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Angry Hanks Brewing

A Method to His Madness

From newwest.net, 6-23-08 of published article, Microbrew Montana: Angry Hanks Brewing: A Method to His Madness, Bill Schneider. This article is presented in agreement with Newwest.net. All rights reserved, Copyright (© 2008)

Angry Hanks Brewing owner, Tim Mohr
Tim Mohr, founder, owner and head brewer at Angry Hanks Brewing

When you meet the owner of Angry Hanks Brewing, you can quickly see that he isn't angry. In fact, he isn't even Hank. He's happy, and he's Tim.

As in Tim Mohr, founder, owner and head brewer at Angry Hanks Brewing of Billings. And I'm probably about the thousandth guy to ask him why he calls it Angry Hanks.

The mysterious Hank, the story goes, was a friend of the family, and he was always angry, it seems, especially when he wasn't drinking MGD. On that particular day, Mohr and his family were struggling to decide what to call their new business. As usual, Hank was upset, so somebody said, "Don't be angry Hank." A light went on, and somebody said, "That's it. Angry Hanks."

The name stuck, and not only turned into the type of brand people really remember, but also became the best possible use for an abandoned gas station. "That name has really worked for us," Mohr said with a smile.

Angry Hanks is part of the de facto "Brewery District" in downtown Billings, where four breweries (Angry Hanks, Carter's, Montana and Yellowstone Valley) thrive within four blocks of each other, making it convenient to stay at a downtown hotel and do a microbrew tasting tour on foot. Nobody knows why all the breweries located in such close proximity, but it certainly is serendipitous for craft brew fans.

Mohr worked as head brewer at Red Lodge Ales for five years before moving to Billings and opening his own brewery with used equipment outgrown by his former employer.

What's different about Angry Hanks? Not much, according to the owner. "We don't do anything different," Mohr insisted. "We're just like every other taproom."

But based on what I've seen while visiting every brewery in Montana, I'd say a bit more crowded than most.

On the wall of his taproom, there's a sign saying "Angry Hanks Social Club: Where the Neighborhood's Finest Hang Out." You could hang up a similar sign in most Montana taprooms, which have begun to fill the niche of European-style neighborhood pubs.

I met Mohr and had my nickel tour about 3 pm and soon could see he had something special going. Long before he opened the doors at 4 pm, people were lined up outside waiting to be among the first to get in. Groups sent somebody in advance to hold a table for the rest of the party.

One difference is, unlike most other Montana breweries, Angry Hanks sells about 90 percent of the beer it makes right on site in its incredibly popular taproom with the rest going to a few local draft accounts. Mohr also does only kegs--no time or space or unsold beer for bottling.

"All the beer we make sells right here in the taproom," he said. "Fortunately, the Billings market is big enough so we can pull it off. We don't do any promotion or advertising, and we still sell everything we make."

Mohr charges $3 for a pint, less than many taprooms, to compete with happy hour specials occurring at the same time of day at taverns around downtown, which might also contribute to his success. "Essentially," he said, "it's always happy hour at Angry Hanks."

Angry Hanks Taproom
Angry Hank's taproom,the best
possible use for an old gas station.

But growth is stretching his supply, so Mohr is currently in the process of expanding production capability, just to keep his taproom customers happy. He's also thinking about getting a bigger place, partially because he's also starting to attract a lot of tourists, commonly sent to him by nearby downtown hotels. He might even start opening at 3 pm and on Sunday when he's convinced he has enough beer to keep his customers from drinking him dry.

He would also like to see the Montana law changed to allow him to sell beer after 8 pm, especially in summer when there are a plethora of downtown events. "We have to shut down about the time the events start up."

When you check out the list of beers on the taproom's board, you quickly see that "angriness" extends into the name game. Not a pleasant sounding bunch, especially his bestseller and signature beer, Anger Management Belgian Wheat, followed closely in sales by Head Trauma IPA. "Once they move up to the IPA, they never go back," Mohr noted.

He refers to the so-called "brewmaster effect" where craft beer drinkers often start out with the lighter "conversion beers" like pilsners, blondes and whites and gradually move up to the more hoppy beers with IPAs usually the strongest and hoppiest of the bunch.

So, in conclusion, if you can't quite get all this angriness, don't fret because Mohr assures us that "there is a method to our madness."

-Bill Schneider

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