BILLINGS — People enjoyed 56 different Montana-made beers and browsed 15 local food trucks at the socially-distanced, 10th annual Montana Brews and BBQs event Saturday at MetraPark in Billings.
“I know a lot of people are concerned about (COVID-19) and we respect that. That’s why we’ve done what we’ve done this year to social distance," said Mark Hedin, promoter for Montana Brews and BBQs.
Attendees could wear masks if they chose, but weren't required to because the event served food and beverages. An exception to the mask requirements for businesses and events, enacted by Montana Gov. Steve Bullock last Wednesday.
Hedin said the organizers worked with RiverStone Health, the Yellowstone County attorney and MetraPark to plan out the event.
The vendors at Montana Brews and BBQs are usually tightly packed around the Chiesa Plaza pond at MetraPark. This year the event spread out to the walkways in front of the Montana Pavilion, Expo Center and Grandstands.
"It’s made it a lot more open, a lot more friendly and not so congested and tight feeling. It’s just a great atmosphere, it’s a great day out here. Perfect time for people to come out and have a little social contact with each other but at a distance," Hedin said.
On top of hand sanitizer stations spaced throughout the event and people tasked with cleaning, Hedin said all the beer is poured into disposable cups to mitigate the risk of COVID-19 spread.
Hedin said staff have 30,000 disposable cups on hand so people can pour their beer into a commemorative glass if they choose.
"Most people prefer to drink out of the glass. So you can pour that right into your glass, drink it, throw the plastic one away and when you want to get a new beer, they’ll give you a new plastic cup to pour to. That way no germs are touching the pour spout from another person," Hedin said.
The event is offers a true sampling of many of the craft beers that Montana's many breweries have to offer. Hedin said the organizers taste every beer before it's allowed in the event.
"We’ve been a lot more picky as to what flavors we have at this year’s event. I think if you come out, you’re going to find the choices of beers out here this year are just fantastic. Between the regular craft beers, the seltzers that are becoming really popular and the sour beers that our brewers are now making," Hedin said.
In all, Hedin said if you were to start in Billing and drive to all 30 breweries in a loop back to town, the trip would be more than 2,000 miles long.
"They’re all Montana. Everything is hand crafted. It’s all fresh out of the keg, ice cold. It’s just a great way to enjoy an afternoon here in Billings," Hedin said.
The event runs from 1-10 p.m. with free admission.
"You can come out here, soak up some sunshine, eat some great food, we have the band D'tective starting to play here at 4 p.m. You could listen to some music. It doesn’t cost anything to come to. So you don’t have to drink beer if you come out here, just come out and have a good time," Hedin said.