Picture this: Sitting smack dab in the middle of a topographical cornucopia.
Mountains climb to the sky as blue rivers wind themselves around the lush green landscapes. And you're lounging about, sipping a locally crafted beer. That's what awaits you in Missoula, a city in the western part of Montana. Since the 1980s, the city has seen a craft beer boom, as eight different breweries have popped up over the years. It's a big part of why Montana now ranks second in the USA for craft breweries per capita. But it's only the latest renaissance of the ever-evolving area. The Salish Native American Tribe first settled the area, originally dubbing it "Nemissoolatakoo," and the name was later shortened and simplified to "Missoula." After Europeans set up shop, the city experienced different iterations, from prime logging region to military base camp. It was also an agricultural hotbed, even earning the nickname "Garden City" because of its great soil and the multitude of gardens in the area. Now, though, it's a must-visit for beer lovers. So if you're looking to sip truly local suds while in Montana, here's a guide to help you navigate the microbreweries of Missoula.
Missoula Beer Events
Craft beer aficionados flock to the Missoula Craft Beer Week. Held every April, this week-long celebration boasts an array of beer-themed events from tap takeovers and beer-pairing dinners to beer runs, yoga and bike rides.
Other annual events include Bacon & Brew Fest in April, Garden City Brewfest in May and Montana Brewers Fall Rendezvous in September. There are also near-daily events at Draught Works Brewery, including live music, specialty beer nights and affordable growler fill days.
Missoula's Most Famous Brews
Bayern Brewing, Inc.
Bayern Brewing can be viewed as the "big-bang" to the microbrewing evolution in Missoula. Bayern began brewing authentic Bavarian beer according to Reinheitsgebot — German laws governing beer-making and ingredients — back in 1987. It's locally owned and operated, so you know you're getting a beer brewed with deep local roots.
Big Sky Brewing Co.
In 1995, a few Michigan expats opened Big Sky Brewing, focusing on English-style beers. And you can visit the brewery for free samples, such as their much loved smooth brown ale — Moose Drool. But Big Sky is not only about great tasting beers. One of Montana's best-known breweries, Big Sky employs many locals and their booming business contributes greatly to Missoula's economy and community.
Tamarack Brewing Company
Started in Lakeside, Montana, this company expanded to Missoula in 2007, brewing just 380 barrels of beer their first year in the city. Today, Tamarack operates a two-story sports pub and restaurant in downtown Missoula. When dining here, don't miss the brewbreads, specialty flatbread sandwiches made with Tamarack ales.
Other Breweries Worth Visiting
Flathead Lake Brewing Co.
Visit this three-story pubhouse to enjoy 16 beers on tap, beer cocktails and locally sourced food.
KettleHouse Brewing Co.
Specializing in award-winning, canned craft beer, KettleHouse uses Montana-grown barley and water from Missoula's aquifer to produce its high-quality brews. And you can only find this beer in western Montana.
Imagine Nation Brewing Co.
Imagine Nation brews small-batch and seasonal beers primarily sold onsite and is the first company to pair a microbrewery with a community transformation center for empowering local businesses. Luckily for those visiting more than just Montana, there's plenty of top-tier breweries to visit around the states. Check out the USA's West craft beer trail for more destinations.