Spring comes to Montana in fits and starts, but now that it’s May we can safely declare it to be spring in the Big Sky State (though that may have just tempted mother nature to send another blizzard our way). With warmer temps, wildflowers in bloom and trees budding, Montana brewers are serving up beers to suit the season.
This time of year, brewers transition away from the winter seasonal beers that tend toward sweeter, darker and higher ABV styles toward beers that are dry, fresh, and even fruity or funky. It may not be the heat of summer yet, but our palettes are ready for beers that are refreshing on a warm day and compliment the brightness of the season. Here’s a sampling of the spring beers brewers are serving up at your local taproom.
Originating in Belgium’s French speaking area, Saison literally means “season” in French, making it the perfect beer to start our seasonal beer list. The style was first brewed for Belgian farmers to provide a refreshing beverage to accompany planting season. Hence, Saisons are also known as Farmhouse Ales. Citrusy, mildly sweet, and a bit funky with a dry spicy finish, Saisons are fitting beers for the warmer weather of spring.
2 Basset Brewery – Breaking Basset Farmhouse Ale (ABV: 5.3%, IBU: 21)
This is one of the first beers we had on tap in 2016 and is a local favorite. It is based on the simple rustic ales which were brewed to refresh, sustain and comfort a hard-working body and mind. The beer is fermented with a Belgian Farmhouse Ale yeast. The name is a play on the TV drama Breaking Bad. The photo of Stanley with goggles and brewing paraphernalia took quite a few takes!
Burnt Tree Brewing – Grisette Table-strength Saison (ABV: 4.5%, IBU: 26)
Made from 100% Montana-grown pilsner malts (from both Montana Craft and Gallatin Valley Malts) and unmalted wheat from Gallatin Valley Malt. The beer also features Saaz hops from Big Sky Hops Farm in the whirlpool and dry hop. It was fermented with a mildly-expressive Belgian yeast strain to create a light and refreshing beer with character. This beer will be on tap the first week of May.
By All Means – 003 Farmhouse (ABV: 3.7%, IBU: 7)
This Lithuanian Farmhouse Table beer is brewed with 80% Montana Craft Pilsner Malt, 20% Root Shoots Rye, Lithuanian Farmhouse Yeast and dry hopped with Huell Melon hops.
Philipsburg Brewing Company – Wish You Were Here Rustic Saison (ABV: 6.2%, IBU: 29)
This beer pours light haze straw yellow with excellent lacing as it’s drunk. It features a decent amount of citrus fruit, a few hops, some Saison barnyard funk, and earthy spices. Medium-bodied, lively carbonation, with a sharp zesty finish.
With the current popularity of IPAs there’s an IPA for every beer-drinker and every season. In the spring, brewers often look to hops that imbue the beer with fruit flavors and aromas such as citrus and pineapple as well as pine.
Katabatic Brewing Co. – ‘Pig Sky’ IPA (ABV: 6.2%, IBU: 70)
Brewed in collaboration with and exclusively for Follow Yer’ Nose BBQ in Emigrant, this golden west coast style IPA is made with Chinook, Cascade, Columbus, and Citra hops. This one showcases an intense grapefruit character with a west coast dankness that we don’t see very often anymore. The crisp finish makes it totally crushable.
MAP Brewing Company – Fempire Strikes Back New England IPA (ABV: 6.2%, IBU: 61)
MAP’s annual Pink Boots Collaboration brew. This year we had women from 4 breweries and one beer bar join us for the brew day!
MAP Brewing Company – Dank Vader Imperial IPA (ABV: 9.2%, IBU: 90)
Brewed using some combination of the dankest hops in the galaxy.
Light, bright and extremely drinkable, Wheat Beers offer a refreshing option for those warm spring days. Originating with Hefeweizens in Bavaria, wheat beers have become increasingly popular in the United States and especially Montana, just check out the long list of national and international awards Montana breweries have brought home in the Hefeweizen and Wheat Beer categories.
Highlander Beer – Ditch Parrot American Wheat Ale (ABV: 5.0%, IBU: 18)
Fun Fact: Ditch Parrot is a slang term for Pheasant! Fun Beer: This one! It’s a bright, refreshing American Wheat Ale, brewed with a touch of orange peel to give it a slight citrus character.
Kalispell Brewing Co. – Raspberry Wheat (ABV: 4.8%, IBU: 5)
Inspired by the Brazilian Catharina sour. Full bodied and a pleasant tartness comes from a higher percentage of acidulated malt and wheat. Over 250 pounds of raspberry puree gives this beer a lovely pink color. A very small amount of the Callista hop brings it all together.
A classic option for warmer weather, the Pilsner (also Pilsener or Pils) is named after the Bohemian city of Pilsen, located in the Czech Republic. Pilsners are lagered beers that are light in color with a dry finish and a bit of bitterness.
MAP Brewing Company – Luke Skylager German Style Pilsner (ABV: 5.1%, IBU: 34)
6-packs of Luke Skylager will double as a build-your-own-lightsaber by taping the cans together. Feel the force!
Bayern Brewing – 35th Anniversary Pilsener (ABV: 5.4%, IBU: 45)
For our 35th anniversary, we created a new beer that resembles everything that took us to where we are today – a Traditional Pilsener Lager, brewed in strict accordance with the German Law of Purity of 1516. Reformulated for this anniversary, “Celebration Pilsener” is brewed with hand-selected Pilsener malt, Northern Brewer hops for a noble bitterness and a late addition of Tettnanger and Spalter hops in the brewing process. We promise this new style of Pilsener to be nothing shy of SENSATIONAL!
Related to Pilsners though different and more varied (all Pilsners are Lagers but not all Lagers are Pilsners), Lagers are less hoppy and come in a wider variety of colors due to the malt used in brewing. Lagers can be lighter in color, like a Helles, or darker, like we find in a Dunkel, Bock or Vienna Lager.
Otium Brewing – Otium Leicht Lager (ABV: 4.0%, IBU: 25)
The ground water in Miles City is cold enough to chill our wort down to lager temperatures from
January to about May. We took advantage this year and brewed our version of a German Leichtbier, a low alcohol, moderately hoppy lager. Featuring 100% Hyalite Pilsner malt from Gallatin Valley Malt Co. and Sterling hops from the Yakima Valley. This beer pours crystal clear with a persistent white head. Hop aromas are reminiscent of dried herbs/flowers. A firm bitterness with a touch of malt character to balance. Crushable, perfect for the longer spring days and warmer temps. Next year, this beer will feature Montana grown Saaz hops from Big Sky Orchards. Brew to Share, Drink to Build.
Überbrew – Helles Lager (ABV: 5.9%, IBU: 34)
Pils, Munich and Vienna malts round out this Spring gem. Hops: Perle and Mandarina Bavaria. Fermented with Munich III Lager yeast
The original Dillon Brewery crafted this malty German style lager, and we were fortunate enough to have been given the recipe by the Burfiend Family. We brew it every spring!
A German-style beer (the umlaut might give it away), Kölsch originated in Cologne (Koln), Germany. This style is light in color, crisp and delicate making it a perfectly refreshing beer for a hot summer day. But why wait until summer when you can enjoy a Kölsch on a warm spring day too?
Bozeman Brewing Company – Hey Bear Berry Kölsch (ABV: 5.5%, IBU: 27)
If you’ve ever been camping or hiking in Yellowstone you know to shout “Hey, Bear!” to let ‘em know you’re coming, especially around your favorite berry patch. We use raspberry, blueberry, German malt, and noble hops to craft our Berry Kölsch. This berry twist on our summertime favorite is the perfect companion for the river, the trail, and everywhere in between.
Another light-colored and refreshing style, the Blonde Ale originated in North America. It is straw to medium in color with mild sweetness from the malt. This style is very approachable and drinkable with low alcohol and bitterness.
Shred Monk – Brussels Blond (ABV: 4.6%, IBU: 22)
Made with our proprietary yeast strain, and dry hopped with noble hops, this beer is highly effervescent and infinitely drinkable, finishing with a pleasing bitterness of spicy and floral character.
Fruited Sour Ale
Like lemonade on a hot day, a Fruited Sour can be oh so refreshing, offering a nice balance of tart and sweet. Sours can run the gamut of flavors; some are funky, some are fruity, some are sweet, and some are all of the above. Once limited to breweries that specialized in sours, due to the risk of contaminating other beers with the lactobacillus used to create the sour flavor, modern brewing techniques are allowing more brewers to get into sours without such risk.
Highlander Beer – Blackberry Lemon Sour (ABV: 5.5%, IBU: 10)
This is the first beer from the Crushed Fruit series, an ongoing fruited Ale collection with limited availability in draft only at your local watering hole. This beautiful ruby red tart ale is packed with Oregon Marion Blackberries and finished with a touch of Meyer lemon to round out the pucker factor. Spring! Blackberry Lemon sour is super easy to drink and pairs best with friends, lawn chairs, and warm sunshine.
Rye is all the rage, in both whiskey and beer. That’s because rye adds complexity and brings spiciness to the table. It’s not really a style, but rather an ingredient that can spice up anything from a Stout to a lager (or whiskey).
Draught Works – Bittersweet Goodrye Honey Rye (ABV: 5.0%, IBU: 18)
Bittersweet Goodrye Honey Rye, our latest crushable crispy beer, was brewed by Ryan, our former lead brewer, Ryan Tripepi’s final day at Draught Works. Bittersweet Goodrye is pale yellow in color, malt-forward, and light on the palette with low hop bitterness. This tribute brew is wildly refreshing and bears a lightly floral flavor and aroma with a subtle touch of honey sweetness, and a whisper of rye. We couldn’t think of a better beer send-off for our beloved Ry-Guy; in the words of Garrison Keillor, “Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.”
English Mild Ale
The “mild” in this style’s name denotes the lower bitterness that distinguishes an English Mild Ale from other English ales like a Bitter or IPA. It’s a malty beer with just a touch of hoppiness. When Montana’s newest brewery, Shred Monk, opens in Bozeman this June, expect unique twists on traditional styles like this one.
Shred Monk – Dark Mild Ale Aged on Amburana Wood (ABV: 3.8%, IBU: 14)
Sessionable, but mighty flavorful Dark Mild aged on Brazilian Amburana wood, which lends notes of cinnamon, vanilla, and baking spices, supported by a biscuity and nutty malt backbone.
Hard seltzers, kombuchas, teas and other non-beer brews, more breweries these days are getting into brewing these “malternative” beverages. They’ve become increasingly popular, especially when the weather gets warmer. Zesty, in Bozeman, already has a reputation for making great kombucha, both hard and regular, but that’s not all they do.
Zesty Beverages – Party Hard Tea (ABV: 5.0%)
Party Hard Tea is the first of the Zesty product line that doesn’t contain the company’s signature Zesty Kombucha, which Montanans have been enjoying since 2016. Made with real food ingredients and premium teas, Party Hard Tea delivers you a refreshing and slightly sweet hard tea at 100 calories and no added sugar in a 12 oz serving.
This list is just scratching the surface of what Montana brewers are serving up for the spring. Wondering what to drink this spring? Stop by your local brewery, where you’re sure to find something new, interesting and perfect for the season.
April 6th was Montana Day (also known as 4-0-6 Day), the unofficial holiday celebrating the Big Sky State. It also happened to be New Beer’s Eve, the day before National Beer Day. To mark the occasion, breweries across Montana released the 2022 Last Best Pale Ale, a collaboration of Montana Brewers Association (MBA) member breweries and Montana producers.
“I can think of no better way to celebrate our great state and its people than with a Montana-made beer brewed with Montana-grown malt and hops,” says MBA Executive Director Matt Leow. “We’re so thrilled to have Montana hop growers, Montana barley growers, Montana maltsters and, of course, Montana brewers all participating in this collaboration beer. From the barley fields to your local taproom, Montana farmers, maltsters and brewers have produced a beer that embodies why this state we love is known as the Last Best Place”
This is the second year Montana brewers have teamed up with Montana producers to create a 100% Montana-made beer in celebration of craft in our state. “Brewing the Last Best Pale Ale is a great way for us to create a beer that showcases the incredible locally grown and produced beer ingredients that we have access to right here in the state of Montana,” explains Loy Maierhauser of MAP Brewing, “But even beyond that, it’s an opportunity for us to create a connection with other breweries around the state, as we continue to build this community of collaboration in support of a common cause.”
Thanks to the generous support of Farm Power Malt, Gallatin Valley Malt, Malteurop, Montana Craft Malt, Big Sky Hops, Crooked Yard Hops, and Flathead Valley Hops, brewers purchased their ingredients at reduced rates from local growers. From there they got creative with their own, unique Pale Ale recipes. Now, they’re sharing their brews with craft beer enthusiasts.
“We are very excited about our Last Best Pale Ale, not only does the beer showcase quality, local beer ingredients grown in the state of Montana, but it also represents the strength of the Montana craft beer industry,” says Hannah Talbott, President of Highlander Beer. “We are thrilled to be a part of this collaboration project and can’t wait for our customers to give it a try.”
So far, fifteen Montana breweries have brewed the Last Best Pale Ale, though Leow says more will likely join in. Each brewery will also donate a portion of the proceeds of their Last Best Pale to the Montana Brewers Association to continue to further the mission of promoting the production and sales of the freshest and highest quality Montana made beers. The MBA will use a portion of donations raised to fund scholarships for student researchers at MSU’s Barley, Malt & Brewing Quality Lab.
Montana beer lovers can support the collaboration beer project by enjoying a pint of the Last Best Pale Ale on tap in the following breweries:
2 Basset Brewery (White Sulphur Springs)
Bitter Root Brewing (Hamilton)
Blackfoot River Brewing Co. (Helena)
Bonsai Brewing (Whitefish)
Burnt Tree Brewing (Ennis)
Cabinet Mountain Brewing Co. (Libby)
Draught Works Brewery (Missoula)
Highlander Beer (Missoula)
Kalispell Brewing (Kalispell)
Katabatic Brewing Co. (Livingston)
KettleHouse Brewing (Missoula)
MAP Brewing Co. (Bozeman)
Ronan Coop (Ronan)
Sacred Waters Brewing Co. (Kalispell)
Ten Mile Creek Brewery (Helena)
Participating breweries will be pouring the Last Best Pale Ale collaboration beer throughout the year while supplies last.
“What’s fun about this beer is that it allows us to connect in a special way with not only our fellow brewers but also the consumer,” says Ethan Kohoutek, co-owner of Ten Mile Creek Brewery. “With all the amazing brewers and craft beer lovers spread out across such a large area, the Last Best Pale Ale lets us share a common brew all over the state. All of this really shines a light on the uniqueness of our industry in the state, from the farms to the pint glass to the consumer.”
After a four-year hiatus, the World Beer Cup® is back and Montana breweries are coming home with awards. Four Montana breweries were recognized with two gold and two bronze awards.
“We’re proud to see Montana breweries recognized for the excellent beer they produce,” said MBA Executive Director Matt Leow. “Competitions like the 2022 World Beer Cup help to show the rest of the world what Montanans already know, that our local breweries are brewing some of the best beer you’ll find anywhere.”
Congratulations to the following Montana breweries for their well-deserved awards:
Bayern Brewing (Missoula) – Bronze in the South German-Style Hefeweizen category with St. Walter Hefeweizen
Mountains Walking Brewery (Bozeman) – Bronze in the International Pale Ale category with Damsel Fly
The 2022 World Beer Cup, hosted by the Brewers Association, was the largest international beer competition to date with 10,542 entries from 2,493 breweries representing 57 countries. The biennial event was cancelled in 2020 due to COVID. Awards were given in 103 beer-style categories at Thursday’s awards ceremony held in Minneapolis, MN following the annual Craft Brewers Conference® & BrewExpo America®.
For the full list of winners, see the 2022 World Beer Cup winners.
For more award highlights, photos and video of the ceremony, see the Brewers Association news release.
You may have noticed breweries across the state unveiling fresh brews labeled with the iconic pink boots of the Pink Boots Society (PBS).
These beers are the result of collaboration brew days where women and nonbinary individuals in the alcoholic beverage industry come together to brew delicious beer with the year’s special Pink Boots Blend of hops from Yakima Chief Hops.
These collaboration brew days are more than just fun– they help raise funds for Pink Boots scholarships that support the mission to assist, inspire, and encourage the professional development and education of women and nonbinary people in our industry. Collaboration Brew Days are also a great way for participants to make new connections in the beer industry and create community. Ultimately, the goal of the Pink Boots Society is to create a more inclusive industry in an area generally dominated by men.
Beyond the brew days, the Pink Boots Society hosts workshops for its members to continue the learning process essential to craft brewing. The Montana Chapter of the Pink Boots Society hosted its winter workshop in March of this year. Pink Boots members descended on Kalispell to take tours of local breweries, hear from other professionals in the industry, and celebrate the community of craft brewing in Montana.
You can celebrate inclusion in the fermented alcoholic beverage industry with the Montana Pink Boots Society on Friday, May 13th, at Hop Lounge in Bozeman for a Tap Takeover where guests can taste all of the collaboratively brewed PBS beers from this year’s brew days across the state. MAP Brewing, Beehive Basin, Lewis & Clark, Draught Works, KettleHouse, Bitter Root Brewing and Bias Brewing will all be showcasing beers brewed by Pink Boots members with this year’s hop blend.
“After three years away, we’re thrilled to bring this event back to the community,” says MBA Executive Director Matt Leow. “We have some new members, making their first appearance at an MBA brewfest and we look forward to sharing the best Montana brewers have to offer with Bozeman beer lovers.”
The event will feature 113 different beers from 33 Montana breweries, including two of the MBA’s newest members, Diamond X and New Ventures.
Breweries from across Montana will gather at the Gallatin County Fairgrounds Haynes Pavilion in Bozeman for this year’s Spring Rendezvous on Saturday, May 14, featuring only Montana-made craft beer, live music, and five delicious food trucks. VIP hour is from 3-4pm, followed by General Admission from 4-8pm.
Musical guests The Wild Signs will supply rockin’ hits from every decade, while John Floridis & Jennifer Slayden will have bluesy, folk-rock cello and guitar stylings on offer for VIP hour. Beer lovers can enjoy offerings from five food vendors at the Rendezvous to compliment the brews: tacos from Brown Gringo Taco, authentic asian food from CC Gourmet, BBQ from Follow Yer Nose, sandwiches and more from The Mighty Spork, and southern cuisine from Ms. Sippi’s.
The Montana Brewers Spring Rendezvous has become an expected annual event for Bozeman to come together and celebrate local beer. Come raise a glass with the brewers as we celebrate MT craft beer in Bozeman live, in-person, and together again.
The Spring Rendezvous is a fundraiser for the Montana Brewers Association to continue to support the mission of promoting the production and sales of the freshest and highest quality Montana made beers. All beer samples and a collectible glass included with each ticket (that’s right, no waiting in line for beer tokens!)
Advance VIP tickets are now sold out with a limited number of VIP tickets featuring vintage glassware available at the gate only while supplies last. Beer lovers can purchase General Admission tickets online for $5 off the day-of price through Friday, May 13, or for full price online or at the gate on Saturday. You can find more information and tickets here.
Sign up to volunteer and get free admission to the event!
Thank you to our generous sponsors:
Gallatin Valley Malt
General Distributing Company
Montana Wheat & Barley Committee
Montana Craft Beer Connection
Hollingbery and Son
As much as brewing is an art, it is also a science. The students, researchers, and student researchers of the Montana State University Barley, Malt & Brewing Quality Lab know this well. This lab covers all of the technical aspects of barley and malt that make Montana beer as memorable as it is.
The work of the Barley, Malt & Brewing Quality Lab work is supported by MSU student researchers. All levels of students are employed in the program – from undergrads through to Masters and PhD candidates. Lab Director Hannah Turner explains that their team works on “all kinds of aspects involving barley, malt & brewing.”
On the brewing side of things, Turner says, “we put a lot of time into exploring flavor. A big question for us is how barley variety plays into this. We are just finishing up a project for the Brewers Association where we look at how different varieties interplay with malt modification and kilning regime to impact flavor.” This involved malting to several different malt types, including base, Vienna, and Caramel, then brewing beers and doing several rounds of sensory evaluations.
The lab also has a project under way where they are evaluating the variation in malt mineral composition. Mineral composition impacts final beer flavor and quality as well as brew day processing efficiency. Turner explains, “We are seeing differences across variety, growing location, and between malthouses. This could be a concrete way for maltsters and brewers to measure the effect of terroir in their products.” These findings would also impact how a brewer approaches mineral additions on brew day as they could consider both their starting water and malt mineral profiles.
Another project currently going on in the lab involves a visiting PhD candidate, Aline Brito, who is evaluating various strains of koji along with processing parameters to better understand this unique technique and learn what flavors and quality it could bring to a brewer.
To keep all these projects moving forward, Turner says it takes a lot of help from students. Students work in “greenhouses, the field, and our Barley, Malt & Brewing Quality Lab.” Typically the lab has about 6-12 undergrad student employees in addition to offering some undergraduate semester projects where students can work on a specific research topic for credit. The lab typically also has three graduate students at any given time each working on a specific research topic.
Last year, the Montana Brewers Association funded a scholarship for a student researcher at the lab. Graduate student Joe Jensen received the award and is researching pre-harvest sprouting, dormancy, and how the malting process impacts protein degradation to create flavor products. The hope is that this research will allow for improvements in the sustainability of the beer-making process by aiding in the selection of Montana made varieties that are more efficient in water use during malting while also being more resistant to pre-harvest sprouting. He is in the last leg of organizing his findings and preparing them for publication. Joe is a Montana native who grew up surrounded by agriculture in central Montana. After his studies, he aspires to continue working in an agricultural research role.
We are proud to have awarded a scholarship to the Barley and Malt Lab last year with donations from the Last Best Pale Ale collaboration beer, and we are excited to award another scholarship this year!
Ultimately, bringing the science of good beer to the art of brewing ensures that Montana brewers have the tools they need to produce the highest quality beverages. The MSU Barley, Malt & Brewing Lab plays an important role in building the research pipeline and educating a new generation of scientists to support world class craft beer production in Big Sky country.