Thursday, January 15, 2015

Black Eagle Brewery Joins the Ranks of Montana Craft Breweries

Soaring into Montana's vibrant beer scene, Black Eagle Brewery (adjacent to Pit Stop Tavern & Raceway Cafe) is serving and kegging beer north of Great Falls, Montana.

"We've been planning this for over a year and a half," says partner and head brewer, Jason Lehman. "We have a new 15-barrel system that was made for us in Nebraska, so we'll be able to distribute kegs right away."

With this volume, Black Eagle Brewery already fills its own taproom and has beers available at the Pit Stop Tavern. The starting lineup includes: Smoke Stack Scottish Ale, Black Eagle IPA, Roe River Pale Ale, Smelter Men Blonde Ale, and Copper Nail Nut Brown Ale.

Lehman is somewhat of a homebrewer-turned-pro, but he had a little help from the other side of Montana.

"Paul Roys from Lolo Peak Brewery was instrumental in helping us get the brewhouse set up," says Lehman.

"Our theme is very industrial," he continues, "which reflects what Black Eagle was built on, and what Great Falls was built on." That is evident with the copper and custom woodwork throughout the brewery and taproom. Lehman knows that nearly everyone in Black Eagle has some ties to the smelter. He even had someone bring in a copper nail from the smelter and asked it be used in the brewery.

With the ability to produce up to 2,000 barrels of beer annually, Black Eagle Brewery might not be too far off from distributing their beers beyond taproom sales and kegs.

"We've been in communication with Spokes Mobile Canning [the Spokane-based mobile canner]," Lehman says, "but we may also get our own canning line before long."

So when you're out Great Falls way, stop in and check out the newest brewery in the area, and the first for Black Eagle.

The brewery plans to have a grand opening celebration on Super Bowl Sunday, February 1, 2015.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Class Now in Session: Kettlehouse Kolledge Opens Registration Today

Kettlehouse Kolledge 2015 - Missoula Montana
Sign up for the class you really want to take this year, Kettlehouse Kolledge 2015. Registration is limited to the first 100 people, and it starts today at 5 p.m. at the Northside Taproom. The best part, aside from the beer, is that registration is free!

In its fourth year, Kettlehouse Kolledge is the "koolest klass" around. Montana Beer Finder, Ryan Newhouse, is an alum (and has the sweatshirt to prove it), and this year he will be giving the commencement speech at graduation.

By the way, there's a Master Class available for those who've already gone to Kettlehouse Kolledge.

What is Kettlehouse Kolledge, you ask? It's all this (provided via


Frequently Asked Questions -

Q: Who can participate in KettleHouse Beer Kolledge?
A: Anyone who is 21 or older!

Q: What is the commitment?
A: You commit to 3 dates and two homework assignments (it’s fun!). These commitments fulfill the four credits needed to graduate. Beer Kolledge is held every Monday and Tuesday from January 19th to February 17th. At registration you choose two of those dates one for a brewery tour and one for a brewer led tasting. (Note: The tour and tasting must be done on two separate nights). The third commitment is the graduation celebration. More on this to come.

Q: Can you tell me more about these dates?
A: At registration you pick two dates, either a Monday or Tuesday between January 19thand February 17th. First date, (credit 1) – Northside brewery tour 6:00 pm at theNorthside KettleHouse. Tours will last approximately one hour and will include a free pint at the conclusion of the tour. This pint counts toward your daily 48oz. limit. Please remember to wear closed toed shoes for the tours.

Second date, (credit 2) – Brewer guided tasting at the Northside KettleHouse taproom. Tastings will last approximately 1 hour and the tasting flight is free. The tasting counts toward your daily 48oz. limit.

The third date, – Graduation celebration (date, place and time TBD). Diplomas will be issued and a free KettleHouse Beer Kolledge sweatshirt bestowed.  You must attend the graduation celebration in order to participate in KettleHouse Beer Kolledge.

Q: What are the homework requirements?
A: (Credit 3) Students must order a flight of beer at either KettleHouse location and complete a comment card.  On Mondays and Tuesdays there will be a sampler flight special at the Northside and Southside ($3 flights). This flight special is only open to Beer Kolledge students. Make sure to let your server know you are a student and need a comment card to complete this credit.

(Credit 4) Students must go out in the community and visit one of our fine partnering retail establishments who serve KettleHouse beer. Send us a picture of you drinking one of your favorite KettleHouse beers. Extra credit if you can get the name of the establishment in the photo! Photos should be sent in JPEG to

Q: What does it cost?

Q: How do I sign-up?
A: Sign-up at our Northside Taproom on January 12th from 5-8pm. Registration is open to the first 100 people . No calls! You must be present to sign-up and cannot sign anyone else up.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

News on Bigfork's new Flathead Lake Brewery

   Normally, given the opportunity, I would have visited the brewery and spoken with the owners personally to report on this, but the Flathead Beacon beat me to it.  The Flathead Beacon has limited distribution, so if you live outside of the Flathead, odds are you didn't read the great piece that Tristan Scott wrote concerning the new brewery in Bigfork.  So, in the spirit of keeping Montanans informed about the craft beer scene in Montana, I'm going to republish the Flathead Beacon's story here for the rest of Montana to enjoy.  If you would prefer, you can go directly to the Flathead Beacon's website and read the article there, here's the link.


   "BIGFORK – Overlooking the shores of the largest freshwater lake in the West, it’s easy to see why the owners of Flathead Lake Brewing Company are committed to building an environmentally sustainable brewery.
The jaw-dropping views afforded at the new brewery and brew pub site in Bigfork, scheduled to open next month, are a constant reminder of the pristine watershed that the brewery is perched above, and of the stewardship responsibilities that a business owner takes on in the region.
Imagining sipping a beer and noshing appetizers on the wraparound deck that faces Flathead Lake, lead brewer Tim Jacoby says the job has its perks, and that the new facility’s efficient design converts them into a guiltless pleasure.
“It’s a pretty big responsibility running a business here, and we are really proud of the engineering that went into this building. You can feel good about this because it’s environmentally sustainable,” Jacoby said.
Located just five miles north of the company’s popular Woods Bay brewery, the new site serves several purposes – it allows the brewery to ramp up production after years of lagging behind market demands for its tasty, award-winning beer; it provides space for a cannery line; and it puts the company at the fore of a movement to build sustainable, eco-friendly businesses.
The theory is simple: Great beer calls for quality ingredients, and quality ingredients require a healthy environment. So, building a sustainable brewery yields better beer, right?
That’s why at the new brewery, everything is recycled, reused and reclaimed, right down to the menus and ceiling fans (the latter are made from old jib sails that ferried ships around Flathead Lake).
It’s also one of the few Flathead County businesses to build according to standards administered by Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), an accrediting program established by the U.S. Green Building Council to change the way businesses design, construct and operate their buildings and communities.
And after two years, the waiting has been the hardest part.
Since 2012, the Bigfork brewpub has been renovating an old bowling alley near the heart of Bigfork, improving the vacant site with its model for sustainability.
“This has been a long time coming, and a big reason we haven’t opened yet is because this building project has been so time consuming,” said Sandy Johnston, who owns the brewery with her father, Greg Johnston. “There are a lot of hoops we had to go through, but we wanted to get it right.”
Formerly, the site had no storm water infrastructure and potentially contaminated surface run-off was allowed to flush downhill into the lake. The Johnstons are improving the conditions by designing the roof and parking lots so that the vast majority of storm water will be collected and cleaned as it runs down to the aquifer.
Remodeling the bowling alley has also required intensive demolition work, but the owners have been able to divert waste from the landfill by sorting and re-purposing demolition materials, which were reused in the finished building, including 100 percent of the insulation.
The old windows, doors, ceiling tiles and duct work were donated to Habitat for Humanity, while scrap steel was donated to local groups to sell for fundraising.
Concrete was crushed and offered as clean fill for local projects, while building and interior design materials for the Bigfork facility were selected with preference toward regional and recycled sources. All of the brick was reclaimed from old buildings in Spokane, and the pub entryway was fashioned from a historic bridge that once crossed the nearby Swan River.
All of the lumber was locally sourced, and the furniture by the local company Vinoture is made from old wine barrels.
“Instead of this stuff going into landfills we have reused it,” Johnston said. “All of the wood was dredged out of Montana rivers.”
Four solar collectors on the roof help soak up rays to heat water for the brewery and kitchen, while spent grain is given to local farms where it is used as feed for livestock.
The brewery and adjacent pub house and restaurant will operate as separate entities. While the new brewery facility will be responsible for the bulk of production, the Woods Bay brewery will be used to create new and experimental styles of beer, like sours.
Jacoby, the lead brewer, said the new brewery facility is a dream come true for a craft beer maker. He’s been spending most of his time “flavor matching” the beers at the Woods Bay brewhouse to the beers brewed at the new facility, which uses a unique geothermal system – instead of heating the beer wort with flame, he uses recycled steam.
The facility borrows clean effluent from the nearby Bigfork Water and Sewer District and uses it to run several water furnace heat pumps, which, among other things, boils the beer wort. The equipment provides heating and cooling for the building and brewing processes, and provides yet another renewable source of energy.
As time passes and growth continues, the brewery will continue adding fermenters until it reaches capacity. It currently has eight 60-barrel tanks.
“This new location will really open the doors for us as far as style and creativity is concerned. We will now have the space to play, experiment, and brew all of our styles year-round,” Jacoby said.
The brewery is also set to begin canning some of its most popular styles – the Centennial IPA, Bufflehead Brown and Wild Mile Wheat.
“Everything we do here is to conserve energy,” Jacoby said.
Johnston hopes to open the doors to the pub house’s main floor in mid-January, though a date has not yet been set. The entire facility, which includes a game room with two golf simulators, will open by the fall.
“We’re excited to get this open to the public and show everyone what we’ve been doing,” she said."

Monday, December 29, 2014

Missoula New Year’s Eve: Burns St. Bistro and Draught Work Beer Dinner

Missoula is a happening town when it comes to New Years Eve. For years the town has come alive with First Night, which now includes 80+ performances at 30 venues from noon to midnight. These events are all family-friendly and alcohol-free. But perhaps you need to take a break for dinner AND grab a beer. You’re in luck. Burns St. Bistro and Draught Works have teamed up for a year-shattering Beer Dinner. In fact, it will so good that when you wake up the next morning, you’ll feel like you’ve time traveled to another year. I promise.

Avid BBS and DW fans have gotten a fix time and again thanks to the Beastro, which is Burns St. Bistro’s food truck, but to truly highlight the genius of the “cheffery + brewery” potential (I made that up, just now), you NEED to get to this beer dinner on Wednesday night. Here are the details. Luckily, there are a few seats left for each dinner.

First Course:
Amuse bouche. Fig and fois gras terrine, brioche, truffled duck consommé, micro frisée.
Beer Pairing: Quill Pig Czech Pils.

Second Course:
Seared scallop, duck mortadella, pickled fennel, buttercup squash-apple purée.
Beer Pairing: Shadow Caster Amber Ale on cask, infused with fennel and apples.

Third Course:
Prime rib, sun choke persillade, beer glazed carrots, whipped cauliflower, white anchovies.
Beer Pairing: 1910 Smoked Porter.

Fourth Course:
Flathead cherries, cambozola, rosemary, almond.
Beer Pairing: Ellie Mae Strong Golden Ale.

Price: $69 per person
Seatings: 5:30 and 9:30 p.m.
Reservations: 543-0719

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Columbia Falls to open Backslope Brewing, early summer 2015

   With the closing of Desert Mountain Brewing, back in September of 2013, residence of Columbia Falls once again found themselves without a hometown brewery.  Darin & Carla Fisher intend to remedy that problem by opening Backslope Brewing in early summer of 2015.

   Darin has over 10 years of brewing experience under his belt and his wife, Carla, has been managing the very successful, Montana Coffee Traders, in Columbia Falls.  With his knowledge of brewing beer and her 15+ years of management experience, it is hoped that Backslope will be slinging beer and providing a community hang out for the thirsty residence of C Falls for decades to come.

   It's their hope too, because they've bet the bank on its success by investing their savings into acquiring all the 4 barrel equipment from the old Desert Mountain Brewery and a mash tun from MickDuff's in Sandpoint.  Still, emptying your savings into what has been a longtime dream of yours isn't always enough.  The Fisher's want to do it correctly from the get go, vs. playing catch up, by acquiring the needed additional equipment and by upgrading the existing equipment that they have.  Currently they still need a high quality brewery pump, more serving kegs, a new brew kettle, high quality brewing hoses, and several other small but essential brewing components.  The acquisition of the aforementioned equipment is over and above what they have already invested, which is why they have turned to crowd funding for help and who's the king of crowd funding?, of course!  Click HERE to visit Backslope's Kickstarter page.  It is, after all, the season of giving and if you are feeling a bit philanthropic, throw some money their way to help insure that this will be a success.

   About the facility. It will be located at 1107 9th St. West (Hwy 2) in Columbia Falls in a 50'x50' structure that will yield 2,500 sq. ft. of usable space upstairs and slightly less downstairs in the basement.  In addition the acquisition of the Desert Mountain brewing equipment and kegs, they also bought the bar base that is a piece of corrugated metal siding from a barn that was being torn down near Great Falls, a couple of chalk boards from an old Nebraska school house, and what will be the centerpiece of the tasting room, a beautiful bar top that was created from a tree that had been sitting on the bottom of Flathead lake for the past 100 years.

  Outside, on the right of the building, you will find what everyone loves...outdoor seating on a 426 sq. ft. covered patio complete with an elbow bar!  As you walk in you will find the layout to be 697 sq. ft. of seating ahead and to the right with the bar being located towards the back and center.  To your left is where the brewing will take place, in a 439 sq. ft. space, that will have a short partitioning wall, with an elbow bar, separating it from the seating area.

   What about that space in the back of the building, what are they going to do with that?  Well, what do we (Flathead residents) all complain about so bitterly when it comes to visiting breweries in these parts, especially when kids are in the mix?  FOOD!  Could it be that Backslope is thinking ahead and has plans to server you food?  The official lines is, is that they hope to incorporate some food component into the business, but are still looking at options, licensing issues, etc.  Everything needs to be in order before they announce firm plans to open a kitchen.  Keep your fingers crossed.

  Darin will brewing 5 flagship beers: a pale ale, IPA, kolsch, porter, and a stout.  He also has plans to have seasonal and rotators  like Scotch ales, ginger beer, imperial IPA's, imperial stouts, barley wine and various Belgian style beers like a dubble, tripple, and a saison.  Darin also got his hands on some whiskey barrels from Glacier Distilling, so look for a barrel aging program. 
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