Monday, February 27, 2012

Drinking Made Easy, Missoula Style

Montana craft beer fans have no doubt heard by now that Missoula is the featured destination for Zane Lamprey's "Drinking Made Easy" television show set to air on HDNet this Wednesday, February 29 at 6:00 p.m. local time (8:00 Eastern, as they say). The show is an entertaining one and it's fun to see many of the establishments most Missoula drinkers have stumbled into (or out of) at one point or another.

On their trip to Missoula, Zane and his "Stunt Drinker" compatriot, Steve, hit up the Iron Horse, Big Sky Brewing Co., The Rhino, Red's Bar, Bodega and the Rock Creek Lodge.  The Drinking Made Easy website has links to all the spots, recipes for what they drank, links to other items they featured, and some "fun facts" related to the show.

Fellow Growler Fills writer Ryan had a chance to interview Steve and get his impressions on Missoula.  Check out his very cool write-up over at Ryan's Drink It Missoula blog

February Beer Run Heads to Al & Vic's

Run Wild Missoula's monthly beer run heads to Al & Vic's on Wednesday, February 29 for a Mardi Gras themed celebration of running and beer.  Sure, they may be a week late for Mardi Gras, but these runs are always well attended, festive and fun.  Al & Vic's may not have the best craft beer selection in town, but they do carry one of the best IPAs in the state (and beyond) in Blackfoot River Brewing Co.'s Single Malt IPA.

Per usual, the run starts at 6:00 and the route is about five miles long, but there's plenty of opportunities to cut it short or go long.  Meet at Al & Vic's and feel free to break out the Mardi Gras beads. For more info, head to Run Wild Missoula's website. Here's a map of this month's run:

Friday, February 24, 2012

Bigfork Brewfest and Other Upcoming Beervents

Looking for a few beer related events this weekend or in the next couple of weeks? Check out one or more of these:

1. Bigfork Brewfest.  TOMORROW, Saturday, February 25, 2012, Bigfork, MT.  The 3rd annual Bigfork Brewfest takes place outdoors on Mill Street from 3 to 7 p.m.  Tickets are $15 in advance or $20 at the event.  Participating breweries include Tamarack, Madison River, Great Northern, Glacier, Flathead Lake, Blacksmith, Bitter Root, Draught Works and Blackfoot River. For those coming from Whitefish and Kalispell, there's a bus you can take to and from the Brewfest.  The bus leaves the Great Northern Brewery in Whitefish at 2 p.m., makes a stop at the Red Lion Inn in Kalispell at 2:30 p.m. and at Scotty's Bar at 2:45 p.m. The bus will leave the brewfest to head back around 7:15 p.m.

2. Buffalo Field Campaign Benefit.  TOMORROW, Saturday, February 25, 2012 at Flathead Lake Brewing Co. of Missoula.  For every pint sold between 5 and 11 p.m., Flathead will donate $1 to the Buffalo Field Campaign in support of Montana's wild bison population.  MudSlide Charley kicks out some "Buffalo Blues" starting at 8 p.m.

3. Lost Trail Ski Patrol Fundraiser.  Thursday, March 1, 2012, Bitter Root Brewery, Hamilton, MT. Bitter Root Brewing will play host to the Lost Trail Ski Patrol for a night of raffles, door prizes, 50/50 drawing and custom pint glasses and growlers.  Kung Fu Kongress will keep things lively with their brand of funk music.  The fun runs from 6 to 8:30 p.m.

4. SNOW Bus Brewfest. Saturday, March 3, 2012, Whitefish Mountain Resort, Whitefish, MT. Tickets are $20 in advance and $25 on the day of the event.

5.  Red Lodge Ales Monster Dog Pull. Sunday, March 4, 2012, Red Lodge, MT. Dogs pulling heavily laden sleds while humans watch and enjoy some tasty ales.  What's not to like?  It's the 7th running of this event which takes place at Red Lodge Ales/Sam's Tap Room.  Registration is at 11:30 a.m. and the competition starts at 1 p.m.

6. Bakken Brewfest.  Saturday, March 10, Richland County Fair Event Center, Sidney, MT, 7 to 11 p.m.   This new event put on by the  Sidney Area Chamber of Commerce and Agriculture will feature a new, limited release Bakken Bock Dark Doppelbock by Missoula's Bayern Brewing Co. Other participating breweries include Big Sky, Madison River, Beaver Creek and Red Lodge Ales.  Tickets are $50 and the event serves as a fundraiser for the Sherry Arnold Scholarship Fun.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Sustainable Brewing the Focus Of SBC's Annual Lecture

Missoula's Sustainable Business Council kicked off their 10th Anniversary celebration Wednesday night with a gathering of local brewers, industry representatives and craft beer fans for a discussion with Cheri Chastain, Sustainability Coordinator for Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.  The fun continues tonight, Thursday, February 23 at 6:00 p.m. in room 106 of the Gallagher Business Building on the University of Montana campus with the SBC's 10th Anniversary Lecture:  Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. - A sustainability Success Story.  The lecture is free and open to the public.

Last night, The Loft of Missoula played host to an entertaining exchange of ideas and questions focused on making brewing operations more sustainable.  Sierra Nevada has an impressive record of sustainability programs beginning right from the start.  Founder Ken Grossman cobbled together his initial brewing equipment from dairy tanks, a soft drink bottler and equipment salvaged from other breweries. Now, more than 31 years later, Sierra Nevada has one of the largest privately owned solar power installations, uses hydrogen fuel cell technology, composts food scraps and brewery waste for use on the brewery's hop and barley fields and implements recycling and sustainability programs in all facets of its operation.

Most of the discussion last night focused on how to translate such efforts and programs from a national powerhouse down to the far more numerous local breweries. Sierra Nevada brewed 800,000 barrels of beer last year.  As Flathead Lake Brewing Co's Blake Nicolazzo pointed out, Flathead presently brews 700 barrels, far less even than Bayern and Kettlehouse which are each approaching 10,000.  Kettlehouse owner Tim O'leary commented that "drinking local" may have an adverse effect on overall sustainability because the 1900+ current small craft breweries (and 800 more in the works) can't achieve the energy efficiencies of, say, an Anheuser-Busch brewery.  (We all agreed that's a trade we'll take.)

Cheri Chastain (left) talks with brewers Thorsten Gueur of Bayern, Tim O'Leary of Kettlehouse and Craig Koontz of Tamarack (left to right).
Still, that doesn't mean sustainability isn't an important goal for smaller breweries.  Many of Montana's breweries, including Kettlehouse, use methods to recapture energy, use spent grains for livestock feed, and seek out other means to reduce waste.  Bayern Brewing's Thorsten Gueur explained how breweries in his native Germany often use excess heat generated during the brewing process to heat adjacent homes and businesses.  Bayern already buys back its 6-pack holders for reuse and recycles its own glass and bottle caps. This summer, Thorston announced, Bayern will begin buying back its glass bottles from consumers which will be cleaned and put back into the bottling rotation.  While small craft breweries may not be able to invest in large solar power installations and hydrogen fuel cells, it's clear there is both the desire and opportunity to implement many other sustainable programs and ideas.

Guests at last night's event were treated to Sierra Nevada's Pale Ale, Torpedo Extra IPA and Kellerweis Hefeweizen courtesy of Summit Beverage. (Personally, I was hoping for a secret stash of Ovila Dubbel or Saison, but maybe next time.)  To learn more about Sierra Nevada's sustainability efforts, head over to the Gallagher Business Building tonight at 6:00 p.m. to hear Cheri Chastain's talk at the Sustainable Business Council's 10th Anniversary Sustainability Lecture.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Tamarack Old Stache: A Complex Celebration of a Legend

Several years ago Tamarack Brewing Co. co-owner Andra Townsley approached brewer Craig Koontz and said they had to brew a beer named "Old Stache."  Aside from being an awesome name in it's own right, the name honors Andra's dad and Canadian hockey legend Lanny McDonald.  Lanny is practically as well known for his bushy red mustache as his hockey skills.  With a name like "Old Stache," Craig and Andra considered concocting a year round beer that would always be on tap, but settled on a special brew that would "get better with age" and be "well worth the wait."  The result is Old Stache, a barrel aged imperial porter that delivers on both fronts.

Making Old Stache and keeping it relatively consistent from year to year takes some impressive coordination. Old Stache starts out as a Tamarack beer you might recognize, Mo'vember Porter.  Tamarack brews the toasted caramel-featured porter to celebrate Mo'vember, an international effort to raise awareness for prostate cancer and men's health.  Mo'vember porter is added to freshly drained Jim Beam Bourbon barrels and allowed to age for 100 days in cold storage.  The barrels arrive each year directly from Jim Beam in time to start the aging process. While aging, the porter takes on bourbon from the soaked barrels along with earthy, charred vanilla and oak flavors.

For 2012, Tamarack brewed 400 gallons of Old Stache, the same as in 2011 and up from 300 gallons for 2010 and 2009.  They release it each year on Lanny's birthday, February 16.  It pours a solid black color with a light tan head.  Aromas are of light bourbon and vanilla. It is a big beer with lots of flavors that demand patience.  Initial flavors are a surprisingly strong amount of caramel malt with a toasted edge and a hint of roasted chocolate. (Yes, I made up the phrase "roasted chocolate," but see if you agree.)  Bourbon and vanilla seem rather muted and there's even a bit of bitterness in the finish.

As the beer warms, various layers appear and the flavors take on different characteristics.  For one, bourbon makes a much stronger presence and the bitterness in the finish tends to disappear. The vanilla also becomes stronger and a touch of alcohol becomes noticeable - not surprising given the 8.9% abv (45 ibus).  The bourbon never dominates and the level allows the other flavors to come through in a complimentary way.  Ultimately, the beer becomes a complex, layered experience of bourbon, vanilla, toasted caramel and hints of charred oak that blend nicely into a beer well worth sipping over a long conversation about great craft beer.

With only 400 gallons of Old Stache, you'll want to get in to Tamarack's Lakeside or Missoula locations quickly.  Once there, though, be sure and take the time to enjoy all Old Stache has to offer.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

2012 Black Star Beer Barter One for the Books!

The second annual Black Beer Barter, held February 4, was one for the beer-stained record books. As you can see in the above picture of me (on right) standing next to Marcus Duffey, General Manager of the Great Northern Brewery, I was right in the middle of it.

The weekend kicked off in style with the annual Whitefish Winter Carnival (one of the best in the country, mind you), and it was followed up by the Black Star Beer Barter, and it ended with the 17th Anniversary Party of the Great Northern Brewery.

Contestants from all over were treated to a spectacular show of creativity, all for the sake of 52 cases of Black Star Double-Hopped Golden Lager.

"We were completely blown away by the level of talent and creativity at this year’s Barter," says Duffey. "We felt that several contestants truly bartered what was worth a year’s supply of Black Star beer, so we had to do it."

Personal highlights for me were watching the pro skateboarders, Al Partanen and David Gravette, "play around" in the brewery before the event doing some insane jumps. The pair also performed for the crowd at the Barter. Another highlight was to meet and chat with Minott Wessinger, founder of Black Star and grandson of Henry Weinhard. My other favorite moment of the Black Star Beer Barter was watching fire dancer Troy Nooroa, from the Cook Islands, perform this dazzling routine:

What also set this year apart was the fact that Black Star found not just one winner, but three. The above-mentioned fire dancer, Troy Nooroa, and the pro skateboarders walked away with 52 cases of beer. Nooroa promised to perform at future Black Star events. The third winner was Parker Beeson, who traded away his 1970 Volkswagon van, which he dubbed "the ultimate party bus!"

An honorable mention went to Peggy Miller, a nine-year breast cancer survivor, who pledged to walk 52 laps in the upcoming Relay for Life. The judges were so moved by her story that Black Star will donate $5,000 to the American Cancer Society on her behalf, in lieu of a year’s supply of beer.

It seems that the Black Star Beer Barter is on its way to becoming a long-standing tradition in Whitefish. So here's a preliminary toast to the next round of creative folks who bring their goods and talents to Whitefish in hopes of bringing home 52 cases of beer!

Monday, February 13, 2012

17 Chocolate Beers: A Beer Lover's Valentine's Paradise

I don't how many chocolate beers exist in this craft beer world, but for a few hours Saturday night, Missoula, MT was the capital of them all. Months in the making, our local loose-knit tasting group managed to assemble seventeen chocolate beers for a Valentine's Day themed celebration of craft beer. From chocolate stouts to chocolate abbey style ales, there was a style for every taste - as long as you like chocolate. Here was the lineup:
  • Black Chocolate Stout, Brooklyn Brewery
  • Sanders Chocolate Stout, Detroit Beer Co.
  • Chocolate Stout, Rogue Ales
  • Double Chocolate Stout, Rogue Ales
  • Cherry Chocolate Beer, O'Fallon Brewery
  • Cherry Chocolate Stout, Stone/Troegs/Fields/Sheppard Collaboration
  • Double Chocolate Stout, Fort Collins Brewery
  • Thumbprint Chocolate Abbey, New Glarus Brewing Co.
  • Sexual Chocolate, Foothills Brewing Co.
  • Chocolate Indulgence, Brewery Ommegang
  • Choklat, Southern Tier Brewing Co.
  • Coco Mole, New Belgium Brewing Co.
  • Vixen Chocolate Chili Bock, Boston Beer Co. 
  • Chocolate Oak Aged Yeti, Great Divide Brewing Co. 
  • Box of Chocolate, Charleville Vineyards and Microbrewery
  • Black Mocha Stout, Highland Brewing Co. 
  • Moo-Hoo Chocolate Milk Stout, Terrapin Beer Co.

Dogfish Head's Theobroma was also on the list, but we decided to save it for a future chile beer tasting. We also managed to open up and enjoy a Savor Flowers (Dogfish Head/Sam Adams collaboration) which is not a chocolate beer, but was a pleasant addition to the mix with its herbal richness and perfume-like rose water aroma.

We did not take an official poll, but the buzz around the room suggests Box of Chocolate from Charleville Vineyards and Microbrewery was the runaway favorite of the night. Box of Chocolate is a Belgian Style Quad with exceptionally well blended chocolate flavors sitting on top of some fruit/spice notes you expect to find in a quad.  Despite being 10.5% abv, it remains medium-bodied and avoids being sweet, syrupy and alcoholic, though you'd better be a fan of chocolate. Chocolate Indulgence from Brewery Ommegang and Double Chocolate Stout from Rogue Ales were also big hits.  Sexual Chocolate, while good, did not quite live up to the hype.

Along with the bottle of Boulevard Chocolate Ale,  Ryan brought along a bar of macadamia nut dark chocolate (with Hawaiian red sea salts) from Christoper Elbow Artisanal Chocolates, the same chocolatier who provides the chocolate for the beer.  Though the chocolate was not the same variety, its pairing with the beer could not have been more perfect. The flavors blended together as if they were one and forever ended any question whether beer and chocolate should co-exist. 

Here's hoping your valentine's day includes plenty of love for craft beer.

Winning Tweet for Missoula Winter BrewFest

Missoula celebrated another successful brewfest on Saturday with big crowds enjoying 36 beers, live music, great food and plenty of tweeting at the Missoula Downtown Association's second Winter BrewFest.  Growler Fills and Montana Beer Finder teamed up with the MDA to sponsor a tweet contest for a little social media buzz and the chance to win a $25 Downtown Gift Card.

The winning tweet was this super sweet instagram photo from @PNTBLDan as he sang the praises of Blacksmith Brewing Co's new single hop IPA:

“Zythos IPA from Blacksmith is excellent. #MslaBrewFest”

Dan's picture definitely caught our attention, which just beat out two of our other favorite tweets from the event:

From @letitflow:  I took first shift... wife is now imbibing #MslaBrewFest - that's how missoula parents roll

From @BenandRobot:  Is the Pulaski Porter from Blacksmith Brewery in honor of Casmir or Ed? Delicious either way. #MslaBrewFest #uselessdebates

Dan also tweeted a picture of his parents who, rumor has it, may have ditched him to go back for more beer. Thanks to everyone who took part in the contest and thanks to the Missoula Downtown Association for putting on another great event.  We enjoyed getting to meet lots of great folks at the Winter BrewFest and will see you again at many future craft beer events.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Tweet and Win at Missoula Winter BrewFest

Excited about the great lineup of beers at this Saturday's Winter BrewFest in Missoula?  Now there's another reason to get stoked.  Growler Fills and Montana Beer Finder are teaming up with the Missoula Downtown Association for a little fun and games.

Taking part is simple.  During the Winter BrewFest (2:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., Missoula time*), open up your smart phone, hand held, laptop or whatever else might be handy and send out a tweet** using the hashtag #MslaBrewFest.  Tell us what beer you love, what brewery you're impressed with, what fun you're having or anything else related to craft beer and the MDA WinterBrew Fest.

Bloggers from Growler Fills and Montana Beer Finder will pick out the best tweet from the event.  The author will receive a $25 Downtown Gift Card from the MDA, redeemable at a variety of MDA member businesses in Missoula.
* Hold the jokes.

** Twitter has nothing to do with this contest. Still it's a great way to connect with others around a common subject.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Montana Beer Finder: New Site Connects Craft Beer Fans to Craft Beer in Montana

Montana Beer Finder launched this past January as a single website designed to connect craft beer fans in Montana with great craft beer.  Using "beer spotters" throughout the state, the site aims to provide current and relevant information on where to find unique bottles, special taps, and great deals on craft beer in restaurants, bars, bottle shops, grocery stores and at unique events.

Given my love of craft beer and never-ending search for the next “beervana,” I probably check out the beer aisles and tap handles far more than the average person.  Yet, I can't tell you how many times I've missed out on a special bottle or a pint of something new and limited at the Rhino, Montana Ale Works, Blackfoot River Brewing Co. or any other great place because I didn't know about it at the right time and place. This site will keep all of us in the loop (a place I don't often reside).

As the site is new, the content is just getting started, but it’s been well received by several breweries and bars in the state. Montana Beer Finder is on the lookout for more beer spotters to join the fun, especially those outside of Missoula. If you're interesting in becoming a beer spotter, visit the site and you'll find all the important info you need to join this elite squad.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Truth in Beer Advertising

If you watched the Super Bowl on Sunday you might have noticed there was only one beer advertiser (for the majority of viewers). Their "Weego" ad provided some good laughs and plenty of buzz, though less so for their other spots.*

But if you're a craft beer lover - and why else would you be here - you're sure to get a big kick out of Breckenridge Brewery's "Truths in Beervertising," a series of entertaining beer advertisements.   Like this one for The Least Interesting Man in the World: 

Head here to see many more of Breckenridge Brewery's videos
* Three cheers for their support for rescuing pets. 

Boulevard Brewing Company: Brewery Built for Success

Over Christmas I traveled to eastern Kansas, and one of the top destinations on my list was to visit Boulevard Brewing Company in Kansas City, Missouri. Boulevard has been brewing fresh, flavorful beers since 1989, making it one of the earlier craft breweries in the United States. Founded by John McDonald with a few kegs of Boulevard Pale Ale, which John personally delivered to a Mexican restaurant a few blocks down the road, now Boulevard is the largest brewery in the Midwest and after a major expansion in 2006, the brewery’s capacity is about 600,000 barrels per year (100 times larger than John’s original business plan).

Boulevard beers, unfortunately, do not make their way into Montana through distribution. They do, however, make it to 21 other U.S. states, the closest of which is Washington. You can pick some up on your next trip to Spokane at a bottle shop, such as JB’s Food and Bottleworks.

As mentioned earlier, Boulevard Brewing is a big brewery that produces some very fine beers. It’s the 17th largest brewery by volume in the U.S., whereas Big Sky Brewing isn’t even in the Top 50. Some may raise up a skeptical eyebrow when “big” and “beer” are used in the same sentence. The worries are retaining quality control and customer satisfaction when businesses grow. Let’s put those worries to rest quickly.

If you don’t know Boulevard beers that well, a signature line of their brews is the Smokestack Series, which includes both 750 ml and 375 ml sizes. A few sought-after highlights from the Smokestack Series include Tank 7 Farmhouse Ale, Saison-Brett, Bourbon Barrel Quad (BBQ), Imperial Stout and, most recently released, Chocolate Ale. Nearly all these beers are rated world-class or near world-class on sites like BeerAdvocate and RateBeer, with most of them receiving hundreds of reviews.

Now it’s time for a little story about what makes a good brewery great, regardless of their size. Boulevard Brewing offers free public tours several times a week, and they often fill up. I knew the day we were planning to get to Boulevard we weren’t going to make it for one of the two scheduled tours, but we wanted to try their beers regardless so we drove up and walked in to the tasting room, which was completely empty except for my wife and I and a lone beertender behind the taps.

I joked that we had the place to ourselves and our beertender, Steve, asked if we were part of a tour. We weren’t. Steve explained that the tasting room wasn’t public (as they are everywhere in Montana), and tour participants were allowed four tastes after their tour. As we apologized for our lack of understanding and turned to head out, Steve stopped us and offered to pour some samples regardless. He explained that already they had to double the size of their tours since so many people were in town for the holidays. Steve himself wasn’t even supposed to be working that day. He just came by to drop something off, but he wasn’t bitter about it. He genuinely loved working at Boulevard and had been there for many years.

After a couple samples, we have our first other visitor come in to the tasting room. It turns out to be the Boulevard rep for all of Kansas City, John Kane, VP and General Manager for Central States Beverage Company. John explains how hard he’s worked to grow Boulevard’s presence in its hometown, having gotten it now into a majority of the tap lineups in the city – a big jump from when John McDonald first hand-delivered kegs to a single restaurant down the street. It’s heartening to see such a close, strong and symbiotic relationship between brewery and distributor.

Over the course of several more samples, a few more stragglers came in, as we did, not knowing the structure of the tasting room. Steve greeted them and then decided he’d give us a private tour. What a treat! We got a 6-person private tour of one of the grandest breweries in the United States.

As we toured, Steve explained that the founder, John, wanted to make his beers accessible and affordable to as many people as possible. And I applaud that approach. Boulevard doesn’t brand itself as an “out there” brewery, trying to push the envelope. Sure, they create some absolutely unique and tasty beers, but they want people to enjoy them. It’s why they began offering their Smokestack Series in smaller formats (375 ml), because they knew not everyone wanted to drink (or pay for) ¾ of a liter of beer in one night. Moreover, in an age where it’s not uncommon to pay upwards of $15 for a big bottle of beer (Big Sky’s Ivan the Terrible runs $14 at the brewery), many beers in the Smokestack Series run about $8 each for a 750 ml.

I would make a point to say that Boulevard is a brewery which understands that even through growth and through recognition, the company never lost sight of its biggest asset – its customer. It is my personal wish that they grow large enough to come to Montana, as we have plenty of room for them here in the Treasure State! 

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Missoula's The Rhino Hosts February Barleywine Festival

The Rhino in Missoula is well known for it's 50 taps and often has a few high gravity choices that few others in the Northwest offer.  Each February The Rhino hosts its annual barleywine festival and this year's lineup is particularly impressive.  Here's a look at them:
  • 2007 Old Guardian from Stone (11.26% abv).
  • 2008 Gnarly Wine from Lagunita (10.6% abv).
  • 2008 Big Nugget from Alaskan (10.7% abv).
  • 2008 BigFoot from Sierra Nevada (9.6% abv).
  • 2009 Old Crusty from Rogue (11.5% abv). 

All five beers made it on tap yesterday and will remain until the kegs run out.  In other words, don't wait too long if you want to take part in this great collection of barleywines. It's one thing to have several barleywines on tap at one time, but quite another to have ones that have been cellared for several years.  Prices are $6 for a pint, $4 for 10 oz. and $3 for 7 oz.  At these abv's I recommend the smaller sizes so you'll be sure to have room to try all five. Or better yet, stop in several times and celebrate the February Barleywine Festival at The Rhino.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Growler Fills Expands, Takes on New Challenges

The rodent known as Punxsutawney Phil may have predicted six more weeks of winter, but that doesn't mean Growler Fills has any plans to hibernate.  Quite the opposite. Today we're happy to welcome a new contributor and partner in crime to Growler Fills, Ryan Newhouse. Now when we write "we," we actually mean it.

Ryan is a fellow Missoulian and freelance writer with a passion for great craft beer. He's a dark beer kind of guy. With a blend of Germanic and Southern roots, he likes to drink the good stuff and cook with okay stuff. And he's always looking for the next full glass.

Ryan also brings a working knowledge of social media strategy, internet marketing, campaigns and a thirst (pun intended) for creative and accurate content. Alan continues to bring . . . . uh . . . . hmmm.

What does this mean for Growler Fills? Twice the coverage, twice the content, twice the fun. We've got plenty of new ideas to help spread the love for craft beer in Montana and beyond. It's all designed to help you connect with the best beer, breweries and events out there. All we ask in return is your continued comments, discussion, news items, and ideas.  Oh, and free beer, event tickets and schwag are welcome, too.

As always, we invite you to let us know how we're doing and what more you'd like to see on Growler Fills. Plus, we're ready, willing and able to help you promote your craft beer related news and events through social media content, appearances and consultations.  Really, anything designed to expand the Montana craft beer scene and Montanan's love of craft beer from places near and far.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Senator Baucus Shares Big Sky Brew, Touts Montana Barley

A couple of months ago Montana Senator Max Baucus, along with Idaho Senator Mike Crapo of Idaho, started the Bipartisan Small Brewers Caucus in the United States Senate to highlight the importance of America's small brewers, their relationship with American agricultural products and their contributions to economic growth.

Montana has an important part in that.  Montana's 30 breweries have Montana ranked No. 2 in the U.S. for the number of breweries per capita.  More importantly, Montana's barely growers produce high quality barely, much of which is malted at the Malteurop plant in Great Falls.  As Senator Baucus points out, nearly half of the 5.6 million pounds of barley used by Montana's breweries is grown right here in Montana.

This week, Senator Baucus held the first meeting of the Small Brewers Caucus where beer from Missoula's Big Sky Brewing Co. was "showcased" as the Caucus met with members from the National Barley Growers Association and the Brewers Association.  I took "showcased" as a senatorial code word for sharing a couple of six packs around the room.  It'd be a crying shame to only show them the label.  Plus, it's Congress. Great craft beer might be the perfect antidote to partisanship.

Head here to read the full letter Senator Baucus sent to the Montana Grain Growers and the Montana Brewers Association.