Thursday, September 27, 2012

Weekend Reminder: Billings, Seeley Lake, Others Host Beer Events

It's a busy weekend for beer events in Montana.  Here are some reminders of a few you might want to check out. Personally, I'll be taking part in the American Heart Association's  Heart Run 5k race in Missoula, which I committed to do before realizing how many great beer events are going on.

Seeley Lake Brew Fest and Tamarack Festival
The Seeley Lake Brew Fest and Tamarack Festival will be held Sept 28-30.  A "beer presentation and pub crawl" take place on Friday, September 28, followed by the Brew Fest on Saturday, September 29, from 11:00 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.  For more info, head here.

12th Annual Ales for Trails
The 12th Annual Ales for Trails brewfest in Billings takes place on Friday, September 28, 2012 from 5:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. at Dehler Park. Over 50 local and regional microbrews and 15 wine selections will be on hand at's annual fundraiser in support of new trail construction, existing trail maintenance, and community outreach. Tickets are $30 in advance and $35 at the door. Music, food, and a new Trailhead Ale Community Brew (collaboration between eight breweries in Laurel, Billings, Redlodge and Sheridan) are part of the fun.  Pay $5 more and get in an hour early to beat the crowds.  For more info, head here.

The Great Northwest Oktoberfest
The Whitefish Chamber of Commerce hosts its annual Oktoberfest over two weekends, September 27-29 and October 4-6, 2012.  The event is held in Depot Park under the "Oktoberfest Bigtop" across from the Whitefish Train Depot in the heart of downtown Whitefish.  Admission is $3 per day for nonstop access to German food, music, souvenirs and beer (additional cost for everything but the music).  Beer selections include three from Whitefish's Great Northern Brewery (Oktoberfest, Frog Hop and Black Star) and three from Warsteiner (Pilsner, Dunkel and Oktoberfest).  For more info, head here.

This annual celebration in the heart of Irish country takes place on Saturday, September 29, 2012 from 12:00 to 7:00 p.m. which also happens to be Quarry Brewing's 5th Anniversary. Beer from twelve Montana breweries will be available for sale.  For more info, head here.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The One Can't Miss Montana Beer Fest for 2012

Question for you: Where is the one place you can find 77 beers from 21 of Montana's breweries all in one place for your tasting enjoyment? There's only one answer: The Fourth Annual Montana Brewers Festival at Caras Park on October 6, 2012.

Montana has many fun beer events, but nothing compares to the Montana Brewers Festival with 77+ beers, many of which have never before been released. Held the past three years in Bozeman, the Festival moves to Missoula for 2012. There's little doubt it will set new attendance records with Missoula's beer crazy residents.

We took part in the festivities last year and enjoyed talking to the brewers, meeting other craft beer fans and marveling at the wide variety of beers. (Click here for pictures from last year's event.) This year's Festival takes place from 1:00 to 7:00 p.m. Tickets are only $12 which includes a glass and two beer tokens.  Additional tokens are $1 each.  For $20, you can purchase a VIP ticket which gets you into the Festival an hour early at 12:00 p.m. along with four beer tokens.

Among the 77 beers are 24 Festival Release Beers which have never before been released.  To relieve the pressure of getting to the festival right at the start, these beers will be available at 1:00 and 4:00 p.m. Festival release beers include ones like Karapiller Red Lager from Wildwood Brewing in Stevensville, Sheze Titian, a Belgian Blond from Neptune's Brewery in Livingston and Ursus Arctos Hefebilus Ale, an imperial hefeweizen from Glacier Brewing.

New this year is a two day conference following the Festival on October 7 and 8.  More information on the conference is available here

We'll have more coverage on the Festival and Conference in the week ahead.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

How Important Is the Origin of Your Beer?

I caught this little nugget today over the Twitter wires from Stone Brewing Founder and CEO Greg Koch:
@StoneGreg  If your beer isn’t actually brewed there, why do you spend so much time, energy & money trying to convince people it is? How about #honesty
Tracing back the short conversation reveals no specifics. Rather, he's got a follow up tweet noting he's not going to call out the offender.

Honesty? Sure, who would argue against that? Yet honesty in advertising has always had a far different definition than the kind we expect in our daily lives.  When it comes to this beer thing, I think the better expectation is transparency.

Transparency is many things. It's an attitude, a quality, a goal, and a process all wrapped up into one. It's ethics, disclosure and credibility.  When origin matters, it's necessary. When credibility matters, it's essential.   When neither matter, it can apparently get pretty pricey to overcome.

One local example comes to mind.  Great Northern Brewing Company in Whitefish, MT, revived Black Star Beer in 2010 with an ambitious plan to make it a national brand.  The beer was originally brewed in Whitefish starting in 1995 by the great-great grandson of brewing pioneer Henry Weinhard.  When the brand burst back on the scene, it's clear the Montana ties were intended to serve as the cachet to help set Black Star apart from similar beers.  "The Great Northern Brewing Co. - Whitefish, Montana" is featured prominently on the label.

Black Star Double Hopped Golden Lager is brewed in Milwaukee, WI.  Is this a problem? The answer lies in the level of transparency. Great Northern Brewery is the original origin of the beer and it was brewed there for many years.  At least at first, the draft Black Star distributed in Montana was brewed in Whitefish  (that may still be the case). The label on the bottles does note the beer is brewed in Milwaukee.  On the Great Northern's website, both the history and the beer description pages note the beer is brewed in Milwaukee (with assurances it's just as good as if it was brewed in Whitefish).

Is this enough transparency? I think so. Yes, they are borrowing some Montana currency to market the beer, but there's history there, too, and full disclosure.

I do care about origin.  I like to meet the people who make the beer and share it with them at the source.  I like for beer to stand on it's own merits - removed from the marketing, the hype and the beer advocate ratings.  I am impressed by transparency which allows me to consider the whole picture.  Allowing us to think for ourselves? There's a concept.

September Run Wild Missoula Beer Run At The Press Box

Run Wild Missoula's monthly Beer Run heads to a new destination this month, The Press Box at 835 East Broadway Street, Missoula.  As is the case every month, there's a five mile group run suitable for all running abilities and you can certainly cut it short or go long.  The run gets going at 6:00 p.m. on Wednesday, September 26, 2012.  There will be plenty of adult beverages available at The Press Box for socializing afterward.

Missoula has been a challenge to run in lately.  I can remember having worse smoke back in 2000, but I can't remember the smoke hanging around for this long.  We're going on well more than a month of nearly constant smoke in the Valley and I've had to skip quite a few runs. Hopefully, the weather gods will collaborate with the beer gods for Wednesday evening and provide a refreshing breath of fresh air.  Literally.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Does Better Beer = Better Restaurant Sales?

On Friday the Brewers Association pointed to a recent study by Consumer Edge Insight suggesting a better beer selection improves restaurant sales.  No real surprise there, especially to beer geeks, but the data is still useful.

As is probably becoming clear, I tend to look at what these kinds of studies aren't saying as much as what they do say.  For example, the title of the Brewers' Association press release is "Better Beer Selection Improves Restaurant Sales." However, the title of the Consumer Edge press release is "Offering Larger Selection of Beer At Restaurants Leads to Incremental Consumption."  The later is a more accurate description of the data.  The former is sexier and more likely to draw you in. 

According to the study, 33 percent of alcohol drinkers are more likely to order beer when offered a large selection of brands at a restaurant.  Two questions come to mind from that bit of info.  One, assuming the relative quality/choice is equal among beer, liquor and wine, does the same thing hold true at a bar?  Two, assuming a relatively equal ability to choose among beer, liquor and wine, is there a particular reason why a restaurant or bar owner would steer patrons one direction or the other?  (I.e. does one or the other provide higher margins?)

Apparently 36% of consumers say they are more likely to choose a brand they haven't tried before when offered a larger selection.  I definitely fit into that category, nearly always choosing something I haven't seen if it's available. The numbers rise when looking only at "those who drink craft beer regularly" which the study defines as at least once a week. I guess that's regularly, but so is twice a year if you've done it 10 years running.

Of course, these numbers make sense in a "duh" kind of way, too.  Walk into Missoula's Rhino or Bozeman's Montana Ale Works and the sheer number of taps practically begs for experimentation.  Yet, we've all sat at a bar like that only to hear someone try to find the beer most like "bud light" among an alluring row of tap handles.  I want to know if THAT person is more likely to experiment with an increasingly larger selection.  I'm guessing that person is more likely to experiment if the bartenders/servers are well educated in craft beer in general and have good knowledge of the specific selections on tap. Oh, and are friendly.

I also want to know how to use these kind of numbers to encourage restaurants to do a better job with craft beer.  The number of taps is not automatically synonymous with capturing craft beer lovers.  Take the Iron Horse in Missoula.  Its 25 or so taps do a great job of featuring local Bayern and Big Sky beer along with a selection of Deschutes, New Belgium and a couple others.

Yet, it is always the same breweries. Sure, the seasonals from those breweries rotate on and off like clockwork and some of the cooler selections from Deschutes and New Belgium have made an appearance.  But it's not on the list of places to go to look for new stuff.  Thus, it doesn't often make my list of dinner choices,  either. The chances of finding something on tap I haven't already had is slim to none. No doubt it is profitable and the food is always great, but I think they're missing out.  One establishment close to my work, Missoula's Sean Kelly's Public House, has gone from a place that regularly rotated numerous beers among their 16 taps to a nearly stale line up with only a couple, predictable rotations.  That's definitely missing out.

The study does not make an attempt to correlate the number of taps/brands to an increase in food sales, but my own experience bears that out.  Far more often than not, when we choose to go out to eat we base our decision in part on the quality of the beer selection.  Sure, the food must be good, but we regularly ignore places that don't offer quality craft beer.  For us, a great craft beer is a part of the entire experience and not just some liquid to wash things down. 

I don't have any study data, but I'm curious if that scenario is growing more common as craft beer's share share of the overall beer market continues to increase.  Maybe I'm overly critical of the studies I see released - or the excessive extrapolation of the results - but I haven't seen a lot of particularly useful data presented in a while. 

Hopefully that will change on October 8 when the University of Montana Bureau of Business and Economic Research releases their report on the impact of Montana's brewing industry at the Montana Brewers Association's Fall Conference

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Growlers Gain Freedom in AZ Thanks to . . . Walgreens?

In the "how do your beer laws stack up department" comes news from Arizona about a growler fill law which took effect in early August.   You'll recall the 2011 Montana legislature passed a bill clarifying that any establishment with an on-premise consumption license can fill growlers for off-premise consumption.  It was considered a "clarification" because the long-standing, though not terribly common, practice had been called into question by a Department of Revenue interpretation of relevant statutes.

Arizona's main alcohol laws take the unlawful-except-where-permitted format which makes for weird and occasionally challenging reading, but here's how the new one reads:
Section 4-244, Arizona Revised Statutes, Unlawful acts. It is unlawful: * * * 

32. For a licensee or employee to knowingly permit spirituous liquor to be removed from the licensed premises, except in the original unbroken package. This paragraph does not apply to any of the following:  * * *

(c) a bar, beer and wine bar, liquor store, beer and wine store or domestic microbrewery licensee who dispenses beer only in a clean glass container with a maximum capacity that does not exceed one gallon and not for consumption on the premises as long as: 
(i) the licensee or the licensee's employee fills the container at the tap at the time of sale.
(ii) the container is sealed with a plastic adhesive and displays a government warning label.
(iii) the dispensing of that beer is not done through a drive‑through or walk‑up service window.
Prior to the change, growler fills were limited to beer brewed on-site from a brewer's own product line. For example, brewpubs with on-site breweries which also had taps from other breweries could only fill growlers from the beer brewed on site.  It's interesting to see that "the dispensing" of the beer cannot be done through a drive-through or walk up window.  Arizona does allow hard liquor to be sold via drive through window.

I'm curious why the legislature chose to use the word "dispensing" beer, rather than the "sale" of beer since the Arizona alcohol laws treat the terms differently.  But I digress.  (And solidify my beer-law "geek" status.)

There are two things of note in comparing Arizona's law to Montana's.  Arizona requires a plastic seal and limits the container to glass, neither of which are required under Montana law.  It's the glass limitation which particularly caught my eye.

Rob Fullmer at the Beer PHXation Blog has excellent coverage and commentary on the law change here. I asked Rob to fill us in on the back-story to the change.

As it turns out, it's not what you might think.  Sure, brewers guilds (like the Montana Brewers Association) and other industry groups are often proactive in advance their causes in state legislature. In this case, it was a call from pharmaceutical retailer Walgreens that got the ball rolling.  Walgreens provides growler fills at four drugstores it operates in New York (under a different name) and apparently wanted to open up the opportunity in Arizona.  Next thing you know, a bill is drafted, passed by the legislature and voila!  Growlers fills gain greater freedom throughout the state.

It's not really that easy, but there's a cautionary note there, too.  The bill was written and advanced without involving Arizona's brewers guild, suggesting one of two things. Either the guild isn't that connected to the legislature, or someone thought the guild would be a hindrance to the effort.  (Those are my observations, not Rob's.)  A quote from the director of the Arizona Craft Brewer's Guild in an article on suggests it might be the later:  "Bottling and canning is better packaging than growlers," said Jerry Gantt, executive director of the Arizona Craft Brewers Guild. "The only reason I would buy a growler of something is if it were not available in a bottle or can. And a half gallon is a lot of beer to drink, for me. The bottom part is going to get a bit funky in the refrigerator before I can drink it again."

He's right about the quality of the packaging, of course, but even a reasonably educated craft beer drinker has long learned the pluses and minuses of growlers. The vast majority of Montana craft beer is not available in cans or bottles. Thus, if we want to enjoy it somewhere outside the brewery or a bar, a growler is the only way to go.  Plus, we like to drink with friends.  I can't remember the last time a growler lasted long enough to get funky in the refrigerator.  Or even made it into the fridge, for that matter.

Another concern? If a national giant like Walgreens can swoop in and get a change made relatively quickly and easily, what might happen if another giant sought a more restrictive law?

Given the ever increasing styles of growlers, I'm surprised someone along the way did not attempt to broaden the definition of "growler" to include materials other than glass.  (Actually, I'm guessing someone at least made inquiries, but I don't have that story.)   Resealable plastic growlers have become popular in Montana because they're legal to carry on our rivers. I'd love to get my hands on Hydro Flask's new-ish vacuum insulated stainless steel growler, but the price point keeps me pushing that off. You can't get either filled in Arizona. 

Still, it's another example of an improving legal climate for craft beer across the U.S.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Onward to Regular Programming

Every once in a while, regular life gets in the way and dreaming up, researching and writing blog posts take a back seat.  That's not a complaint. Usually. And isn't this time.  There's work that get's pleasantly busy. Then there's other fun. Like fitting in some end-of-the-summer weekend camping trips, brewing up some fresh hop beer with friends, and running the dirty dash.

It's all good, but does tend to create a bit of radio silence on here. That shouldn't last too long.  Up soon are posts on growler freedom, beer laws and the courts, and much more.  We're also trying to track down rumors of another Montana brewery start-up. It's all part of the fun on Growler Fills.

Friday, September 7, 2012

The Session No. 67: How Many Breweries?

This month's Session* topic is hosted by Derrick at Ramblings of a Beer Runner who begins with the following statistics:
There's been much cheering and fanfare reverberating throughout the brewing community about the latest brewery numbers recently released from the Brewer's Association, who counted exactly 2,126 breweries in the United States.  To put that into context, you have to go way back to 1887 when the United States had that many breweries.  It's an astonishing 47% increase from just five years ago in 2007 when the tally was a mere 1,449, despite the United States slowly recovering from a serious recession over this period.  And according to the Brewers Association, another whopping 1,252 breweries are in the planning stages.
Since Derrick announced the topic at the end of August, the number of breweries in planning has risen to 1,303.  With those stunning figures in mind, Derrick asks this short, but complex, question:  "Where is it all going?" More specifically, Derrick asks us to guess, using whatever methodology we deem appropriate, the number of breweries the Brewer's Association will count five years from now in 2017 (and why).

Thanks for the easy question, Derrick.** 

Here's the deal. I've got no insider info, no special formula and no idea how any given brewery is doing, other than a couple with some nice expansion plans. I'm in no position to be making anything other than a generally uneducated guess.  But hey, that's The Session topic for this month and I'm not about to duck it.

Let's first take a look at Montana.  Montana now has 36 distinct breweries,*** counting Desert Mountain Brewing which is close to opening in Columbia Falls.  Another brewery is in the development stages in the one remaining "large" Montana city which does not yet have a brewery (we're working to track down that info).

Six have opened in 2012: Uberbrew (Billings), The Front (Great Falls), Philipsburg Brewing (Philipsburg), Wildwood (Stevensville), Outlaw (Belgrade) and, soon, Desert Mountain.  Two others opened new locations (Angry Hanks and Himmleberger, both in Billings).

While Philipsburg Brewing Co. and Desert Mountain fill a gap, being the only breweries in those small towns, the rest represent at least the second brewery to open in their respective cities.  In Uberbrew's case, they're the sixth.

In 2011, we saw four new breweries open: Bowser (Great Falls), Higherground (Hamilton), Draught Works (Missoula) and 406 Brewing (Bozeman).  If you're math-challenged, that's 10 new breweries opening in about 1.5 years. 

The rise in the number of Montana breweries has paralleled the rise throughout the country. The presence of several established breweries in any given location does not seem to be a deterrent, suggesting the market isn't reaching any sort of saturation point. Still, Montana is No. 2 in breweries per capita for a reason - we don't have very many people in this gigantic state. That does present some limitations.

I don't know how many of the 1,303 breweries-in-planning are in Montana.  The last time I asked the Brewers Association for that info, they did not respond. Still, I don't think we'll see six more breweries open in Montana in 2013.  Ten new breweries in 1.5 years in a state like Montana is huge growth.  Montana isn't done adding breweries by any stretch, but I don't think we'll see growth at quite the same pace.

What will we see in the next 5 years in Montana?  Here are my predictions:
  • Montana will raise the barrel limitation for on-premise tap rooms either in 2013 or 2015. (What worries me is what some breweries may be willing to trade in order to get there, but that's a topic for a different day.)
  • Two to Three current breweries will pass through the 10,000 barrel, limit, joining Big Sky as the only current brewery with that production level. 
  • Three current breweries will at least triple production, thus significantly increasing market presence. 
  • Three current breweries that do not currently package beer (other than kegs) will begin doing so and at least one of them will be exclusively in cans.
  • One brewery will close. 
  • Montana will add breweries at the rate of an average of two per year, reaching 45 breweries by September, 2017 (36, add 10, subtract one = 45).
As for the rest of the country? I see no reason to think we won't continue to see nice growth in the craft beer industry, though I have trouble seeing it continue at the current rate.  Some markets are likely to reach a bit of a saturation point. Some states are finally opening up their laws for better beer and easier permitting. There's sure to be some temporary ingredient shortage that will push the pause button on a few.  I don't think the number will double to 4,252, but a healthy 50% increase isn't out of the question.

Thus, the number of breweries the Brewers Association will count in September, 2017 is: 3,189.

What are your predictions? Leave them in the comments section below and we'll check back in 5 years.
*Today is the first Friday in September which means it's time to take part in The Session, a collective effort of beer bloggers around the world to write on a common topic once each month.

** That's a touch of sarcasm, in case you're a new reader.

*** "Distinct" brewery means I'm not counting multiple locations of the same brewery (i.e. Kettlehouse) or satellite tap rooms which do not brew their own beer (i.e. Flathead's and Tamarack's Missoula taprooms).  I'm still confused how to count Bones Brewing in Billings and have not included it in this number.

Reminder: Draught Works Chain Reaction Fresh Hops Festival

Here's a reminder for you. Tomorrow, Saturday, Sept. 8, Missoula's Draught Works Brewery is hosting on of the coolest fresh hops events I've seen.  Volunteers will be picking fresh hops which will be transported via teams of bicyclists from the Bitterroot Valley to the Brewery in Missoula.

Meanwhile, other volunteers will be milling 1,000 lbs of grain via a pedal powered grain mill to get ready for a new fresh hop ale.  Here's the full schedule of events:

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Brewfests, Hop Swaps, Oktoberfests and other Upcoming Beer Events

September is a great month for beer events in Montana.  Here are a few that might catch your interest:

Missoula Mavericks Brewfest
Just like the Garden City Brewfest rings in the Caras Park event season each May in Missoula, the Maverick Brewfest is a sure sign that summer is winding down.  The 14th Annual Missoula Maverick Brewfest takes place this year on Friday, September 7, from 4:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.  Tickets are $10 and include three drink tickets and a commemorative mug.  Additional sample tickets are $1.  More than 40 beers are expected for the event including plenty of Montana breweries like Flathead Lake, Bayern, Kettle House, Tamarack, Blacksmith, Blackfoot River, Bitter Root, Big Sky and Great Northern.  For more information, head to the Missoula Mavericks' website.

15th Annual Red Lodge Oktoberfest
The Red Lodge Oktoberfest is Saturday, September 8, 2012 from 2:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. at the Special Events Center in Red Lodge behind Red Lodge Ales. It's a family friendly celebration with kid's games and other activities, the "Oktoberfest Olympics," and, of course, great beer, German food and live music. 

Draught Works Chain Reaction Fresh Hops Festival
On Saturday, September 8th, Missoula's Draught Works Brewery will craft a “fresh” hopped beer with the help of Missoula bicycle enthusiasts. Hops for this craft beer will be harvested by volunteers at the Fais do-do Farms in Corvallis, MT which will be transported to Draught Works by teams of cyclists in a relay-style race. At the brewery, cyclists will work to power a custom-made, bike-operated grain mill to mill approximately 1000 lbs. of malted barley by the time the hops arrive via relay teams. Once the hops arrive and the milling concludes, Draught Works will brew a Chain Reaction Fresh Hopped Ale. Proceeds from the 15-barrel, 30-keg batch will be donated to participating nonprofit organizations dedicated to sustainable transportation in Missoula. The event also includes bike helmet giveaways, bike tune-ups, a fleet of wacky bikes, bike safety, bike Polo, raffles and live music. The fun gets started at the brewery at Noon. 

Hop Swaps/Picks

Lewis and Clark Brewing Co, Helena:  Bring your locally grown hops in TONIGHT, Wednesday, September 5, to be part of the Neighborhood IPA which L&C hopes to start brewing tomorrow.

Bozeman Brewing Co., Bozeman:  Bring in your hops, or stop by to help pick them for Bozone Terroir Hop Harvest, Sunday, September 9 beginning at 8:00 a.m.

Red Lodge Ales, Red Lodge:  Bring in your hops and help pick them during Red Lodge Ales' Harvest Fest, September 10, 11 and 12.

Great Northern Brewing Co., Whitefish:  Bring in your locally grown hops and swap them for vouchers during Great Northern's Second Annual Hop Swap, Tuesday, September 18, 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

Wildwood Brewing Grand Opening 
One of Montana's newest breweries, Stevensville's Wildwood Brewery has been open for a few months now, but is throwing a grand opening party on Saturday, September 15, 2012 from Noon until 8:00 p.m.  There no charge to take part in the party which includes games and live music from Casey Schafer, Sheldon Scrivner and John Floridis to go with food and Wildwood's organic beer.  The brewery is just of Hwy. 93 about 1/2 mile north of the Stevensville cut off road.

Oktoberfest at Yellowstone Art Museum
The Yellowstone Art Museum in Billings hosts its 3rd Annual Oktoberfest at the Museum's parking lot on Saturday, September 22, from 5:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m, with more than 30 beers from regional breweries, an opportunity to meet local brewers and a chance to try YAM Ale, a beer made with sweet potatoes.  Tickets are $30 and include unlimited sampling of beer.  General admission tickets are $10 for those not partaking in the beer.  Live music, food and a costume contest are also on tap.  

The Great Northwest Oktoberfest
The Whitefish Chamber of Commerce hosts its annual Oktoberfest over two weekends, September 27-29 and October 4-6, 2012.  The event is held in Depot Park under the "Oktoberfest Bigtop" across from the Whitefish Train Depot in the heart of downtown Whitefish.  Admission is $3 per day for nonstop access to German food, music, souvenirs and beer (additional cost for everything but the music).  Beer selections include three from Whitefish's Great Northern Brewery (Oktoberfest, Frog Hop and Black Star) and three from Warsteiner (Pilsner, Dunkel and Oktoberfest).

12th Annual Ales for Trails
The 12th Annual Ales for Trails brewfest in Billings takes place on Friday, September 28, 2012 from 5:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. at Dehler Park. Over 50 local and regional microbrews and 15 wine selections will be on hand at's annual fundraiser in support of new trail construction, existing trail maintenance, and community outreach. Tickets are $30 in advance and $35 at the door. Music, food, and a new Trailhead Ale Community Brew (collaboration between eight breweries in Laurel, Billings, Redlodge and Sheridan) are part of the fun.  Pay $5 more and get in an hour early to beat the crowds.  For more info, head here.

Seeley Lake Brew Fest and Tamarack Festival
The Seeley Lake Brew Fest and Tamarack Festival will be held Sept 28-30.  A "beer presentation and pub crawl" take place on Friday, September 28, followed by the Brew Fest on Saturday, September 29, from 11:00 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.

Oktoberfest in Uptown Butte
Quarry Brewing hosts this annual celebration in the heart of Irish country on September 29, 2012 from Noon to 7:00 p.m. which also happens to be the brewery's 5th Anniversary.

Save the Date:

October 6, 2012:  The 4th Annual Montana Brewers Festival featuring an all-Montana lineup of 60+ beers takes place this year in Missoula at Caras Park from 1:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.  The MBA is also holding a fall conference in Missoula on October 7-8, 2012.  We'll have lots more information on the Brewers Festival and Conference as we get closer to the events.

Do you know of additional events that should be listed here?  Let us know! (alan @