It’s difficult to imagine a time when microbreweries didn’t speckle the Montana landscape from Wibaux to Eureka.
But believe it or not, there was such a time – and if the many, many dozens of recent craft beer start-ups want to stick around they might spend some time studying the example of Bitter Root Brewing.
Founded in 1998 by Tim Bozik with some converted dairy farming equipment, the Bitterroot Valley’s premiere brewery – and one of the oldest in the state – has cemented itself as an anchor of Hamilton’s downtown scene.
On Sunday, Bozik and crew will celebrate their 18th birthday with a customer appreciation event featuring great food specials, three-dollar beers all day
, and live music from another western Montana staple – Tom Catmull’s Radio Static.
Oh, and giveaways galore. The luckiest will walk away with either a gift card for 18 free six-packs or a growler with 18 free fills.
“It’s just our way of saying thanks to our customers for all their business,” said Nicol Musburger, Bozik’s daughter and a partner in the business for the past 13 years.
Longevity aside, how does a Montana microbrew stick out from the pack?
“For us, a huge part is just a great product,” Musburger said. “Our beer is great, we’ve got awesome brewers and a brew team that do a wonderful job, and then for our taproom its just about being super community-oriented.”
In addition to 40 different brews a year – Single Hop Pale Ale by far the most popular – the brewery has established itself as a community gathering place. They set aside special nights to donate to local causes, the have larger rooms for parties and meetings, and, well, quite frankly there’s just not a whole lot of places in the ‘Root for locals and travelers alike to chill out after a day hiking, skiing or floating.
And the restaurant? Yeah, it’s pub fare – but hardly typical. Think burgers made from locally harvested meat and topped with cheeses produced from Amaltheia Organic Dairy, or wraps stuffed with house-made malted barley.
“Our kitchen really has a focus on local, sustainable and organic ingredients whenever possible,” Musburger said. “We’re really a from-scratch kitchen.”
Bitter Root Brewing is worth checking out any time of the year – but if you’re looking for extra incentive, their 18th birthday party is your best bet.
The three-dollar beer special is running all day, but if you want to catch the live music, food specials and giveaways, make sure you’re there 5:30-8 pm. From Missoula, just head south on Highway 93 for about 48 miles and when you get to Main Street turn left.
For more details about Sunday’s celebration, check out the brewery’s Facebook Events page HERE.