Monday, July 27, 2009

Little update from Big Sky

the land of ubiquitous carved bear sculptures and no recycling
The biggest news from our recent foray into the land of shining mountains actually came as a rumor before we'd even gotten on the plane, that Flathead Lake Brewing, a topic of minor previous discussion here, had shuttered its doors for good, the owner having set off for presumably greener pastures, rumored to be a new venture in the sprawling metropolis of Columbia Falls. It was a tale that proved true, as it turns out we passed the closed doors a mere ten days after they'd ceased operations, a tale made even sadder as I was regaled with a story (one filled with disgusted and puckering facial expressions) from my father-in-law about how they'd attempted to foist some new, weirdly sour, vinegary concoction on him, one he deemed so wretched, he sent it back, professing to me that if that's what they thought good beer was, he wasn't surprised they'd closed down. From the sounds of it, the Flanders brewing techniques they'd started experimenting with last year, starting with a pretty delightful oud bruin, had been well in the works, but we'll apparently be waiting a while longer before wild ales establish themselves in the Wild West.

Tons of great, un-recyclable canned craft beer in Montana
On the more positive side, though, was an unexpected proliferation of locally brewed beers being stocked in grocery stores, more often than not in cans, laying claim to the treasured square footage that had not long before been the sole domain of the majors. Even Glacier has gotten on the bottling bandwagon (sadly lacking their much touted IPA), alongside the newly-in-cans Big Sky heavyweight Moose Drool, Bayern, Harvest Moon, and the standout new favorite, Kettlehouse IPA and scotch ale, both packaged in lovely pint cans.
Because some occasions demand an icy pilsner
Seeing a resurgence of locally crafted beers in an area that has long been lacking, despite the area having an agricultural history closely tied to the brewing industry, is a heartening development, and as our growler-filling visits to Glacier proved, these breweries aren't just riding on the coattails of lakeside tourism to pay their bills, with the taproom consistently hosting a roundtable of regulars, either fresh off their bikes for a pint and a glimpse of the Tour, or catching up on local gossip while getting their cooler of growlers filled for the back of their pickup.
Oh whiskey barrels, what secrets do you hold?
A final stop worth noting was this newer addition to the Flathead brewing community, Lakeside's Tamarack Brewing company, a seriously impressive two year-old brewpub situated creekside at the base of the Blacktail Mountain ski area, housed in a building whose architecture is a twisted amalgamation of alpine ski lodge and urban warehouse brewery aesthetic. And while we were off-season for the "Old 'Stache" whiskey barrel aged porter, their year round stout was an acceptable consolation prize, giving us a reason to add yet another bottle to our growing Montana growler collection.



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