This is mostly going to be notes on the Montana beers I sampled during our recent trip to Glacier National Park, including a few from Washington and Idaho, because we started this safari in Seattle and made our way east, by car. I also tried a few Oregon beers, though we did not travel to that state. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to lay hands on most of those beers here. I haven’t researched all of the breweries yet, but the ones I have checked mostly distribute regionally. We do, however, have a Mackenzie River Pizza Company restaurant in Indianapolis. That’s a restaurant chain that got its start in Montana, and so features a Montana-centric menu, including a couple of Montana beers on tap. The food is terrible, but that don’t confront me none; the chance to linger over a refreshing Wild Huckleberry Lager from Great Northern Brewing is worth suffering a sub-par lunch or dinner.
15. Palladium Pale Ale - Hale’s Ales (Seattle, WA)
“As the region’s first craft brewed pale ale, Hale’s Pale Ale established the category in the Northwest. Clean, crisp, balanced and true to style, it’s easy to see why this beer has remained a favorite since 1983!”
16. Pike IPA - The Pike Brewing Company (Seattle, WA)
“Citra hop flavor shines through in this expertly balanced IPA with just the right amount of bitterness. Pike IPA uses local hops to its advantage, artfully mixing citrus and modern tropical fruit flavors with a clean and light malt character. Pike IPA started introducing people to its style in the early 90’s and is now updated to reflect today’s beer drinkers love of hops. Pouring light golden in your glass, Pike IPA is brewed to be an all-day drinking IPA, pairing well with food while keeping your hop craving palate satisfied.”
17. Roasted Rye IPA - Reuben’s Brews (Seattle, WA)
“Citrus and tangerine in the nose, supported by chocolate, roast and caramel notes from the malts. The best of an India Pale and a winter warmer wrapped into one brew. This was the beer that started it for us back in 2010 as homebrewers.”
18. 208 Session Ale - Grand Teton Brewing (Victor, ID)
“Ale 208 is brewed to be Idaho’s session ale. This crisp drinkable ale has a light malt body and subtle yet citrusy hop character. It’s brewed with 100% Idaho grown grain, hops and pure Idaho spring water. The package imagery is inspired by and pays tribute to Idaho’s rich agricultural heritage and its diverse and beautiful vistas.”
19. Fresh Squeezed IPA - Deschutes Brewing (Bend, OR)
“This mouthwateringly delicious IPA gets its flavor from a heavy helping of Citra and Mosaic hops. Don’t worry, no fruit was harmed in the making of this beer.”
One of the best beers I tried on this trip. Had it on tap at a restaurant called the Back Room in Columbia Falls, Montana. Two of my favorite kinds of hops, which add big, juicy tropical fruit and citrus flavors to the beer.
20. Moose Drool - Big Sky Brewing (Missoula, MT)
“Our American brown ale is brewed with four different malts and hop additions consisting of East Kent Goldings, Willamette and Liberty. This is the best American brown ale in the world. Light on the palate. Rich mahogany color. Subtle coffee and cocoa notes balanced with a pleasant bitterness.”
21. Scepter Head IPA - Draught Works (Missoula, MT)
“Scepter IPA is a hop monster that shows no mercy. Seven insane additions of different hops create an assertive hop aroma of tropical fruits and citrus followed by fresh flavors of mango, pineapple, grapefruit and even coconut throughout each sip. Backed by a medium body and pleasantly pale-gold colored, this beer is brewed with 2-Row and caramel malts that can stand up to a beast of hops.”
It says Scepter on the can, but is referred to in some places as Scepter Head. Either way, it’s quite fine. The malt backbone is definitely there, and verging toward the sweet, but not quite off-putting. A touch too heavy for me, but I like the aggressive approach.
22. Going to the Sun IPA - Great Northern Brewing Company (Whitefish, MT)
“Going to the Sun IPA is built for beer lovers seeking distinct flavor and balance between the twists and turns of hops and malt. Brewed with pure glacial water, Montana-grown barley, and aromatic northwest hops, Going to the Sun is inspired by the picturesque Glacier National Park - and unfiltered beer to enjoy an unfiltered view.”
23. Wild Huckleberry Lager - Great Northern Brewing Company (Whitefish, MT)
“Our signature Wild Huckleberry Lager starts with pure glacial water from northwest Montana. Hand-picked huckleberries, combined with the practice of cold fermentation, yields a bright and clean body that pairs naturally with sweet aromatics of this wild forest berry.”
This beer is crisp and smooth, infused with the sweet essence of huckleberries without actually tasting sweet. Low alcohol, easy to drink, and eminently refreshing. Though not one of my favorite styles, this might be the best beer I had on this trip.
24. Big Sky I.P.A. - Big Sky Brewing (Missoula, MT)
“In Montana, many classic memories are made right after someone says ‘Hold my beer and watch this®.” These bold assertive moments deserve a bold and assertive beer - Big Sky I.P.A. - distinct hop presence and malty backbone will leave you refreshed and ready for your moment of glory. So hang on tight & enjoy the ride!”
25. Bent Nail I.P.A. - Red Lodge Ales Brewing Company (Red Lodge, MT)
“Bent Nail I.P.A. is a tribute to the hard-working contractors who make their living in Red Lodge. The I.P.A. is high in alcohol and hop flavor. We use copious of [sic] American cascade [sic] hops to give the IPA [sic] intense grapefruit and citrus aroma and flavor.”
26. Goat’s Beard Ale - Flathead Lake Brewing Co. (Bigfork, MT)
Brewed exclusively for Glacier National Park, though the one I tried was at a restaurant just outside the park. There’s also apparently a Lone Walker Ale by the same company that is brewed exclusively for the park lodges.
27. Beltian White - Harvest Moon Brewing Company (Belt, MT)
“This award winning ale is our version of a Belgian classic, [b]rewed with Czechoslovakian Saaz hops and finished with a touch of coriander and orange peel. This is an ale for every season with a hint of fruit in the nose, subdued malty flavor and a slightly citric finish.”
28. Glacier Golden Ale - Lewis & Clark Brewing Co. (Helena, MT)
“Our lightest beer, a golden colored, aromatic, top fermented brew that is light in body but not on the palate. It is brewed with pale malts and Citra hops to produce a clear, delicate and refreshing character session beer.”
Description is for Yellowstone Golden Ale by the same brewer. Glacier Golden Ale, according to Untappd, is a variation with Montana malted barley. I picked it up because I’m a sucker for Citra hops, but this one is very balanced. If I had not known there were Citra hops in there, I would not have guessed.
29. Wheatfish Wheat Lager - Great Northern Brewing Company (Whitefish, MT)
“Combining the the best aspects of three major types of beer, Wheatfish is brewed like a German wheat beer, cold-fermented, aged like a lager, & hopped (three separate addtions of [c]ascade hops) like an American ale. The wheat contributes a full body & light spiciness. The hops give citrus hints & the finish is crisp & smooth. Low in bitterness & very drinkable.”
30. Tumbleweed IPA - Lewis & Clark Brewing Co. (Helena, MT)
“It’s amber color and incredible hoppy aroma (plenty of Cascade & Centennial hops) along with a strong malt backbone using Montana gown and malted barley work together to create an incredibly well balanced IPA.”
31. Big Mountain Tea Pale Ale - Great Northern Brewing Company (Whitefish, MT)
“Big Mountain TPA first ascends with citrusy hops and follows with subtle notes of Earl Grey tea. A refreshing and smooth experience, this pale ale offers and enchanting combination of fresh aroma and light maltiness. The easy-going, yet bold flavor reflects the stirring excitement of a day on the mountain.”
32. My Ruca American Pale Ale - Draught Works (Missoula, MT)
“I’ve been waiting for My Ruca, or ‘one and only love’. Citrusy and tropical flavors abound in this American Pale Ale. This is our take on a ‘West Coast-Style’ Pale Ale, which refers to the hop varieties used and the flavors they impart (delicious ones). Well-balanced, easy-drinking, pleasant (hop) character: all of the makings of a perfect soulmate, uh… I mean beer. We think you’ll find My Ruca to be sublime.”
33. Bear Bottom Blonde Ale - Tamarack Brewing Company (Lakeside, MT)
“Bright golden with a white head, flavor is light and refreshing with honey sweetness, and is balanced with Perle hops. Fermented below ale temperature for smooth flavor.”
34. Golden Grizzly Ale - Glacier Brewing (Polson, MT)
“Our Golden Grizzly Ale is brewed in the style of a German Kolsch. A light bodied, moderately hopped ale, with a rich light golden color. This golden ale is a style of beer, which is designed to be light and thirst quenching.”
35. Yard Sale Amber Ale -Tamarack Brewing Company (Lakeside, MT)
“Rich malty backbone with earthy Fuggle and Northern Brewer hops. Deep mahogany in color with a tan head, this amber ale has a smooth drinkability and sweet finish."
36. What the Huck (Huckleberry Wheat Ale) - Fernie Brewing Co. (Fernie, BC, Canada)
“Native to the Rocky Mountain region, the huckleberry is prized for its sweetness and deep colour. Blended with wheat to create a smooth and creamy beer with a touch of huckleberries.”
Something this trip decidedly lacked was high quality nosh. Pizza of Waterton may have been the best place we ate (other than B’s Po Boys, but that’s another story for a separate blog post), and it was there that I tried my second huckleberry beer of the trip. Oddly, though, I don’t remember this one very well. I was a little bit cranky that day, as my travel journal reminds me, not having had a Red Apple for…what…ten days? But we split a nice Caesar salad here, and the pizza was good. It ain’t Mother Bear’s…but what is?
37. Original Organic Lager - Mill St. Brewery (Toronto, Ontario, Canada)
“The heartbeat of our brewery–this was the first beer that we ever brewed back in 2002 when we opened our doors. Where other breweries have come along and copied us, the idea of making an organic beer was a precept of our company and it still represents that spirit of doing the right thing that governs everything that we do here at Mill Street.”