Thursday, March 6, 2008


This picture was taken back in February of 2003. This is the brewhouse and cellar vessels arriving at their new home via flatbed truck. Notice the yet-to-be-painted-white wall of the brewery. For those of you who have never heard the story, here goes:
The idea of the Glacier Brewing Company began several years ago, maybe almost a decade now. At that time, my wife (then she was my girlfriend), Christine was employed as a seasonal Ranger-Naturalist in Glacier National Park. The rest of the year, we both lived in Fort Collins, Colorado. I would drive up to Montana with Christine every May from Fort Collins to get her ready for the summer season in the park. For the rest of the summer, I would stay in Colorado and work at my job; keg washer and bottler for the H.C. Berger Brewing Company. It was on one of these trips up north that we were driving through Wyoming (just outside of Rock Springs, I think), Christine was asleep and I was trying to find something redeeming about Wyoming when, like a bolt from the blue, I suddenly had the idea of opening a brewery and restaurant (I didn't know any better back then!) outside Glacier National Park and call it........(wait for it!).........the Glacier Brewing Company!!! Now, not only did the name come to me right then, but also some of the beers: Golden Grizzly Ale, North Fork Amber, Back Country Bock (we can't legally make true bocks in Montana), and several others that either died a quiet death or were reworked into today's beers and sodas.

Well, upon returning to Fort Collins after that trip, I quickly set about to record my ideas on paper, including a full sketch of the outside of the brewery/brewpub and a layout of the inside. I still have them around somewhere. I would dust off this idea through the years and share it with those who are near and dear to me. The deeper I got into brewing, the more tangible this vision became. It wasn't until I had been brewing at a brewpub in Telluride, Colorado for a couple of years that "THE IDEA" really started to kick. It was early spring. The town was almost empty and Christine's brother Bob came for a visit as he was going on trip to Death Valley (if you know Bob, you understand) and he was going through some life changes, as well. Christine, Bob, and I were having lunch at the brewpub and were talking about the future. One of us brought up the idea of the Glacier Brewing Company and "what would be truly involved?" (in hindsight, none of us had a CLUE!!!!) After talking about it in detail for awhile, a strange quiet fell over the table. Then, one of us then suggested: "Why don't we just try it?"
Why, indeed.
I began to work on the business plan and started the search for a brewing system. The brewing system project was finished first. I found one on the Internet and we ended up buying it sight-unseen, as is said. I gave notice at my job and two weeks later, Christine and I had our house rented out, the moving truck loaded, our two-year-old strapped into her car seat and we were off to Montana!!!
We arrived on a Thursday, unloaded the truck that night, fell fast asleep, and I was on a plane for L.A. the next morning. I arrived in L.A. (my first trip to California) just in time for Friday rush hour! I made my way to Huntington Beach, found the brewpub (closed for almost a year), it was locked up. So, I found a cheap hotel and planned to meet the seller the next morning.
He assured me that two guys could remove the entire system in two days. A week and two rented grunts later, I loaded the system onto a drop-deck flatbed semi. I gave the drivers directions to the Flathead Valley and got on a plane for Montana. The system arrived in Montana about a week later and we stored it on my father-in-law's Christmas tree plantation in Creston. It sat there for almost a year as we scoured the area for a building to start our brewery.
Eventually, Bob called me one day to say he thinks he found our building. I drove down to Polson and had a look. This building was built in the mid 70's as a racquetball court and had since been used by a printer. His bus-sized printing press was still in it. This building was dirty, dusty, oily, and needed a lot of work.
Well, we started to move the equipment in around Halloween and almost five months later, we were brewing our first batch of beer, a very hoppy Golden Grizzly Ale.
We were soon picked up by Earl's Distribution in Missoula, now known as Summit Beverage. Since then, our market has been growing and undulating in some fun and unexpected ways. We've increased our product line beyond our original business plan, we've added bottle product to our line-up, we've added a beer garden, we've expanded our tasting room to an unbelievable size. Who knew that road trip all those years ago would yield such wonderful fruit!

I know it is a very corny thing to say, however, it's true: the longest journey begins with a single step.

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