Friday, November 19, 2010

Happiest Hour: Tamarack Brewing

Posted By on Fri, Nov 19, 2010 at 4:30 PM


We do it every week around this time, a little jump-start toward the weekend and nod to our local watering holes. This week, as everyone waits for Flathead Lake Brewing Company to open its new Missoula taproom, Happiest Hour focuses on another Flathead-area brewer expanding down south: Tamarack Brewing Company.

It also happens to be our second Tempe-to-Missoula story in three days, which is strange. Anyway, without further ado ...

Tamarack Brewing Company

Atmosphere: Absolutely gorgeous barroom in Lakeside with vaulted ceiling, fireplace, outdoor patio during the spring and summer, and a small loft seating area with views of the water. The restaurant—technically called Tamarack Alehouse and Grill—serves a full menu for lunch and dinner of better-than-bar-food fare. Brewmaster Craig Koontz works next door—technically called Tamarack Brewing—crafting a bevy of different beers. The two addresses are hardly separated, but allow the complex to sidestep Montana’s moronic brewpub laws.

What’s with the Four Peaks sign: Next to the front door a green sign points out that it’s 1,296 miles to Four Peaks Brewing Co. in Tempe, Ariz, another gorgeous establishment housed in an old red-brick creamery. Koontz worked as the assistant brewer for that popular brewery for years before helping to launch the family-owned Lakeside operation in October 2007.

What you’re drinking: This time of year, the Great Pumpkin Brown. But you have plenty of options—so many, in fact, that when you order the sampler ($8) it comes with two or three additional glasses that don’t fit on the tray. On tap now: Wakeboard Wit, Hat Trick Hop IPA, Yard Sale Amber Ale, Dock Days Hefeweizen, Switchback Stout, Lakeside ESP, Bear Bottom Blonde Kolsch, Dr. Tom’s Pils, Tree Top Boch and that Pumpkin Brown. Every February, Koontz unveils the brewery’s famous Old ’Stache Whiskey Barrel Porter. “It’s in the oak barrels right now,” he says.

What you’re eating: I’m partial to the chicken or sirloin brew-bread sandwiches ($9.25), but again you have plenty of options: Brew Kettle Ribs ($14.95, half), pizzas baked with ale-infused dough ($12.95 and up), Garlic Bleu Cheese Fries ($7.25) and Switchback Stout BBQ Wings ($9.95), among many others.

Where to find it now: In Lakeside, just off the western shore of Flathead Lake, at 105 Blacktail Road. It’s about 90 minutes north of Missoula, just off Hwy. 93.

Where you’ll soon find it: Tamarack is opening another alehouse on Front Street in Missoula in early 2011. All the brewing will stay in Lakeside, but the full menu and beer selection—including taps from other local craft breweries—will be offered. “If Missoula loves it, we have the capacity to expand [and brew there], too” says Koontz.

Happiest Hour celebrates western Montana watering holes. To recommend a bar, bartender or beverage for Happiest Hour, e-mail

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