The Montana spirit is alive and well in Kalispell, where spectacular mountains, rivers and lakes are equaled only by the innovative spirit of the people who live there. Kalispell has long been the gateway to Glacier National Park and a beautiful oasis in the midst of Northwest Montana’s wilderness that has drawn visitors for more than a century since the country’s first train line to the west coast was built through town.
Today, visitors are still flocking to Kalispell, and in larger numbers than ever (although most of them now arrive via Glacier Park International Airport), and when they arrive in town they’re greeted by old West charm intermingled with modern amenities, abundant hospitality, and a thriving and fast-growing craft beer scene.
Kalispell alone is home to four breweries — Kalispell Brewing Co., Bias Brewing, SunRift Beer Co. and Sacred Waters Brewing Co. — and the greater Flathead Valley also includes the venerable Great Northern Brewing Co., Bonsai Brewing and Flathead Lake Brewing Co. And on Sunday, June 9, Beer Now conference attendees will have a chance to meet the men and women
behind each one of those breweries during a daylong exploration of wild and wonderful Northwest Montana.
Historic Charm in a Vibrant Scene
A look down Main Street in Kalispell harkens back to the days of railway workers, homesteaders, ranchers, and more who first arrived here while the Empire Builder line made its way from Chicago to Seattle. Some buildings in downtown date back to the late 19th century, and a handful of historic businesses still operate here, including a 100-year-old bike shop (Wheaton’s), classic soda fountain (Norm’s News), a peanut-shell-littered saloon serving tasty pizzas (Moose’s) and an ornate place to lay your head (Kalispell Grand Hotel).
Kalispell Brewing Co., right on Main Street, opened five years ago in one of those historic buildings, and from the outside the brewery still retains its classic charm. But inside, the place buzzes with young professionals tipping one back after work, enjoying live music, tasting food from a nearby food truck, or trying their hand at weekly trivia. And the rest of downtown includes two other breweries — SunRift and Bias — along with artesian bakeries, funky coffee shops, and boutique clothing and jewelry stores.
The Beer Boom
Great Northern Brewing Co. opened in 1995 in nearby Whitefish, and since then breweries have been popping up all over the valley. Each one is locally owned, and each one pays homage to Northwest Montana in a unique way. All take advantage of abundant local ingredients, and a handful of beers at each brewery carry a locally inspired name like the Camp Misery Imperial Stout (Flathead Lake Brewing), Going to the Sun IPA (Great Northern), Good Med Montana Red Ale (Great Northern), The Bob IPA (Sacred Waters) and Big Arm Strong Golden Ale (SunRift).
Flavors are all over the map here, too, offering more than just delicious Northwest IPAs. Bias Brewing in particular specializes in unique tastes and experimental beers, including sours and a delightful tea ale, and one of Kalispell Brewing’s most popular options is the Winter at Noon Dunkel. Great Northern also pays homage to one of the region’s most abundant (and delicious) plants with its Wild Huckleberry Lager.
Beer Now Brewfest Details
The June 9 event begins with a trip over the Rocky Mountain Front from Great Falls and into Glacier National Park, where attendees will enjoy lunch and a weather-appropriate outdoor adventure. Afterward, it’s on to downtown Kalispell for a scavenger hunt ending at the Beer Now Brewfest where representatives from Flathead Valley breweries will be on-site for tastings and networking, and dinner will be provided by a variety of local food trucks. The evening also includes live music and ample opportunity for barstool chats with industry reps.
Head to https://discoverkalispell.com/day-trips/brews-wines/ to learn more about Kalispell, Montana and the craft beer scene in Northwest Montana.