Drink in the Scenery: Breweries, Wineries & Distilleries.
After a day of playing in the Flathead Valley or Glacier National Park, there is no better way to relax and recap the day’s adventure than a stop at a local brewery, distillery or winery. Have your pick of local potables — Northwest Montana has become a veritable oasis of the craft and small-batch beverage industry.
There are so many options to try that you may not want to relegate your taste testing to evening hours. Designate a driver and make a day of sampling small-batch porters and pilsners, rieslings and ryes found in tasting rooms across the Flathead Valley.
Whatever your preferred beverage, the vibrant city of Kalispell serves as an ideal jumping-off point for a tasting tour of the region.
On the corner of Fourth and Main streets in a renovated, 10,000-square-foot space behind massive glass windows, professional skiers Cole Schneider and Maggie Doherty, his wife, own and operate Kalispell’s first modern craft brewery. The two-story Kalispell Brewing Company tasting room features live music and other events, plus five to seven beers on tap, each served in a style-specific glass. The brewery even offers free beer on Wednesdays. Yep, you read that right.
Since 1995, Great Northern Brewing Company in Whitefish has been known regionally for its flagship beer, Black Star, a double-hopped golden lager. But visitors to the brewery also know it is home to an array of unusual seasonal offerings including bourbon barrel-aged porter and huckleberry wheat.
Local favorite Flathead Lake Brewing Co. recently expanded its presence in the valley with the opening of its Bigfork Pubhouse on the north shore of Flathead Lake. Overlooking the sprawling lake, the pub offers 16 beers on tap and wines from around the country plus a cocktail menu using FLBC beer and fresh ingredients. To taste its full slate of craft beers, you can also stop in at the original brewery site on the east shore of the lake in Wood’s Bay. Dark-beer lovers must try the 369’ Stout, a World Beer Cup winner.
On the opposite side of Flathead Lake, in the small town of Lakeside, the Tamarack Brewing Company Alehouse & Grill is hard to miss. With its eye-catching modern design and long list of beers (including everything from traditional IPAs to an apricot ale), the Tamarack is a buzzing hub of activity year-round.
Located almost at the doorstep of Glacier National Park, Glacier Distilling Company in Coram specializes in small-batch whiskeys that reflect the rugged beauty of the surroundings. Using local grains and pure glacial water from the Northern Rockies, the distillery produces traditional as well as specialty spirits such as a peach-infused rye whiskey.
Even if Bigfork’s Whistling Andy Distillery hadn’t won the 2011 platinum award at the Spirits International Prestige Awards, you’d probably still be tempted by its unusual specialty: a hibiscus coconut rum. That and other flavors can be savored at the downtown tasting room.
If wine floats your boat, then tack your sail for the west side of Flathead Lake, where you can dock — literally — at the door of Mission Mountain Winery in Dayton. Montana’s first bonded winery, Mission Mountain is known widely for its award-winning riesling, chardonnay, cabernet sauvignon and other varietals.
Located on the western border of Glacier National Park, Flathead Lake Winery is a family-owned craft winery that specializes in small-batch wines made entirely from Montana-grown fruit including Flathead cherries, apples, huckleberries and chokecherries.
Download the Wineries-Breweries-Distilleries Map (PDF)