Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Late Fall 09

"Welcome to Montana"
I can still remember the first time someone said that to me. Me; still in college, full of knowledge and clueless, driving to Flathead Lake in late summer in a driving rainstorm that seemed to come out of nowhere. I stopped to gas up somewhere along I-90 and made a comment to the cashier about rain-soaked highways and apparently-insane/suicidal drivers (Montana was experimenting with no daytime speed limit back then). The comment I got back did little to sooth my jangled nerves, "Welcome to Montana".

Coming from Colorado, the land of perpetual blue skies, ski bunnies, and a sometime-nauseating level of political correctness, I expected a response more akin to sympathy for the weary traveler. What I got was an attitude closer to "THIS is Montana. It won't coddle you, it won't bend to you, it won't change for you. But, it will change you. Maybe, probably for the better. It's not for everyone. If you think it's not for you, well, you can still make it back to the border before dark!"

This was many years ago. Since then, I have traveled back and forth from Colorado to Montana to Colorado. I've lived in Montana a few times now, returning to Colorado each time. Usually for school (handy excuse to return to a "softer life"). It really was no use. Montana had her hooks in me, deep. Even when I would "move back" to Colorado, at some level in my over-educated gray matter, I knew I'd be back. I fit here.

I had always told my family that Montana is a wonderful place, mythical vistas, "charismatic mega-fauna" (bears, wolves, mountain lions!). But, I've written about this before, I also always told them that if you're moving to Montana, ya' gotta bring a job with you! In a state with less than a million full-time residents (967,440 July 2008), those who live here are here on purpose and they don't have a lot of extras jobs to go around. Well, that's what I did, brought a job with me. We (my partners and I) started the Glacier Brewing Company, oh, must be about six years ago. Not a heck of a long time, I know, but ask any small business owner and they'll tell six years feels like two decades. Ask a small business owner in northwest Montana and they'll tell you it can feel like a lifetime.

We walked into this business with VERY wide eyes and a lot of unreal expectations. We weren't really prepared for the savage seasonality that comes with owning and running a production brewery in northwestern Montana on an Indian reservation. The first few winters were exceptionally lean for us. The craft beer market is an extremely fickle one. It's also a very expensive one to compete in. While we've come to expect the seasonal slowdown, I don't think any of us running this dog and pony show have really gotten used to it. Please don't read this as complaining, these are the facts that we've come to accept. This is a fun business but some of the challenges can be daunting.

One of the pluses about the seasonal slowdown is it gives my assistant brewer, Will, and I time to play with new beer recipes on our newly minted ten-gallon pilot system. I built this thing earlier this summer/fall with the intention of experimenting with unusual beer recipes and styles. From this, we've launched a new rotating line of beers in our tasting room. We call them the One Barrel Batch beers. We're making just enough of each beer to fill one barrel (31 u.s. gallons), give or take. Sometimes, we'll have a true barrel's worth, sometimes only ten gallons. These beers go on tap in our tasting room for pint sales only. We don't fill growlers of the One Barrel Beers and we do this so we have enough for everyone to try it. Now this does not always work but that is the reason behind "pints only please."

For those of you new to our Brewer's Blog, I do try to make timely entries but, you guessed it, that doesn't always work. Please, please, please write me, call me, stop me on the street (I'm the guy walking two dogs!) and let me know what you like and what you don't like about this blog, the brewery, my beers, me, Montana, anything! I love the interaction.

We have recently launched the brewery's FaceBook page (GBC FaceBook Page) and that's where a lot of my mind-droppings have been landing. I'll make you a deal, though. You keep reading this blog and I'll keep taking pictures and writing in it. Deal?

I hope so

Until next time,
Your humble brewer

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

GABF 2009

GABF Denver 2009

Well, today is the Sunday after the 2009 Great American Beer Festival in Denver, Colorado. We brought four of our beers down to be judged against the best brewer's in the country. 495 breweries, over 3308 beers, and three days later we're heading north, homeward bound. Back to our little corner of Montana. Unfortunately, we did not win any medals at our first GABF appearance. Always next year. We entered our Golden Grizzly Ale (into the Kolsch category), Glacier Select Oktoberfest (into the Marzen category), our North Fork Amber Ale (into the Alt category), and our Slurry Bomber Stout (into the Foreign Stout category). I was able to sample some of the beers that won the medals in the categories we entered.

The winning beer for the Foreign Style Stout category tasted almost EXACTLY like our Slurry Bomber Stout!! I was speechless. But it all came down to that “exactly”. It was just slightly, and I mean slightly, hoppier than ours. Man oh man, you could've knocked me over with a lite beer!

I had the rare opportunity to meet two of my heros: Charlie Papazian and Homer Simpson (Charlie more than Homer)! It is strongly because of this man (Charlie) that this festival exists! He is THE guru of homebrewing and therefore craftbrewing. Charlie, if I can be so honored that you are reading this: Thank You Again. Everyone should reread your books!

Kudos to Kettlehouse Brewing (bronze medal) and Montana Brewing (gold medal!). There were only about six Montana breweries at this year's festival. I was surprised by that as I expected more Montana breweries to attend. But, I'll be the first to tell you, it's a long way from Montana to Denver!

The medal ceremony notwithstanding, attending this festival was well worth the thousand-plus mile drive (one-way!). Christine and I walked out with several wonderful marketing ideas, I have a notebook full of beer ideas, and a deeper appreciation for my craft. I had attended the GABF once before but that was with another brewery; H.C. Berger Brewing in 1998.

This time, I went there with MY brewery! I can't fully describe the amount of pride I felt to see our very own beers pouring on the festival floor alongside industry titans like Ommegang, Sierra Nevada (beat us in the Kolsch division!), Pizza Port (huge medal winners!), ABInBev, Coors/Miller, and hundreds more. In the same moment, I felt deeply humbled by the scope of this event and the unique creativity shown by members of our craft brewing industry.

We even saw George Wendt!!!

We poured our Golden Grizzly Ale and our Glacier Select Oktoberfest at our booth. I'm proud to say that we emptied all the kegs we shipped down and received very positive feedback from everyone who sample them! We even got an offer to sell our beer in New York (not sure how we'd get it out there though). We also gave away hundreds of temporary GBC tattoos! That was quite surreal to see complete strangers clambering over each other to stick one of our “FILL TO HERE WITH BEER” tattoos to their foreheads! We were one of a handful of breweries offering tattoos. Fun to see the Golden Grizzly Ale tattoo on peoples arms, necks, cheeks, and, uh, “other places” along with other craft breweries. The crowds were amazing. We were standing in one of the largest rooms I've ever been in (outside of an airplane factory) and we were shoulder-to-shoulder at times! Some of the most bizarre variations of the human genome were encountered there. We saw a flock of penguins, several Oktoberfest girls, a gaggle of nuns, a cowboy riding an inflatable horse, Elvis, Hellraiser, two referees who threw their penalty flags every time someone dropped their glass, and more than a couple of, uhh, alternatively-clothed individuals! That's another funny characteristic of this fest; whenever someone dropped their sample glass (and it happened quite often), the entire crowd around that person would yell “WHHOOOOOO!!!” followed by “What an idiot!”. All in good fun.

I'm finding I'm surprisingly anxious to get back to my brewhouse and begin to further refine my recipes for next year's competition. Not sure which ones I'm going to work with but I'm pretty sure one of them will be the Slurry Bomber Stout. Can't let that one get away!

Until next time,

your humble brewer.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Fallin' into Fall

Moving into fall. Life and times in northwest Montana are definitely moving towards cooler days (and colder night), dropping leaves and playful winds.
In the brewery, Will and I are STILL moving like crazy cogs in an insane machine to meet production demands. Our Kalispell distributor, Flathead Beverage, are moving our beers like mad! They are saturating northwest Montana with Glacier Brewing six-packs and draft beers. This is almost surreal for me. My family and I lived in the Flathead Valley when we were first starting our brewery. So we became very familiar with the businesses in that area. To see our Golden Grizzly Ale on tap at Woody's at Highway 2 and 35 or available in six-packs at the Blacktail Grocery in Lakeside is a very, very funny and neat experience for me.
I took a few days to explore some other beers available in our region of the country (it's always good to see what other brewers are doing). My family and I went from Polson to Seattle to Birch Bay (Google it!). I sampled some unique, imaginative, bland, overrated, underrated, good beers. Whenever I sample other brewery's beers, I always mentally put them next to mine; how is the malt/hop balance, how does the carbonation level feel, is the advertised style there, how would I make this beer? These sort of trips are always good to re-stoke the creative fires. And, I will admit, after a manic summer in the brewhouse, I love to get the hell out of Dodge!!! Even for just a few days.
We're heading back today, I hope to encounter a few more local beers along the way. We'll see.

Our Wild Wolf Wheat is pouring at a healthy clip in the tasting room but we are almost out of it! What specialty beer would YOU like to see in the GBC Tasting Room? I have some ideas but I'd love to hear from our drinking public.

until next time,
I remain,
Your Humble Brewer

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Summertime, Summertime!

Yes, you are correct.
It has been awhile since my last post. Well, this summer has been a BUSY one in the Glacier Brewing brewhouse.
Allow me to bring you up to speed: We hired a new Production Assistant and have been training him on our procedures and processes, we hired a new distributor in Kalispell (Flathead Beverage) and released six-pack bottles to them, I formulated and am aging in used-whiskey barrels two nano-brews to be released later this year, and we're trying to stay up with our pre-summer demand as well! Whew! No mean feat for a two-man production team.
We've been brewing like mad, bottling like mad, and kegging like mad. All winter, I was maneuvering around pallet-stacks (sometimes three high) of 1/2 barrel kegs waiting to be filled and sent into the market. Now, as I survey our production area this morning, I long for those wonderful stacks of portable beer storage; we have but a handful of empty 1/2 barrel kegs now! They are all out! This is a great situation to be in for the business but it is a bit worrisome for the head brewer. "Where am I gonna put all this beer we have in tanks?"
Well, I have a few more 1/2 barrels coming in from a closed brewery in Virgina but it's not nearly enough. Kegs aside, our six-pack market has exploded, as we knew it would once we released our bottles to a distributor. Flathead Beverage out of Kalispell has been selling our Golden Grizzly Ale, Slurry Bomber Stout, Glacier Select Oktoberfest, Flathead Cherry Ale, and our Glacier Root Beer in six-packs like they're survival packs on Y2K!!! Keeping up with their orders has been a real challenge for me. Not only making the beers but finding the time and resources to put it into bottles. I'm working on upgrading our humble four-head Meheen bottler. It does a great job but we just need something with a larger through-put.
So, this summer has been a great market-growth for good ole' GBC. I have a feeling that the growth isn't over yet. We still have some strong pockets in western Montana we're gonna get our beers and sodas into. Thanks for all the support you've given us and forgive me if I look a little haggard!
Until next time,
Your humble brewer

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Where Do You End?

Weird question, I know......Where Do You End?

Okay, here's the backstory......
I completed our local Relay For Life this morning. If you don't know what that is, the Relay For Life is a nation-wide program to raise funds to discover a cure for cancer. This culminates in a 24-hour, walk-a-thon event! Our Relay For Life was held at the Polson High School Sports Complex. First off, this is one of the most amazing high school football fields in the ENTIRE country!!! The field itself is kept in great condition, the track is wide and wonderfully.......reboundy (if that's even a word). But the view, OH MAN! The view is unparallelled! Remarkable views of Flathead Lake, the Missions, Polson. WOW!

Also, I'd like to extend a huge KUDOS to our new Production Assistant, Will. He jumped in and helped us serve several hundred Glacier Brewing Root Beer floats! THANKS WILL!

But I digress. The Glacier Brewing Team finished the Relay at around 7:00am this morning (Happy Father's Day!). At this point, I had been walking almost a solid 24 hours. I had walked off the track only for bathroom breaks, food snacks, and to help pour the Root Beer floats. After all was said and done, I had walked 22 miles. I collected a colored paper clip for each lap walked (seems like a bit of an uneven trade!). During the depth of the night/early am, there were only a handful of us walkers still on the track. We formed a loose fraternity/sorority of die-hards, all with our own reasons and motivations.
My own were several-fold. First, my business partner, Bob, is a cancer survivor and he had done the "round-the-clock" walk several years before. I wanted to do the same to honor his fight. Second, technically we had to keep a team member on the track at all times. Third, I wanted to see if I could. Yea, I really wanted to know how long I could go, where did I end? It struck me early on in this walk that very rarely are we given the chance to learn where our limits are. At least in a positive way. This was that chance for me. I walked and walked and walked. It got dark and darker and rained and rained and windy. At one point, something kinda neat happened: on each successive lap, the sky got lighter and lighter! Dawn was coming! The end was getting closer! The cloudy, rain-soaked morning arrived! I thought it ended at 6:00am but then thought "Oh, it ends at 6:30. Okay, I can do one more half-hour".

It didn't end until a little after 7:00am! Elegant torture.

I finished it.
88 paper clips later.
22 miles later.
I finished it.

I think, I feel I could have gone a little more. Nor sure, but I think so.
I have a real good idea of where I end. I know what that feels like. At least, what it starts to feel like. I know how that looks. It's good to know where your edges are.

I'm grateful.

Until next time,
Your humble brewer.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Slippin' into summer!

I know, I know. I've been "neglecting" my Brewer's Blog lately. Before you pass too harsh of judgement on me, hear my excuse.......I've been busy. NO REALLY!!
In case you haven't heard, my intrepid Assistant Brewer, Jim, has left good ole' GBC so he can fully devote himself to his own business, ImageQuest. So I guess you can say I'm a victim of Jim's success; his business has grown to such an extent that he no longer can work at the brewery. I am sad to see Jim go as he is not just a solid, responsible worker, he was fun to work with.

So, I've been picking up my jobs and the jobs Jim would do, keeping me crazy-busy! But fear not, beer lovers! We have a gentleman arriving this coming week to step into the Production Assistant position. When you stop into the brewery to satisfy your craving for your favorite Glacier Beer, pop your head into the brewhouse and say "Hello" to the newest member of the Glacier Brewing family.
This coming Friday night, June 5, is "Ask The New Guy 20 Questions" night.

.......by the way, does anyone know of a place in Polson he can rent?

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Personal ethics.
We hear that term thrown around a lot. It's almost a buzzword, well, buzzphrase.
What about professional ethics?
I had a customer in our tasting room the other evening. It was just him and I and we began talking about the recent bill that passed to increase the amount of alcohol Montana breweries can produce and sell, HB400. This patron made his point that it was kind of silly to pass this since most breweries in Montana already product beers WELL in excess of 7% alcohol by weight (the current state limit). He even cited some examples into the double digits! I told him not all Montana breweries were thumbing their nose at the current law. He said to me "Name one that isn't currently making strong beer". I put my hand up. He pish-poshed me.

The examples this man gave were well known. I'm sure there are many readers out there that know of at least two breweries who have or are making beer in Montana stronger than 7%.
Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not coming from the "Carrie Nation" camp (google it!). I'd love to make beer for sale 14, 15, 21%! Push the boundaries of malt and yeast!
Yet the fact remains: these are the rules we agreed to play by when we started this brewery, just like every other Montana brewer. You don't like being restricted to 7%? Lobby to change it! You don't like having to stop serving pints at 8:00pm? Lobby to change it! Don't just ignore the law and the rules and do whatever the hell you feel like doing. I guess the point of this little tirade is that these brewers could ruin it for the rest of us. The fallout of these callous actions could have a very real impact on ALL the Montana brewers. This is a tough enough business and we're restricted enough.

your humble brewer

Monday, May 4, 2009

Golden Grizzly Ale wins again!

My fellow beer lovers, I am very proud to announce that our Golden Grizzly Ale has won the Best Light Hybrid category second year in a row at the annual Garden City Brewfest in Missoula this last Saturday! Thank you to all the people who turned out for this fun event and thank you for supporting YOUR local microbrewery!

your humble brewer

Saturday, April 18, 2009


Brewed batch number 500 yesterday!

Yup! Brew 500 is in the tank, fermenting (I hope) as I write this. I wanted to do something different with this one just because it is the arbitrarily significant number 500. So, bowing to sporadic public pressure, I concocted a very hoppy, American-style IPA! You read it here first! I know I've said in the past I'd never brew one of these, but I'm a push-over if harassed and badgered hundreds of times over a period of five years!
I really went overboard on this one. While I was crafting the recipe and researching the IPA style, I noticed that most "hoppy" IPAs had a bitterness "content" of around 40-60 IBU's (IBU stands for International Bittering Unit. This is a way to quantify how bitter a beer recipe will be. The higher the number, the higher the potential for a bitter, hoppy beer.). I then found some more "extreme" IPA beers that drove the IBUs into the high 60's and low 70's. Well, not wanting to be outdone and knowing how truly mad some of our local hop-heads are, I shot for the moon! This IPA (working title is Hoppy MoFo!) checks in with 80.6 IBUs! Triple-hopped! Extended boil! Alcohol around 6.9-7% by weight! I yelled and screamed at the wort as it boiled just to make sure I infused this sucker with plenty of attitude! This beer is scheduled to be racked (transfered into kegs) late next week or the next. I'll be tasting it as the fermentation progresses and will decide later if I need to dry hop it. Dry hopping is literally dropping more hops in through a hole at the top of the fermenter. This gives the finished beer more hop aroma. I did this on another very small batch of specialty beer I did in the past I called Stray Dog Ale. Whoo Hoo!
Oh yea, I'm still looking for a good name for this hoppy beer because Hoppy MoFo just might not cut it. So send me your name ideas to glacierg@centurytel.net.

In case you haven't heard, House Bill 400 (higher beer alcohol) passed and will go into effect October 1st. Huge thanks go out to Legislator Deborah Kottel (D) and Legislator John Brueggeman (R). If you run into either of these great Montanans, please shake their hand and thank them for carrying this bill through the houses so that it could be signed by our governor!

Until next time,
Your Humble Brewer

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Back In The Saddle Again......

(Waterspout offshore Flagler Beach (June 30, 1999). Courtesy of Flagler County Emer. Mgmt.)

Well, Howdy Hi all and warm Spring wishes to ya'!

That's all I can give is "warm wishes" because our Spring here in Polson is definitely NOT warm. We're still getting snow in the morning, the bird bath is still frozen, and I'm still grumbling about the weather. For those of you keeping score, I was gone this last week. Gone to western Florida, gone to the white sand beaches of Carillon Beach, gone to the beautiful Florida weather, gone to.....tornado warnings? flash flood warning? water spout warnings??!? Yup, had almost a solid week of extreme downpours! Got one solid day of sun, though. The funny dichotomy for me was that while all this rain was falling (almost a years worth in one week), I was in a drought of good craft beer. I was warned before I went down there that the pickins' would be slim, but whoa doggy! Couldn't find a brewery anywhere in that area. I'd be lying if I said it didn't get me to thinking; thinking about the potential of opening a small microbrewery in that area. True, real estate and rent prices are through the roof (1.6 million for a three bedroom "hotel room"), but still it seems that area is ripe for it. I dunno, maybe western Florida just doesn't have as sophisticated of a beer palate as Montana. We are so fortunate to have so many really good Montana-made beers and breweries. So, almost needless to say, it's good to be back!I did miss April Fools Day at the brewery, however. Bummer. I was gonna lock Jim inside one of the tanks in the brewhouse as an April Fools joke. Oh well, maybe next year. Speaking of fun in the brewery, we have a fun, new event coming up the 18th of this month. We'll be doing a Luau party at the brewery! We're gonna have games, fun, food, great brews and who knows what else. Wear your best beach wear, drag out your tropical shirts, put on your flip-flops, show off your farmer's tan! It'll be $5.00 at the door per person and this BENEFITS THE CHEMOTHERAPY DEPARTMENT AT ST. JOSEPH'S HOSPITAL.
So remember,the date is April 18th, a Saturday, from 2:00pm 'til 8:00pm. C'mon down and help us help the Chemo Department at the hospital.

Now, also apparently, while I was gone, Jim and Bill and Cynthia (the three tap-a-teers) exercised their independence by offering beer specials in the tasting room. If you missed out, well, you missed out. People responded pretty positively. The brewery faithful enjoyed the spontaneity of these three. Now, I've offered this before with little feedback from you, dear reader. I'll offer it again: If there is something you'd like to see in our little dog and pony show, shoot me an email, write it on a scrap of paper and leave it in the mail box, whisper in my ear in the tasting room, anything but TELL ME!!!! Keep in mind that this is actually a business so suggestions like "Give away free beer" probably won't get much traction (I'd like to continue feeding my kids!). But, beer specials, whacky events, special nights, game nights, trivia, whatever. Just let me know. Okay, end of rant.

Until next time,
your humble brewer

Monday, March 16, 2009


House Bill 400 is up for a hearing before it goes to the Senate. This hearing will take place this Thursday.

BUT, before that hearing, please take a moment to contact the legislators and let them know in YOUR own words that you support HB400.
  • This bill properly expands the portfolio of traditional craft beers that brewers can produce and retailers can carry
  • It provides for greater use of Montana agricultural products
  • It meets consumer demands and expands market access within and outside of Montana
  • It helps small Montana businesses grow
  • It provides access to craft beers that are generally available in all surrounding states, and in most states nationwide
  • It does not create greater access to alcohol for youths in that traditional craft beers are generally highly priced (often $10 or more), and are marketed to adult beer connoisseurs, much like fine wines are marketed."
You can get a hold of your legislators in a couple of ways; 1. Call the switchboard at 406-444-4800 to leave them a message and 2. go to http://leg.mt.gov/css/sessions/61st/legwebmessage.asp. and fill out the online form.

After the bill passes this hurdle it's onto the Senate, then the Gov, then STRONGER BEER FOR ALL (with valid ID)!

your humble brewer!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

New Outlet For Six-Packs!

For those of you who know us at the brewery, know two things: 1. We've been talking for a long time about putting our bottled beers into stores. And 2. we tend to take slow baby steps. Well, your patience has payed off. We now have three of our beers available in six-packs in the Polson Super 1 grocery store! What this means is that you, our loyal customer, are no longer tied to the, sometimes bizarre, fluctuations of our tasting room schedule. You will be able to get your mitts on three of our more popular beers whenever Super 1 is open. They are currently carrying our Flathead Cherry Ale, Golden Grizzly Ale, and Glacier Select Oktoberfest. It's kinda' surreal seeing our products sitting on a shelf next to Sierra Nevada and Blue Moon. How far we've come. Another outlet in Polson for our six-packs is the Polson Liquor Store where you can build your own six-pack! Two great Polson business now carrying our six-packs.

Before I forget, join us at the brewery this St. Patrick's Day from 4:00pm 'til 8:00pm to enjoy a gourmet dinner! Isabel's Bistro (another fantastic Polson business) will be catering this event. For $13.00 a plate you'll get a heaping portion of Isabel's famous corned beef, Irish soda bread with honey butter (drool!), sauteed cabbage, and roasted veggies! Space is limited so get your tickets early at the brewery.

Until next time,
I remain, your humble brewer

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Went to the Capital....

I spent this past President's Day weekend with my family, touring around our great state's Capital. This is something I deeply recommend for anyone in Montana, regardless of your political affiliation. This gave my wife and I a wonderful opportunity to show our kids, first hand, how and where the state's laws are crafted. I wanted them to come away with the understanding that making laws, like making beer and root beer, isn't an automatic thing. It takes effort, time, resources, and it takes a passionate person behind it; a maniac-on-a-mission!
We got the opportunity to sit in on a meeting of the Senate, bask in the regimental meeting structure, and hear opening debate on a bill; this one was about repealing the death penalty. While the meat of the debate was very deep and serious, the process was truly amazing to witness. The speed at which these bill votes were made was dizzying. Compton rappers have got nothing on the people running these meetings!
My interest in our state's law-making process is, admittedly, selfish in origin. I have been following the evolution of HB 400, increasing the legal amount of alcohol in Montana-made beer. I listened to the sponsor "make her case" before the House of Representatives, I heard the bill's opponents make (what I thought) were unrelated and arbitrary arguments, I got to see some humor and humanity from other House members. Truly fascinating. This bill is headed for the Senate, hopefully it'll receive positive votes there as well.

Anytime I go to Helena, I have to make a stop and pay homage at the historical Kessler Brewery (now a food distribution company). This brewery is located in west Helena and, directly adjacent to the brewery, is the Kessler family home. Unfortunately, this wonderful landmark is in very bad shape having had numerous episodes of vandalism and a fire on the top floor. Nonetheless, it is truly a thing of beauty. There is a big part of me that wants to buy this tarnished building, dump in my life's savings ($23.42) and refurbished it to it's original grandeur. I could see myself and my family living very happily in Helena. Only problem is that Helena-to-Polson commute would be a killer!
Not many are aware of the fact that Nicolas Kessler also ran a very successful brick factory. The Kessler bricks are present throughout Helena, I found quite a few in the pavement of the walking mall of downtown Helena, Last Chance Gulch. These bricks are quite large by today's standards. They are also blond in color and have a neat cross-hatch pattern on them. If you're quite lucky, you might find a smaller, red brick with the initials "N.K." in raised relief on the face. Literally a piece of history in your hand!
Helena, city of many faces and times. It's always good to get out of Dodge for a day or two, gets my creative juices going.
Until next time,
your humble brewer

Friday, February 13, 2009


The higher-alcohol beer bill cleared another hurdle today: passing it's third reading before the House with a vote of 80-20.

Is anybody else singing to themselves "oh I'm just a bill and I'm sitting here on Capital Hill...."?

Thursday, February 12, 2009

HB 400 Passes Second Reading!!!

Just moments ago, beer lover, Montana House Bill 400 passed (83-17) it's second reading before the Montana Legislature!
HB 400 is schedule for it's THIRD reading tomorrow, February 13.



House Bill 400

Well, blogites. Montana House Bill 400 is waiting in the wings at the State Legislature. I've been listening to and watching our legislators hear testimony all morning about workman's comp laws, firefighter hire age requirements, interesting bickering and some lame attempts at humor (mostly mine). The higher alcohol bill, HB 400, passed out of committee on February 10 with 14 votes for it and four against. So far, it's looking fairly strong. I'm not certain how many Montana brews overall will take full advantage of this law change but I do know that probably every brewery in Montana, including good ole' GBC, will make at least one brew that will reach the new alcohol limit. These brews would cost more to make therefore they will cost more to buy, but well worth it, methinks.

It's been exciting for me to watch the counter continue to climb on our new Point Of Sales download page (click here). I do wonder who is going there: is it curious consumers, salesman downloading imagery to give to accounts (I HOPE!), or what?

Well, we have a new specialty beer on tap in the tasting room; our Dunkel Hefeweizen is back! You remember this fantastic beer from last year and the year before that. Funny how I'm seeing other Montana breweries brewing these oddball styles only after we've been doing them for awhile. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then thank you. This wheat beer is dark in color, unfiltered, and made with a wonderful hefeweizen yeast we have imported from Germany. My source tells me this particular strain of yeast has been keep alive since the 1600's! Good stuff. Get in here before it gone!

I'll keep you update on HB 400.

Until next time,
your humble brewer

Monday, February 2, 2009

Montana Beer Law Evolution.....

By now you may have heard about the latest effort to evolve the Montana brewery laws. There is a movement underway to change the state's definition of beer, House Bill 400 (click here to read it).

According to Montana Code 16-1-106, (5) "'Beer' means a malt beverage containing not more than 7% of alcohol by weight." The bill is attempting to redefine beer as a malt beverage containing not more than 14% alcohol by volume, this translates to 11.05% alcohol by weight. Now to fully understand this, understand that there are two scales to measure alcohol in beer: alcohol by weight and alcohol by volume. The state limit of 7% alcohol by weight translates to 8.869% alcohol by volume. Potatoes, Potahtoes. Same amount of alcohol in both readings.

There are very few states in our fine country that have such restrictive language on their books regarding how much alcohol can be present in beer. Unfortunately, Montana is one of those states. There is a true desire from the purchasing public to have the legal opportunity to sample and purchase Montana-Made beers that, by their vary style designation, contain alcohol greater than 7% by weight. Brewer's across the state, also, have a deep desire to produce these rarefied brews. But make no mistake, these high-gravity beer styles are not about "getting drunker, quicker". There are plenty of products on the market already to fill that post-adolescent niche. These style are to be savored, enjoyed slowly. Most require they achieve room temperature to release all of their aromatic qualities.

This "7%" law was put on the books several decades ago and seven percent is said to have been a fairly arbitrary limit. There does not seem to be much resistance to this alteration from any one group. That, in and of itself, is a rarity whenever you talk about changing any alcohol law or rule in Montana. The brewer's are for it, MADD (Mother's Against Drunk Driving) states they have no problem with the bill ("As long as the packaging notes that the person is getting in effect, two standard drinks". Missoulian, Sunday Feb 1, 2009). Even the Montana Tavern Association seems to not oppose it, but they don't support it either.

Gold-Medal winning If, in fact, this does go through and becomes law, it will give me a chance to brew some of these recipes I have in my recipe book that I haven't done in quite awhile. Including my GABF,Maibock! Oh Baby! Or maybe a doppelbock or Eisenbock or even a Barley Wine!! These types of beer would be a very special brew, one we wouldn't be producing very often, or in very large quantities primarily because of the costs involved. But it would be refreshing to have the opportunity to produce them and be able to compete on a level playing field against the out-of-state breweries that can make these beers.

As always with these types of things, CALL YOUR REPRESENTATIVE AND ASK THEM TO SUPPORT HB400!
Let's evolve our brewery laws.

Until next time,
Your Humble Brewer

Friday, January 16, 2009

New stuff!!!

Okay everyone. I have a couple of items I'd like to bring to your collective attention:
  1. We now have a new page on our website that allows our retail accounts to create point of sales items themselves! No longer are you a slave to the periodic whims of the brewery!! Go to http://www.glacierbrewing.com/POS to see for yourselves.
  2. Tim at the Grizzly Growler blog put up a really nice video of Glacier Brewing on his blogsite: http://grizzlygrowler.com/?p=510. I recommend you bookmark the Grizzly Growler and check it often. Good Montana beer news source.
There is some rumbling in the Montana beer world about some efforts to change/amend the current brewery laws. One I know about is based on the failed attempt by the Department of Revenue to change a rule about having a pint in your hand at the stroke of 8:00pm in a tasting room. As you remember, that got shot down (thanks again!). We know the new one is to keep no more on-premise sale after 8:00pm, but at 10:00pm, your (by now-warm) pint of beer IS removed from your meaty grasp. So the state wants to set it in the books that you have two hours to finish you last pint.

While we're at it, how about raising the alcohol limit breweries in Montana can enjoy. Currently, we are NOT ALLOWED to produce any beer that is stronger than 7% of alcohol by weight. It's even illegal for breweries to have even one bottle of stronger beer on premise, never mind selling it. There are many beer styles that, by their nature, are meant to be stronger in alcohol than 7%: Maibocks 8-10%, Barleywines 10-13%, Dubbels, Trippels, etc! All wonderful styles but we're not allowed to make 'em in the Treasure State. Are there some breweries making stronger beers? Probably. Are there stores selling stronger beers? Yup. Are there distributors handling stronger beers? Where do the stores get 'em from? I've always felt that this is one of the laws that need to be enforced or removed from the books. Preferably, removed from the books.
Well, that's my two cents.
Until next time, I remain, your humble brewer.


Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Happy (FRIGGIN'!) New Year!

This has been a Hell of a start to our New Year.
New Years Eve day:
Got a phone call from my wife:
"Hate to do this to ya' on the last day of the year but our downstairs just flooded."


Yup, outside temps in the teens, our downstairs of our split-level house (read: our bedroom!) flooded. "From what?" you may ask.


Luckily, we only received graywater, no blackwater (read: POOP!).
We ripped out the carpet, carpet pad, drywall gone four feet up, and have had dehumidifiers and hepafilters running 24 hours a day. Happy friggin' new years.......
So that's what we've been dealing with. Luckily, we own a brewery!
Jim and I have been working on various techniques to stay warm in the brewhouse during the "cold season". We wear warm hats during the work day, we fill the sanitizing buckets with warm water, we put our pints of beer in the microwave! Cold mutha! Not much fun. But we keep at it. Why? you may ask. Well, we do it for you! Yes, you! We keep the beer flowing for our loving public! (you DO love us? Right?)

Our special yeast is on the way. The special "dunkel hefeweizen" yeast. This particular strain of yeast has been imported from Germany and has been kept alive since the 1600's! Believe it.....or not!
Please stop into the tasting room during this winter. We have several specials going: Monday is growler specials, Tuesday is pint specials, Wednesday is six-pack specials, Thursday is pint and "keep da' glass" specials, and Friday is just SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL BREWERY for beer's sake!!!

Until next time,
your humble brewer.....