Over the past few years, the number of local breweries, distilleries, and cideries in the state has grown exponentially. Virtually every good-size town now has at least one local brewpub. Where to start? We rounded up a few of our favorite watering holes.
Southwest Montana: Willie’s Distillery, Ennis
Considering that one of the founders grew up in the epicenter of North Carolina moonshine country, it’s no wonder that Willie’s showcase spirit is Montana Moonshine, a whiskey made with four grains and gently distilled in a custom copper still to bring out its full flavor.
PERFECT PAIRING: Horseback ride in the Spanish Peaks, then head back to town for a taste of Willie’s Montana Honey Moonshine.
Glacier Country: Western Cider, Missoula
This new cidery is on a quest to revive the apple-growing traditions of the Bitterroot Valley—and it’s happening. The cider house recently took home Best in Show from the Portland International Cider Cup for its McIntosh single-varietal cider.
PERFECT PAIRING: A six-cider tasting flight on their outdoor patio after inner-tubing the Clark Fork River.
Yellowstone Country: Katabatic Brewing, Livingston
Named after cold downslope winds that are often severe, this cozy space in downtown Livingston has live music twice a week and the occasional Sunday “Suds and Buds,” where $10 gets you a pint and expert advice on how to tie a fly. BYO: scissors, black thread, bobbin, and tying vise.
PERFECT PAIRING: Fly-fish the Yellowstone, the longest undammed river in the Lower 48, then sling back a Katabatic Strong Scotch Ale.
Missouri River Country: Busted Knuckle Brewery, Glasgow
This funky brewery in eastern Montana was born in the former garage of a mechanic turned brewmaster. His 30 years of fixing cars is evident in the garage doors, tables made from radiators, and flights served on old license plates.
PERFECT PAIRING: Catch a lunker walleye on Fort Peck Lake, then hightail it to the Busted Knuckle for the crowd-favorite Rusted Nut Amber Ale.
Glacier Country: Spotted Bear Spirits, Whitefish
Named after the owner’s favorite river in the Bob Marshall Wilderness, this airy space with fresh herbs lining the bar is where Montana’s rugged beauty is translated into sublime libations.
PERFECT PAIRING: On a hot summer day, after a mellow float on Whitefish Lake, order the Midsummer Night’s Dream, gin infused with watermelon, basil, sugar, and lime.
Southeast Montana: Angry Hank’s Microbrewery, Billings
There are six breweries, two distilleries, and one cider house along downtown Billings’s Walkable Brewery District, all of which make tasty libations. Angry Hank’s outdoor patio is the ideal spot to plan your tour.
PERFECT PAIRING:A Dog Slobber Brown ale after a run along the High Line trail.
Central Montana: Mighty Mo Brewing Company, Great Falls
Other than brewing the most satisfying beer in central Montana, Mighty Mo’s owners had an even loftier mission when it was founded in 2013: to revitalize the city. It seems to be working, with live music, a full menu of chicken wings, and tasty brews.
PERFECT PAIRING: After checking out the paintings and other artwork from the days of the western frontier at the C.M. Russell Museum in town, order up a Lip Ripper IPA.