Friday, December 30, 2011

Happiest Hour: Higherground Brewing Company

Posted By on Fri, Dec 30, 2011 at 3:36 PM

When it's raining in the valley, head for Higherground.

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New brew: Montana’s newest microbrewery, Higherground Brewing Company, in Hamilton, opened Dec. 19. After two weeks, brewery co-owners Jasper Miller and Fenn Nelson say they can barely keep up with Bitterrooters’ thirst for local beer. “We just unlocked the doors and they flooded in,” Miller says.

Claim to fame: Miller and Nelson, lifelong friends who grew up in Hamilton and graduated from the University of Montana in 2010, are both 24, making them the youngest brewers in the state, and, they figure, among the youngest in the country.

What you’re drinking: The chalkboard above the bar lists an IPA, Irish red, stout, scotch ale, Belgian white, hefeweizen and a crystal ale. You opt for the crystal ale, a light, refreshing beer that’s been the most popular so far, Miller says. “A lot of other breweries over-flavor you, and I wanted something neutral in flavor and still drinkable.” Plus, it goes great with…

What you’re eating: Simple, tasty wood-fired pizza. The kitchen also serves soups and salads.

Where to find it: 518 North First Street in Hamilton, about an hour south of Missoula. Open 11-8 Tuesday through Saturday; 11-6 on Sunday.

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

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Best of the Indy Blog 2011: the year's most popular post

Posted By on Fri, Dec 30, 2011 at 2:30 PM

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All week we've looked back at the most popular Indy Blog posts from 2011.

Now, at long last, after days of waiting, after wading through stories about beer, politics, natural events, celebrity and marijuana and other stuff, we're unveiling the single entry that generated the most traffic.

"Wolf hunt prompts boycott of Montana," posted Sept. 1, mentioned a grassroots campaign calling for people to avoid visiting Montana and buying Montana products in protest of the state's wolf hunt. It linked to an Eugene Weekly story. The entire post was 154 words.

It was shared more than 800 times on Facebook and scored our highest blog traffic of the year.

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Best of the Indy Blog 2011: photos

Posted By on Fri, Dec 30, 2011 at 9:30 AM

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All week we're looking back at the most popular Indy Blog posts from 2011.

Next up: photos

The Indy Blog allows for our shooters to share more images than what we can print in a the weekly paper. Okay, maybe this week's cover story is a bad example, but it's at least the case during most weeks.

Blog readers especially liked two photo posts this year: a photo essay by Anne Medley featuring the Hellgate Rollergirls in the Adams Center (March 30) and a startling stand-alone shot by Chad Harder (Sept. 13).

The latter, shown here, ended up on a future cover of the printed paper with the headline "It's Your Griz Package: Run With It."

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Best of the Indy Blog 2011: tragedy

Posted By on Fri, Dec 30, 2011 at 8:30 AM

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All week we're looking back at the most popular Indy Blog posts from 2011.

Next up: tragedy.

Three particular posts this year resonated with readers because they delivered hard news about difficult topics.

Alex Sakariassen wrote July 18 about an oil spill on the Blackfeet Reservation that initially went unreported. It occurred around the same time a larger ExxonMobil pipeline ruptured in the state.

In March, Alex interviewed Brian McGrath, a Missoula native who experienced the record-breaking 9.0-magnitude earthquake that devastated Japan. "My village only has a population of about 5,000, so it is really inspirational for me to witness even the smaller communities offering their help," said McGrath, who's teaching English. "My respect for the Japanese people has grown deeply since the disaster."

Finally, Elouise Cobell, the Blackfeet woman who fought for more than a decade to win a $3.4 billion settlement for American Indians robbed of their Individual Indian Money trust accounts, died on Oct. 16. The following day we linked to Alex's 2010 feature interview with Cobell. The post was shared through social media sites more than 400 times.

Photo by Cathrine L. Walters

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Thursday, December 29, 2011

Best of the Indy Blog 2011: celebrity

Posted By on Thu, Dec 29, 2011 at 3:00 PM

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All week we're looking back at the most popular Indy Blog posts from 2011.

Next up: celebrity.

Posts about famous people get folks to click, and Montana certainly attracts its fair share of famous people. Some of the more popular stories this year:

- Dennis Quaid puts his Paradise Valley ranch up for sale. (Oct. 14)

- A former Griz gets engaged to a reality TV "star" (Nov. 3)

- The cast of Cowboys & Aliens hangs out at Paws Up. (July 15)

- The connection between Kevin James' The Zookeeper and Montana (July 7)

- David Lynch speaks at UM (March 2).

And the most popular celebrity blog post of the year ... video (since removed) of David Letterman interviewing a heroic horse and wrangler who prevented a grizzly attack near Glacier. (Oct. 12)

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Best of the Indy Blog 2011: beer

Posted By on Thu, Dec 29, 2011 at 11:30 AM

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All week we're looking back at the most popular Indy Blog posts from 2011.

Next up: beer.

Our weekly Happiest Hour column (posted every Friday afternoon) means beer gets plenty of coverage on the Indy Blog. The two most popular Happiest Hour-related items were Alex Sakariassen's Nov. 18 write-up about Groomer, Bayern's organic dark wintermarzen, and Jessica Mayrer's Oct. 7 stop at the newly opened Draught Works.

But the biggest beer post of the year had more to do with local pride than a five o'clock fix. Kettlehouse earns a bronze at the Great American Beer Festival garnered the highest traffic.

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Snowbowl lift loses a chair (UPDATE)

Posted By on Thu, Dec 29, 2011 at 9:30 AM

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A reader tipped us to a recent hour-plus delay at Montana Snowbowl that involved a lift losing one of its chairs. No injuries were reported.

Ronnie Morris at Snowbowl describes the incident as "a loading mishap." She says a skier had knocked down fencing surrounding the LaVelle Creek Chair and when an attendant went to clean up the debris, the chair collided with the attendant and detached.

"The way these chairs are designed, if they run into something with force, they come off," Morris says.

Morris says the delay lasted one hour and 45 minutes, and passengers on the lift had to be roped off. The lift was operable by 2:45 Tuesday afternoon and the chair was reattached Tuesday night. A message posted on Snowbowl's Facebook page Wednesday night states, "The issue with lavelle was not mechanical and the chair is operating normally. Sorry for any inconvenience this may have caused. If you have any questions or concerns please see the ticket office."

One account of the incident has popped up online, complete with a photo of the downed chair. The post says "everybody was stuck for over an hour, then roped off. I was 'just' about to get on," and later adds, "since the chair wasn't moving, people were stuck on the lifts, 20-30ft above the ground. The only way to get the down is to throw a climbing rope and sling over the cable so they can be lowered down safetly. It's one type of 'belay' that you never want to do."

The Billings Gazette reported that a chair fell off a lift at Red Lodge Mountain on Wednesday. That incident injured two young males.

"This was nothing like that," says Morris.

Update: Snowbowl posted a detailed explanation on its Facebook page this afternoon.

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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Best of the Indy Blog 2011: politics

Posted By on Wed, Dec 28, 2011 at 1:30 PM

All week we're looking back at the most popular Indy Blog posts from 2011.

Next up: politics.

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There were a ton of political posts to choose from, but the ones that either broke news, involved some sort of oddity, or covered Montana's impact in the national scene garnered the biggest buzz. A few top candidates included:

- The Derek Skees campaign video that you have to see to believe.

- Missoula Rep. Bryce Bennett, the first openly gay man elected to the Montana Legislature, named in The Advocate's "Forty under 40".

- Former Griz Jimmy Farris' bid for U.S. Congress. (First Montana outlet to report this.)

- Actor J.K. Simmons' endorsement of Dave Strohmaier in his bid for U.S. Congress, complete with a video of Simmons explaining why. (Also a scoop.)

But the top political posts of the year belong to a series covering the Keystone XL protests in Washington, D.C. Specifically, the Aug. 23 post about actor Margot Kidder's arrest outside the White House and a Nov. 11 post about Montana's presence at a different demonstration received the highest traffic.

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Best of the Indy Blog 2011: marijuana

Posted By on Wed, Dec 28, 2011 at 11:45 AM

This is the time of year news organizations look back at the top stories of the past year, and, lo and behold, the Indy Blog is getting in on the action. Throughout the rest of the week we'll highlight the most popular posts from the year that was.

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First up: medical marijuana.

There are plenty of posts to choose from here, which is not surprising considering the Associated Press recently named medical marijuana the news story of the year. At the Indy Blog, our high-traffic posts covered the governor saying he'd let the Legislature's medical marijuana reform bill pass into law, and the successful campaign to get a referendum on that same bill put on the 2012 general election ballot. We also wrote about federal raids and a new push to target medical marijuana advertising.

But the top post appeared Feb. 22 and featured a poll showing 63% of Montanans opposed the repeal of the Medical Marijuana Act. Matthew Frank wrote:

The findings appear to conflict with the mood in Montana's Capitol. The Senate will soon take up a bill that would repeal the Montana Medical Marijuana Act. The House passed the measure on Monday by a vote of 62-37. This despite the fact that 62 percent of Montana voters approved the law in 2004.

Read the full post here.

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The bottom 1%

Posted By on Wed, Dec 28, 2011 at 10:20 AM

Why are Indian reservations so poor?

That's the question Forbes tries to answer in a recent story that looks at the country’s 310 Indian reservations, where many of America’s poorest 1% live. Writer John Koppisch focuses on Montana's Crow Reservation and offers up this short answer:

To explain the poverty of the reservations, people usually point to alcoholism, corruption or school-dropout rates, not to mention the dusty undeveloped land that doesn’t seem good for growing much and the long distances to jobs. But those are just symptoms. Prosperity is built on property rights, and reservations often have neither. They’re a demonstration of what happens when property rights are weak or non-existent.

There's more to it, of course, and Koppisch examines the finer points over the course of his story. He also explores possible solutions. For instance, a reformer in Canada is "lining up support for the First Nations Property Ownership Act, which would allow bands [tribes] to opt out of the government ownership of their land and put it under tribal and private ownership."

Alas, there is no such effort in the U.S.

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