme, but I thought they did it tastefully. However the irony was not lost on me that they were commemorating the 50th anniversary of Stonewall with a New England IPA. I figure from a Montana perspective New England and New York are indistinguishable. By far the beer that impressed me the most though was the Zeitgeist fruited double Berlinerweisse with blueberry, pomegranate, mango and coconut. I’m sure it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but it worked for me. Also, bonus points to the brewery for having a sticker for Taybeh Brewing, which is the only brewery in the West Bank and one of the very few Muslim breweries anywhere in the world. I really hope I can make my way there the next time I’m in Israel.
After a bit of a break to do laundry, I headed back to downtown to go to Draught Works. Going north of downtown to the train tracks and then turning left actually reminded me a bit of getting around the north side of Kalamazoo, though it will be a long three weeks before I actually make it to Kalamazoo on this ride.
Draught Works has a reputation as being the best brewery in Missoula, but I personally wouldn’t go that far. The coffee cream ale and the blood orange gose were quite good though. I also like that they make their own (non-alcoholic) root beer, so there’s something for everyone.
Finally, I crossed the train tracks to get to Kettle House.
Kettle House is another venerable brewery that’s been around a while. In fact, they’ve been around so long that they have three locations: their original brewery a few miles out of town, a Northside location, and a Southside location. Each location has its own selection of draft beers. I went to the Northside location, which had been recommended to me, and I was not disappointed. Among other brews, I got to try a great watermelon gose and a batch of their flagship Scotch Ale that was aged in whiskey barrels and flavored with vanilla. As far as I’m concerned, these guys are up there as one of the best breweries in Montana.
There are more breweries in Missoula that I was unable to visit, so apologies to them for leaving them out, but there’s only one of me and I have limited time here. Have to get up bright and early tomorrow to bike off into the Rockies!