After a day spent exploring the snow-blanketed outdoors of Northwest Montana — skiing at Whitefish Mountain Resort or Blacktail Mountain, snowshoeing or cross-country skiing in Glacier National Park or snowmobiling in the backcountry — the warmth of the indoors calls — along with the thirst for a favorite beverage and the company of new and old friends. In the small city of Kalispell in the middle of all that Rocky Mountain adventure, you’ll find an après experience that harkens memories of a ski trip to Europe or Colorado, but with decidedly authentic Montana charm that is quite possibly more welcoming than any other place you’ve ever been.
Kalispell Brewing Company
Thanks to Cole Schneider and Maggie Doherty, husband and wife business partners and former professional telemark skiers, you don’t need to fly across the Atlantic to enjoy the combination of good skiing and good beer. After you sip Kalispell Brewing’s Two Ski Brewskis Pils, Snowslip Stout or Rope Tow Pale Ale fresh out of the tap, you’ll Prost to the best day in the snow and to Cole and Maggie who have brought German-style craft beer to downtown Kalispell. After skiing the European race circuit and falling in love with each other and with classic German beer, they started brewing in the German decoction tradition and created their own après-ski scene. Like in the Bierstubes of Europe, today in the historic Hendrickson Motor Company building Maggie and Cole renovated to create Kalispell Brewing, locals and newcomers gather with beer in hand reminiscing stories of the day.
If you’re looking for a classic Western scene, swing open the doors and step into Moose’s Saloon. Its carved timbers, sawdust-covered floors and low-lit atmosphere will take you back to Montana’s Wild West days. Although opened after those early days of cowboys and vigilantes, Moose’s has been a Kalispell mainstay for six decades. Serving 24 beers on tap plus wine, the saloon is surprisingly family friendly in the early evening hours. Boasting the best pizza in Kalispell and peanut-shell-casual atmosphere, the whole family can enjoy a stop at Moose’s after a day sledding or skiing. Later the atmosphere promises to liven up; this is the place Evel Knievel frequented when in Northwest Montana.
Glacier Distilling Company
Leaving Glacier National Park and a winter day spent soaking up one of the most beautiful winter landscapes you ever imagined, stop by Glacier Distilling in Coram. Its bright red Whiskey Barn is only seven miles from West Glacier and a welcome spot to reflect on the day’s discoveries. An intimate bar at its entrance offers tastings of the distillery’s small-batch whiskeys, brandies, vodka and gin — or request a cocktail — and then step back into the warmth of the barn where it’s all crafted. If you get stuck in a snowstorm here, no worries. The owners will understand if you have to hunker down. After all, it was during a snowstorm that a group of friends conceived the idea to open the distillery — drawing inspiration from Josephine Doody, a moonshiner who operated from her homestead in Glacier National Park during the early 1900s.
If you’ve worked up a real appetite up on a nearby mountain, then hit Kalispell’s DeSoto Grill back in town. Its barbecue is hailed the best in the region, and the appetizer creations — like smokehouse nachos (with your choice of brisket, pulled pork or chicken), sweet chili smoked salmon (marinated overnight and then smoked) or an elk sausage platter — and a pint really satisfy those post-ski or snowmobile cravings. The atmosphere is authentically Montana rustic. In the former blacksmith shop in downtown Kalispell, known as The Forge, Shawnna and Willie Steele returned to Montana after a 17-year stay in Oregon to open DeSoto. Today they proudly honor their Montana roots and source their meat and other ingredients locally.
Kalispell’s sole Irish pub is no exception for offering spirited après amusements. Serving Guinness, of course, along with draught ales and seasonal local brews, Brannigan’s Pub also features a full bar of liquor and wine under a back bar adorned with striking stained glass. Every Wednesday there’s live music in the house, and for dinner you don’t have to move on. Brannigan’s offers a full menu of authentic Irish cuisine from appetizers to dinners of pub steak, shepherd’s pie and bangers and mash. The spirit of the Irish will no doubt fill you and warm you up to enjoy another wonderfully wintery day outside in Northwest Montana.