Missoula Brewery Trail
Starting and ending in Missoula, 8 breweries, 2 days.
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Missoula is Montana's BeerTown. It has four breweries, Bayern, Big Sky, Draught Works and KettleHouse Brewing, which has two locations, plus satellite locations for two Flathead-area breweries, Flathead Lake and Tamarack. plus two nearby breweries in the Bitterroot Valley--Blacksmith in Stevensville and Bitter Root in Hamilton. That's obviously too much enjoyment for one day, so you'll need at least two days to taste it all.
Starting at KettleHouse's Myrtle Street taproom and production facility, the oldest and smallest of the bunch. KettleHouse is hard to find, but that doesn't keep it from being almost always packed with craft beer fans. Find it by turning west off S. Higgins Avenue, going one block to Myrtle Street. This is what you could describe as a classic, start-up tasting room and microbrewery. As you complete this two-day tour, you'll see how times have changed for BeerTown breweries.
From here, go west three blocks and turn right on Orange Street and cross the Orange Street Bridge. Take the first right after the bridge, onto Front Street, a one-way street. Tamarack Brewing's Missoula brewpub is on your right about a block after turning on Front Street.
From Tamarack, get back on Orange Street and go north until you see Alder Street. Turn left (west) here and go three blocks until it merges with Toole Avenue. Draught Works, Montana's newest brewery, is on your left, a half-block after the merger.
From Draught Works, get back on Toole Avenue and head east for about four blocks until you turn left (north) on Orange Street. You immediately go under an underpass, and after you come out of the underpass, take the first right turn (east) on N. 2nd. St. West, a one-way street. Go two blocks and turn right again on Ryman Street for one block, then one more right and watch for KettleHouse's Northside location on your left. This is KettleHouse's spiffy new taproom and expanded production facility, opened in 2010.
From KettleHouse North, as it's called, get back on Orange Street, back under the underpass and take a left two blocks later on W. Pine Street. Go three blocks to Higgins, take a right and watch for Flathead Lake Brewing's Missoula brewpub a half-block later on your left.
That's five taprooms, so call it a day, have a nice meal and rest up for Day Two.
In the morning, you'll have a few hours before hitting your first brewery. You might want spend it wisely by visiting a couple terrific visitor centers, both on Reserve Street. Just to the north, under the I-90 underpass, you'll find the Elk Country Visitor Center and the headquarters of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, and if you want to catch up on the history and culture of smoke jumping, jump back on Reserve Street and go south for about three miles until you see the Smokejumpers Visitor Center.
From either visitor center, find Reserve Street and follow it south to U.S. 93 and turn right (south) and head for Hamilton. After a 45-minute drive you can grab a nice lunch at the Brewer's Grill, which is in the same building as Bitter Root Brewing, located at the intersection with the East Highway (also called Marcus Street).
After lunch and a sample of Bitter Root's "Last Best Brew," take the scenic route on East Highway (State Highway 269) back to Stevensville (about 18 miles), where you'll find one of Montana's newest breweries, Blacksmith Brewing, on the main street of Montana's oldest community and open at 3 pm. You might end up with some extra time in Stevensville, but you can make good use of it by visiting St. Mary's Mission, built in 1841 and with the distinction of being the place "where Montana began," and Fort Owen State Park on the other side of town.
Eric Hayes, Pamela Kaye
and Mike Howard
From Stevensville, head back into Missoula on U.S. 93 continuing on it after it turns to Brooks Avenue and then turn left (north) on North Russell Street. Stay on Russell until you see Montana Avenue where you turn left and see Bayern Brewing on your left a block later. If you cross the bridge over the Clark Fork River, you just missed it, so turn around.
After enjoying Bayern's recently expanded facility, get back on North Russell, turn left (north) until you hit West Broadway. Turn left (northwest) here and follow West Broadway to Reserve and then onto I-90 West. In about two miles, you'll see the Airport exit. Take it and go under the freeway on Airway Boulevard. Then, take the first right (west), one block after going under the freeway, on West Harrier, go one long block and you'll see Big Sky Brewing on your left, on Trumpeter Way. This is a huge facility compared to any other brewery in Montana and definitely way over the concept of "microbrew." Ask for a free tour and you'll know why.
After getting a few free samples at Big Sky Brewing (they can't sell pints there, but you can get a grower filled), take a deep breath. You've finally finished the Missoula Brewery Trail in a long two days, a feat worth bragging about. Head for one of Missoula's many fine dining establishments to celebrate.
Missoula Brewery Walking Tour: You can start at any location, of course, but when I did this walking tour I decided to begin at the KettleHouse's Myrtle Street location. From here, go one block east to Higgins Street. Take a left here and walk over the pedestrian walkway to Front Street, the first street after the bridge. Go left here, and in about two blocks, you'll see Tamarack Brewing's Missoula brewpub on your left.
From Tamarack, keep going west on Front Street to Orange Street. Turn right (north) on Orange Street and go four blocks to Alder Street. Take a left (west) here and go three blocks until Alder merges with Toole Avenue. Draught Works, one of Montana's newwest breweries (opened in 2011), is a half block later on your left.
From Draught Works, walk east on Toole Avenue for two blocks until it junctures with Owens Street and becomes Railroad Street. At this intersection, you'll see a pedestrian overpass on your left going over the railroad tracks. Go over the overpass to North 1st St. West. KettleHouse North is a half-block down 1st Street on your right.
After leaving KettleHouse North, go back over the pedestrian overpass and take a left (east) on Railroad Street. Walk four blocks down Railroad Street and turn right (south) on Higgins St. Go two and a half blocks until you see Flathead Lake Brewing's brewpub on your left.
From here, continue down Higgins for four blocks and one block after crossing the Higgins Street Bridge, take a right on S. 4th St. W and go one block to KettleHouse's Myrtle Street location where your started your walking tour.
Options: If you still haven't had enough, you can check out Glacier Brewing in Polson, 70 miles northwest of Missoula.
Your safety is important to us. Please drink responsibly. If you are drinking alcholol, please be certain to include a designated sober driver; do not drink and drive. It is against the law to drive or be in actual physical control of a motor vehicle when blood alcohol content level is at .08% or more.