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Craft Beer in Billings, Montana

Big Sky, Bigger Beers
Big Brews in Billings, MT
Photo courtesy Visit Billings

Montana is known as the land of “Oro y Plata”, or gold and silver. These days, those looking to strike it big in craft beer need look no further than Billings, where you can’t stroll down Main street without tripping over a nugget of golden elixir.

Long known as a boomtown, more for oil and commerce than gold, Billings is once more seeing a boom in the form of artisan ales and spirits, adding another layer of delicious depth to what was already “Montana’s Trailhead”. This bustling metropolitan community serves as the gateway to the Big Sky Country’s limitless outdoor recreation opportunities, but the journey we’re taking is right in the heart of Billings – an adventure for the taste buds.

Billings is the largest city in Montana, and more importantly, it boasts the only self-guided walkable brewery tour in the state. This unofficial “brewery district” located in the heart of Historic Downtown Billings includes six breweries and two distilleries amid bars, eateries and other cultural gems. Let’s take the 1.5-mile brewery route and take in some historic sites along the way.


 

Experience Billings before you arrive. Beautiful imagery depicting true Montana romance.


Yellowstone Valley Brewing Co. and Spirit of Montana Distilling

2123 1st Ave N # B

Your first stop has you covered for beer and spirits courtesy of founders George Moncure and Jay Shearer, who brought the space to life nearly 20 years ago. Yellowstone Valley Brewing Co. is a live music hub, making the attractive industrial space a cozy place to kick back and enjoy a handcrafted Grizzly Wulff Wheat, Huckleweizen or Black Widow Oatmeal Stout. Or if you’re really feeling it, enjoy homemade Cliffhanger vodka, 40 Love Gin and Buffalo Bill Cody Rye Whiskey in the Spirit of Montana distillery tasting room, founded in 2009 after Moncure purchased a $100,000 German still and began brewing spirits with local ingredients. Yellowstone Valley is the second-oldest craft brewery in Billings, but with its bumping vibe and silky smooth list of libations, it’s a guaranteed bet to get your night kicked-off right.


Überbrew

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A short stroll down the block will take you to a newly minted darling of the GABF. Überbrew serves up food and pints as superlative as the name suggests, and critics took note, making it the winningest brewery at the 2016 GABF. Awards include Small Brewing Company and Small Brewing Company Brewer of the Year, two golds for its White Noise wheat and Humulus Insani Imperial IPA, silver for its Average At Best (their name, not mine!) Double Red Ale and a bronze for its Alpha Force Double Tap American Black Ale.


“There’s fantastic beer here in Billings, Montana,” said co-owner Mark Hasting. “So, we have to be fantastic, too.”


More people will get the chance to see just how fantastic this brewery is, as Überbrew recently partnered with Fort Collins Brewery to bring its beer to the masses, allowing Überbrew to focus on creating more acclaimed recipes with its 10-barrel system.

While Überbrew’s distinctions alone are enough to merit a trip to Montana’s brewing capital, we’re far from done.


Trailhead Spirits

2314 Montana Ave.

Our next stop is as aesthetically pleasing to the eye as it is to the palate. Trailhead Spirits’ artisanal gin, vodka and whiskey is handcrafted and mixed into heavenly cocktails in a historically registered building adjacent to Billings Depot, the city’s original train station dating back to 1909. The blend of authentic, local ingredients and modern mixology has again made this spot a cultural epicenter of the town. Ornate copper stills and columns add a regal feel to the venue, which was once the “Beanery Building”, where passengers could grab a meal after disembarking from their train. Tastings, tours and a retail shop top-off an experience that melds the best of Billings’ past, present and future into a tasty copper mug or leather-bound flask.

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Carter’s Brewing

2526 Montana Ave.

One more block and we’ve arrived at Carter’s brewing, a family-owned establishment which also has “railroad ties.” Founder Michael Uhrich built the brewery in 2007 with the help of family, friends and old dairy tankage and named it after his son, Carter James, who was born the same year. Originally brewing with a 7-barrel system, the brewery’s success has called for a new 15-barrel MetalCraft brewhouse, which has helped them churn out over 70 different styles, including perennial favorites like Coldwater Kolsch, De-Railed IPA, Black Magic Porter and more. They keep 16 beers on-tap at all times.


Angry Hank’s

20 N 30th St.

Minutes down the street from Carter’s is Angry Hank’s, a microbrewery much friendlier than one might suspect. Eight ales rotating on-tap, all brewed with Montana barley, house yeast and water from the largest free-flowing river in the country make this 10-year old brewer a must-visit. The name comes from a family friend, “the grumpy one that most people have hanging around – the one who is always telling you how to do things, when to do them, and why. He just wanted you to grow up right, like that grandfather who had a gruff way of letting you know he cared.”

Now, Hank’s shows you they care with beers like Anger Management Belgian-style Wheat, Street Fight Imperial Red and Dog Slobber Brown, the first two of which are now in cans. Customers may come angry but leave happy enough for growth to continue, as Angry Hank’s opened a second location in 2012.

Unfortunately for some, Montana law only allows venues to serve three pints at one location… Control your rage. We’ve got plenty more breweries to go. If you really can’t wait, there’s an Irish pub right across the way, Pug Mahon’s.


Thirsty Street Brewing Co.

3008 1st Ave N.

We’ll assume you can wait, because Thirsty Street Brewing Co. is literally right next door. Offering 10 different taps, and as many pints as you can responsibly handle (it has a beer/wine license, which doesn’t come cheap). Thirsty Street may be the most Belgian and American venue of all, as it offers a range of Blondes, Dubbels and more along with Montana-style hot dogs, brats, and bar games like pool, shuffleboard and darts… and a big screen TV. This is America. Try the Big Bison American stout, or the Soulstice Pale Ale in this cozy, classy, brick-laden outpost.


Montana Brewing Co.

113 N 28th St

Our last stop is also the oldest brewery in town. Part saloon, part brewery, part restaurant, Montana Brewing Company has been crafting ale since 1994, and it’s got the hardware to show for it – multiple GABF golds for the Whitetail Wheat, and a bronze for its Sandbagger Golden Ale, amongst others. They also take home for the best beer title in the area, with Custer’s Last Stout. Montana Brewing Company is open late, making it the perfect place for a last stand of your own, before you hit the great outdoors. Or bed.


Blaze Your Own Trail

With a bit of liquid courage, you may also be willing to venture a bit further out, in which case you’ll also come across Bone’s Brewing and Canyon Creek Brewing, both with a mile or two of the city center. Billings Homebrewery Supply is just a couple blocks north of Yellowstone Valley, just in case you get snowed in.

A connoisseur knows good beer is always a sign of good times to be had, and enjoying brews are a great way to kick off one adventure, or complete another. As the gateway to just about any outdoor activity you can imagine, and the home to a colorful canopy of culture including ancient cave paintings and the only piece of physical evidence Lewis and Clark left behind (graffiti, no less), Billings is redefining what it means to live in the Midwest.

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Billings takes the best of the past and blends it with the sweet tastes of today.


Visit the Billings Mustangs, the farm team for the Cincinnati Reds, at Dehler Park, which won the 2016 annual Best of the Ballparks vote for rookie-level facilities, or take in a show at Pub Station before refueling at any number of the area’s myriad bars, restaurants, coffee shops and more… You get the idea. Montana’s Trailhead is the perfect place to quench your thirst for adventure, and delicious craft beer.