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Out and About: Tapping into Montana's breweries

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Posted at 12:17 PM, Aug 25, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-26 11:16:49-04

BILLINGS — It seems like a new brewery pops up in Montana every week. In this week’s Out and About, we’re checking out several that you might not have heard of as well as Montana’s official brewing trail that continues to grow.

“Let’s do a Hopley Creek, just named after a local creek,” said bartender at Gally’s Brewing Company, Jack Thompson, on Wednesday.

In the tiny town of Harlowton, you’ll find a hidden gem worth toasting. Gally’s opened nearly five years ago, but few beyond Wheatland County know it exists.

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“We really try to cater to, like, towards what people are saying and asking and want to get. And we’re so small batch, I think we’re like a 27-barrel system is all,” Thompson said.

In a town with only a few hundred people, Gally’s is dependent on out-of-town customers. Many, like the Larsons, stop by on brewery tours. It’s a new kind of tourism, encouraging Montanans to hit the highway seeking suds and adventure.

“Last time we were here, I had their pumpkin ale in October. I’m waiting for it to get back on tap so we’ll be back for sure. It’s really good,” said customer Laura Larson.

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I got to try a flight of their most popular beers, including the Hopley Creek pale ale and the Collateral Damage IPA, but the Blood Orange wheat was my favorite.

Just about 40 miles down the road, you’ll find another family-owned brewery that’s fairly new. Crazy Peak Brewing Company in Big Timber will soon be celebrating its three-year anniversary.

“I love the staff, the beers are great. It’s just overall a great environment, the best one here in town,” said one of their regulars, Brannin Tyler.

Nathan Eggebrecht is the master brewer at Crazy Peak. We caught him just as he was finishing up brewing an amber ale. He started by heating brew water in their hot liquor tank and then moved it to the mash ton.

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“Mix it with all the grains, do a rest and that’s where the starches and the grains with the enzymes that are active get turned into sugars,” said Eggebrecht.

That’s just a small part of the process. One of the most popular beers at Crazy Peak is the P.O.G.

“Which is the orange, guava, pineapple beer. That’s more on the sour end, and so I’ve really been enjoying that,” Tyler said.

Montana’s largest cities are also welcoming new breweries. Here in Billings, Meadowlark Brewing just opened its doors on the West End. Randy Iversen has visited several times already.

“My favorite beer is the Harvester. It’s because it’s refreshing, it’s easy,” Iversen said.

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Travis Peterson owns Meadowlark, and he opened his first location in Sidney eight years ago. The new location in Billings has a full kitchen and even a playroom for kids.

“Since I’m a family man, I understand what it’s like to go out with kids and not have something to entertain them, and not have a food option,” Peterson said.

This brewery is huge, allowing Meadowlark to can their own beer and experiment with new formulas.

“Tonight is the first night that we’re pouring a new beer called Bison Guise, which is an American grape ale that we brewed with jasmine rice and put in some white grape,” Peterson said.

These three breweries have yet to be put on the official Montana Brewer’s Association trail map. It’s hard to keep up with all the breweries popping up across the state, but when there’s a will, there’s a way. Check out the official trail map at Montana Brewers Association Trail Map | Montana Brewers Association.

First Look: Tapping into Montana's breweries