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