Posted On February 9, 2016
Re-posted from Last Best News, by Ed Kemmick, January 31, 2016
Shea and Jill Dawson are planning a Feb. 18 grand opening for their Thirsty Street Brewing Co.
Shea and Jill Dawson had been talking about opening a brewery for years.
Shea, who works in finance and public affairs at the Phillips 66 refinery, worked in a handful of places for Phillips, mostly recently New Orleans, before they arrived in Billings a year and a half ago.
They really liked what Billings had to offer, and with twin girls who are now a year old, Shea said, they told each other, “we’ve got to really start thinking of putting our roots down.”
Those roots are now planted at 3008 First Ave. N., home of the new Thirsty Street Brewing Co., which will have its grand opening on Thursday, Feb. 18.
The Dawsons had been prepared to build a brewery from scratch, but they couldn’t resist when their real estate agent, Chuck Platt, told them last summer that Himmelberger Brewing was up for sale. Brewing pioneer Dennis Himmelberger had worked long and hard to renovate the old brick building on First Avenue North, meaning the Dawsons wouldn’t have to do much to get their brewery going.
Himmelberger, who opened his brewery early in 2012, closed at the end of last November, shortly after which Shea started brewing beer to prepare for the opening of Thirsty Street.
“I’ve got 95 kegs back there ready to go,” he said, gesturing to the brewing equipment behind the bar.
The biggest change is that the Dawsons have converted what used to be a coffee shop on the east end of the brewery space into a game room with two dart boards, a shuffleboard table and a pool table. The game room wasn’t something they’d planned on from the start.
“But we’re both pretty into bar games, and that room is just perfect for it,” Shea said. They’re also into sports, so they installed two big-screen TVs, one in the tap room and another in the game room.
They also brought in new tables and stools and covered the long bar with a sheet of copper, topped with a layer of clear glaze. They’ve got a sizable sheet of copper left over. “So,” Jill said, “if you know anyone who needs 800 pounds of copper…”
Jill came up with the brewery’s name, based on its proximity to First Avenue and 30th Street. “If you combine 30th and First, you get ‘thirsty,’ kind of,” she said.
Thirsty Street Brewing also has a game room, with pool, darts and shuffleboard.
Originally from New Mexico, both Dawsons have some experience working in bars, Shea as a bartender and Jill as a server. Shea also took a “brewing science” class in college and has been a home brewer for 10 years.
His favorite recipe is for a Belgian Dubbel-style ale that he’ll be serving under the name Dubbel Trubbel. Other beers he’s already got ready are Winterization Pale Ale, made with fresh spruce tips; Staycation IPA, “with tropical undertones”; Goud Times Belgian Blonde; Big Bison American Stout; and Rimrock’d Amber Ale.
He will rotate other beers in from time to time. Thirsty Street will charge $4 for a pint or $3 for a 12-ounce glass of beer, with a dollar off both sizes during a happy hour from 3 to 5 p.m. on weekdays.
The brewery will be open from 3 to 8 p.m. Monday-Thursday, noon to 8 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and noon to 5 on Sunday. They will be serving hot dogs and sausages from Pioneer Meats in Big Timber, with buns from Grains of Montana.
There is a fenced-off patio in the brewery’s parking lot, which will be open as weather conditions (and some space heaters) allow. Thirsty Street is right next door to Angry Hank’s, one of Billings’ seven breweries.
The Dawsons said they’ve frequented all of the other establishments and enjoy the camaraderie in the brewing community, the sense of shared passion and the idea that lots of options is less about competition than building a bigger audience of people who like good beer.
They’ve already hired three bartenders and will be serving their beer for the first time next weekend during the Taste of Billings at the Billings Depot.
During the grand opening on Feb. 18, they will have happy-hour prices and will be raffling off five “Mug Club” memberships. The memberships, which normally will cost $30, give regulars a fancy mug that can be used every Wednesday for a $2 fill.
Posted On January 20, 2016
Re-posted from the Great Falls Tribune, January 15, 2016.
The Rye Ale and Red Ale at Ten Mile Creek Brewery on Wednesday. (Photo: TRIBUNE PHOTO/JULIA MOSS)
“We’re working with as many local businesses as we can,” Kohoutek said. “Everyone wins like that. It’s part of building downtown. This walking mall has tons of potential.”
A downtown with two breweries (Blackfoot River Brewing is about four blocks away), bars, restaurants and shops, the scene offers a draw for everyone, he said.
“We want down to be the place Helenians go,” he said. “Between Blackfoot and here, we have seven or eight things to do every night, and that’s great for everyone.”
Blackfoot and Lewis and Clark Brewing Co. were a big help as the young brewers started their venture.
“When the tides rise, all ships go up,” Kohoutek said.
The seasonal beers go fast, Kohoutek said. Besides the coffee porter, this winter the brewery has 16K Winter IPA (9.94 miles or close enough to 10 to fit the theme). The winter IPA is brewed with Montana barley and a three-hop combo.
Always in the rotation are Tree Knocker IPA, 2nd Degree Rye Ale, You Got My Goat Oatmeal Stout and Reginald’s Red Ale. The red ale is Kohoutek’s favorite, though he’s also particularly partial to the oatmeal stout.
“I like them all,” he said. “It’s fun.”
The guys remodeled a historic building downtown on the walking mall. They used beetle-killed trees from MacDonald Pass. The bar and community table are each made from a single tree.
“We recycled five dead trees,” Kohoutek said. “And it looks really cool.”
The brewery’s look is western-industrial, with hardwood floors from the 1920s and correlated metal with a rust patina, the organic lines of the living edge of the bar meets concrete, plus a dose of Montana-cana with an old “Welcome to Montana” highway sign, ski signs and scenic photos.
“We learned woodworking on the fly,” Kohoutek said.
Reach Tribune Staff Writer Kristen Inbody at [email protected]stribune.com. Follow her on Twitter at @GFTrib_KInbody.
If you go
BREWERY: Ten Mile Creek Brewery
LOCATION: 48 N. Last Chance Gulch, Helena
HOURS: Noon to 8 p.m. daily
TOP BEER: Reginald’s Red Ale
NOTE: Budget enough time to enjoy the neighborhood of downtown Helena. Within a few steps of the brewery is a candy shop, wine bar, ice cream parlor and fancy Italian restaurant.
Posted On December 18, 2015
Re-posted from the Great Falls Tribune, December 15, 2015, by: Kristen Inbody
Miranda Hackman poses with her completed Montana Brewery Passport at CopperWild Brewing in Butte. (Photo: COURTESY PHOTO)
He started with a Kickstarter campaign, raising $5,500 with 105 backers by July 4, 2014. His pitch was that breweries are Montana’s melting pot, bringing together locals and tourists to “taste, talk, and unwind after a day on the trails, slopes, or water. Ranchers sit next to college students; Californians sit next to Montana business owners.”
In the back of his mind was the national parks passport he’d had.
“I hadn’t used it before, but in researching I found it works best when you’re creating a tangible product,” Newhouse said. “Simply, it was a way to pre-sell and to gauge interest, to tell the story and to be upfront about what it is.”
The project created excitement around the passport, and it was a way to fund it without charging breweries.
“I didn’t want it to be pay to play. This seemed like the best way to get 100 percent participation,” Newhouse said. “The stamps are at no charge to them, and they can sell the passports if they want but don’t have to. It’s never cost the breweries a penny to participate.”
Only one brewery doesn’t have a stamp, and that’s because it’s new and the stamp is still in production.
Newhouse said his guidebook to breweries educates people about the stories of each brewery but the passport helps people engage once they’ve arrived at the brewery.
“The book only has 38 breweries whereas we have 62 breweries now open in Montana,” he said. “The book is a little outdated, but I do low print runs with the passport so I keep it up to date.”
The passport also has space to write in new breweries.
Those who finish the passport get a prize, which is still being designed.
Seeing the passport in circulation – he’s sold about 10,000 – has been rewarding, Newhouse said.
He was at a spaghetti dinner in Dillon for a race when a guy sat next to him with a new passport he’d gotten for Father’s Day.
“He was there to get a stamp from Beaverhead Brewing Co.,” Newhouse said. “It was a real small-world moment.”
In Missoula’s Imagine Nation Brewing, the owner of a Helena brewery approached Newhouse.
“We hadn’t met, but he said, ‘Your passport, just love it,’” Newhouse said. “It was a fun moment to have the owner of a brewery give a complement like that.”
Hackman was at Cabinet Mountain Brewing Co., in Libby when she met a woman working on completing her passport by going to every brewery.
“I thought that it sounded like fun and a great way to see Montana. So, I bought one there and started my brewery tour. I would plan a road trip for just about every weekend,” she said. “It also helped that I work four ten-hour shifts so I get three-day weekends.”
Hackman said having the passport made keeping track of her visits and making plans easy.
“I would meet a lot of people at the breweries that would ask me about my passport; a lot of people haven’t heard of them. When I would talk to them about the purpose of the passport and the experiences that I have had, they wanted to buy one for themselves and start their own brewery tour,” she said. “I would also keep notes about each brewery in my passport, which made it easy for me to recommend places and good beer.”
Hackman’s motto is “No good beer is ever too far out of the way.”
That said, some places were far indeed. Her last roadtrip was 1,100 miles, taking in breweries in Havre, Glasgow, Wolf Point and Sidney. She made Butte’s CopperWild her last one since she’s from Butte and wanted the journey to come full circle there.
“With some of the other ‘remote’ breweries such as the ones in Wibaux and Eureka, I was in the general area so I made it a point to go to them,” she said. “I have also been going to the new breweries as they open.”
And her favorite?
“There are so many good breweries in Montana,” she said. “Several breweries came to mind. But, if I had to pick one, it would be the Black Eagle Brewery, outside of Great Falls in Black Eagle. Their beer was outstanding, great atmosphere and a very friendly staff.”
Reach Tribune Staff Writer Kristen Inbody at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter at @GFTrib_KInbody.
What: Montana Brewery Passport
Why: Track your progress visiting breweries around the state
Available: Breweries or online at montanabrewerypassport.com/
Posted On November 18, 2015
RE-posted from the Ravalli Republic,November 12, 2015,
Dan Brandborg, Jason Goeltz, Janelle Gustafson, Brent Donnely, Heather Handeland and Mike Dunn stand in the can storage area of Bitter Root Brewing. They are listening to Deborah Frandsen read a letter from Senator Jon Tester in praise of the solar installation.
Bitter Root Brewing has two solar arrays on its roof that have saved $2,000 in energy costs since June. USDA Rural Development and U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., recently recognized them for their efforts.
Jason Goeltz, general manager of Bitter Root Brewing, said the business is committed to solar energy. It has a large southern solar array, a small western array and a monitor displaying the performance of the solar panels and overall energy use to customers.
“We’re proud of it,” said Goeltz. “It’s great for our business. It has saved our business money, affording us an opportunity to take those savings and invest them in to other areas directly affecting our employees, our customers and the local economy through employee programs, equipment purchases and other areas that improve our efficiency.”
The Bitter Root Brewing solar system generates enough renewable energy to power 1.5 households per year.
Part of this solar project was paid for with an $8,670 grant from the USDA’s Renewable Energy for America program.
USDA Acting State Director Janelle Gustafson praised Bitter Root Brewing for improving the energy efficiency of the operation.
Deborah Frandsen read a letter from Tester in praise of the solar array installation.
“Renewable energy projects like this help diversify our energy portfolio and reduce the amount of carbon that is released into the air we breathe,” Tester wrote. “As a Montana farmer I know how important keeping your energy costs low is to growing your bottom line.”
Tester, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said he will continue to fight to ensure USDA Rural Development is able to make important investments that strengthen Montana’s rural economy.
The solar arrays at Bitter Root Brewing were installed by Dan Brandborg, a photovoltaic specialist with SBS Solar. Brandborg has been in the solar energy industry for 30 years. He began working with clients who wanted to be off-grid and now is working with clients who are on-grid and want to generate their own power.
Brandborg said the solar system took just two weeks to install.
“It’s really straight forward anymore,” Brandborg said. “There are really just three components: solar panels, mounts and an inverter that changes the power from the panel to what the house needs or what the utility needs.”
Goeltz said there is enough room on their roof for additional solar panels, and other businesses have contacted them about starting unique businesses at the brewery location using solar power.
“It has been great for our business because it is yet another step towards sustainability, which is truly in the vein of the brewing industry,” said Goeltz. “Brewing draft beer is sustainable at its core, and to have yet another sustainable cog in this wheel of ours is truly a gift.”
The solar panel on the west-facing roof of Bitter Root Brewing at 101 Marcus Street is improving their business that has been part of Hamilton for 17 years.