Thursday, August 21, 2014

Touching Down in San Diego for #BBC14

I just touched down in sunny San Diego for the 4th annual (but my first) Beer Bloggers Conference. about 120+ of fellow beer writers and craft beer lovers will spend three days talking about and enjoying fine craft beers with industy leaders.

I am also fortunate to be on this trip with my friend and MCBW partner, Alan McCormick, author of Growler Fills. On Sunday Alan and I will give a short presentation on "How to Plan a Craft Beer Week" for those "enthusiastic" enough to attempt one. 

Shortly, Alan and I will join a dozen other beer writers on a private brewery tour courteousy of A-Plus-Limos on which we willl get a decent samplling of the local beer scene, including a special stop at White Labs. 

Keep tabs on all my adventures via this blog, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Links below. @MTBeerFinder

...but for now, this!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

This Weekend in Montana...It's Pretty Much Beer

Montana has a couple of excellent beer events happening this weekend. If you're nearby, check them out.

Helena's 150th Birthday Brewfest (Saturday August 16)
The Montana Brewers Association is organizing a special brewfest in Helena at Memorial Park in honor of its 150th birthday this year. 22 MBA-member breweries will be pouring 77 Montana-made craft beers, all the while imbibing on local music and a festive community crowd.

Party starts at 4:00 p.m., with advance tickets running $20. That gets you a 9-oz. tasting glass. There's a VIP early-entry option available too. Food vendors will be on hand for dinner/snacks.


14th Annual Gardiner Brewfest (Saturday August 16)
Supposedly you could call this the "mile high" brewfest, given that Gardiner, Montana, officially sits at 5,280 feet in elevation. This popular brewfest is back for its 14th year, and it's again held in Arch Park. Organized by the Gardiner Chamber of Commerce, the beers get pouring at 2:00 p.m. and goes till dusk.

Entry for those 21 and older who want to drink is $25, which gets you a commemorative pint glass and bottomless "tastes."


P.S. Helena's elevation is 3,875 feet.

This just in! We can't forget the Philipsburg Summer Concert, Auction and Brewfest! Also Saturday August 16, 2014, enjoy beers by Philipsburg Brewing Co. and 12 other brands. It will be held at the Winninghoff Park Amphitheater. Thanks Summer Sun Garden and Brew for the heads up!

Monday, August 4, 2014

Unofficially Montana Ranks #2 in Breweries Per Capita

Just because every Monday needs a little math, and I just had the pleasure of visiting Montana's 45th brewery, I got curious and did a little calculating. Montana has been teetering back and forth with our distant neighbor to the west, Oregon, with who ranks right behind Vermont (#1) in breweries-per-capita. What I discovered, unofficially, is that we just overtook Oregon to become #2.

We were number two back in 2011, but today the Brewer's Association ranks Montana #3 (based on 2013 metrics). Since I had not the patience to wait until the end of 2014, I wanted to see where we were today. Here's what I found:

Using the same data at the Brewers Association, which is assigning the "capita" as those 21 and older in the state (since we're dealing with alcohol), the three states have the following populations of drinking-age individuals (taken from, 2013 and 2014 data):

Vermont: 453,381
Montana: 706,307
Oregon: 2,745,244

Now looking at the latest numbers of breweries for each state:

Vermont: 41 breweries (as of June 2014)
Montana: 45 breweries (as of July 30, 2014)
Oregon: 173 brewing companies (as of July 5, 2014)

By my math, this is how it pans out:

#1 - Vermont: one brewery per 11,058 people (21 and older)
#2 - Montana: one brewery per 15,695 people (21 and older)
#3 - Oregon: one brewery per 15,868 people (21 and older)

We edged out Oregon by less than 200 people, per-capita.

Now let's consider where Montana is headed. Assuming our population stays relatively the same through the end of 2014, and assuming that all the coming soon! breweries open by the end of the year, we'll jump up to 53 breweries! That bumps Montana to one brewery per 13,326 people of drinking age, and Oregon would have to hit 207 breweries to top us then.

If you're curious what it would take to reach #1, I did that calculation too. We'd have to have 64 breweries in operation, assuming Vermont doesn't open any more breweries. Think we'll get there?

P.S. We are number one for something. Montana has more bars per 100,000 people than any other state (59.30 bars per 100k to be exact). So the next time someone gets concerned that we have too many breweries, tell them there's 15 places that pour those beers for everyone one brewery that makes them. 

Friday, August 1, 2014

Beaverhead Brewing Company Open in Dillon

As I returned from a weekend in Virginia City, Montana, and attending the Dog & Grog Brewfest, I detoured southwest to Dillon, Montana, and its new brewery, Beaverhead Brewing Company. Having been open about five weeks already, owner/head brewer, Brett Maki, says, “It’s been busy, which is great.”

Brett was born and raised in Dillon. He began brewing in Seattle 13 years earlier after his wife surprised him with a homebrew kit for his birthday. After only three months he got the brewing bug and went to work for Pyramid Brewery, washing tanks and driving a forklift.

After Pyramid Brewery closed in Seattle, Brett wasn’t about to give up his new art. He started working for Georgetown Brewing and soon became its head brewer.

In 2011, Brett and his family moved back home. He thought his hometown should have a brewery again. Yes, again. The original Dillon brewery was also called Beaverhead Brewing Company, and it operated in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This brewery, like many many others, closed in 1919 with Prohibition.
Original Beaverhead Brewery logo and label. Courtesy
The modern-day Beaverhead Brewing Company is beautifully situated in a former car dealership, and though already quite spacious, Brett has room to grow his brewery should demand continue to increase.

“We brew on a custom seven-barrel system,” says Brett. A friend of his at Worldwide Stainless Inc. manufactured the brew system, but Brett himself ordered every single working part to put the system together.
Brett Maki and his custom system.
As for demand for his beer, it’s there. He has supplied kegs to Mac’s Last Cast Bar, just down the street from the brewery. “But I’ve already gotten calls from Butte and Bozeman,” says Brett. “I just want to get one thing down at a time.”

Beaverhead Brewing Company’s first brewfest will be at the Bale Brewfest in Virginia City on August 9. Brett has family in the area and knows the ladies who run the Bale of Hay Saloon. If you’re in the area, Virginia City and the Bale are worth a visit!
As for Brett’s approach to making beer, he says, “I want to make solid beers. I’m really not into fruit or strange brews.” And solid beers he has made. I tried all he had on tap and solid was the word I would use to describe them.
A partial flight at the brewery.
Beaverhead Brewing Company’s summer hours are Sunday – Thursday 3 p.m. to 8 p.m., and Friday – Saturday noon to 8 p.m. Growlers can be filled until 8:30 p.m. They are located at 218 S. Montana Street. 

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Montana Breweries and the GABF

Yesterday (which also happened to be the one year anniversary of Montana Beer!), general sale tickets for the Great American Beer Festival came and went (selling out in 41 minutes). Held each year in Denver (this year it’s October 2-4), over 700 breweries will be present and pouring at the largest brewfest in the world.

Last year, 49,000 people showed up, grabbed their glasses, and went to work on over 3,000 craft beers over the course of three days. Admittedly, I have not yet been to a GABF, though it’s high on my bucket list. Although, I have been to a Boulder Strong Ale Festival, which was as jaw-dropping as it was delicious.

Montana Beer Finder wrote about the Montana breweries that won last year, and in previous years, but when a list was recently published that highlighted which breweries were present last year but not pouring this year, we reached out to a few of them for comment.

The list of Montana breweries who poured last year but not this year is: Draught Works, Big Sky Brewing, Bowser Brewing Company, Kettlehouse, and Montana Brewing Company.

Sean Graves of Montana Brewing Company tells us, “We have poured beers down there for probably the last 10 years. Last year we were in the brewers’ pavilion. There were no volunteers working, so we were required to be at the booth the whole event. We generally only send two people to the festivals. They felt like the missed out on getting to explore new and exciting styles. We will be back to pouring next year, but this year we will be focused in on learning about new trends.”

Last year’s GABF was marked with the hundreds and hundreds of breweries who missed getting in because of an unforeseen spike in demand for booth space. In an effort to accommodate more breweries, the Brewers Association offered many on the waiting list the opportunity to pour their beer in the brewers’ pavilion (which meant no volunteers to pour and no beers could be judged).

“If you love beer,” continues Graves, “it is a life changing experience, especially if you win awards. The first year I attended we won best Brew Pub and 3 Gold Medals. It was an unforgettable time.”

Graves also suggests to other breweries attending for the first time, "Take as many people from your staff as possible."

Joe Petrilli from Big Sky Brewing Company told us that Big Sky Brewing only does the GABF every other year.

As of yet, we have not heard back from Draught Works, Bowser Brewing, or Kettlehouse.

The Montana breweries that are attending and pouring at GABF this year include: 
  • Carter’s Brewing 
  • Madison River Brewing Company 
  • Neptune’s Brewery 
  • Red Lodge Ales Brewing Co.
  • Ɯberbrew 
(except for Carter’s and Neptune’s, these breweries also attended last year).

Doug Bailey, “Beerbarian” for Red Lodge Ales Brewing Company, told Montana Beer Finder:
For us GABF has multiple uses. Winning a medal is pretty awesome. It is the biggest competition in the country, so winning means a lot. It also allows us to get out of the brewery, experiment with some new creative styles, and come back with some great ideas! It allows us to mingle with our peers in the industry and talk about things that do and don't work and how to make our product all the better. We proudly represent Montana as best we can, and staunchly believe some of the best beer in the country comes from our awesome state and we love to share that fact with all of the people who visit GABF.

We wish all the Montana breweries attending and competing in the GABF the best of luck. Tell us, have you been to GABF, or are you going this year for the first time? 
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