Big Sky, big shows 

On Wednesday, Big Sky Brewing Company announced that it will launch a summer concert series in its backyard, soon to be the new Big Sky Brewing Amphitheater.

“It has been very difficult to find a location that was suitable for concerts and that would allow our beer for sale,” says Big Sky President and a company founder Neal Leathers. “Now that we have enough land around the brewery, it just made sense to bring the concerts to us. Frankly, we were tired of seeing all the big shows bypass Missoula.”

Big Sky folks believe the arena, which should seat about 8,000, will be the largest outdoor amphitheater in Montana when it inaugurates its concert season on July 6, with Big Head Todd and the Monsters opening for John Fogerty.

For shows, the brewery will serve what Leathers calls the “regular” beers: Moose Drool Brown Ale, Summer Honey Seasonal Ale, Scape Goat Pale Ale and Big Sky Crystal Ale.

“Of course,” he says, “there will be food from local vendors and non-alcoholic beverages for sale as well.”

The company plans to donate money from beer sales and parking toward two local non-profits, Brennan’s Wave and the Missoula Skate Park, says Leathers. Big Sky doesn’t expect to profit from the events, Leathers says, but they’ll be able to promote their brewery and beers, like the signature Moose Drool and new Crystal Ale.

The company sold its first beer “just in time for the 4th of July weekend in ’95,” says Leathers. In Sept. 2002, Big Sky, which employs about 30 people locally, began brewing at its present location near the airport. Now, the company distributes beer across Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Idaho, Oregon, Washington, Alaska and, of course, Montana.

To help music enthusiasts marooned in the downtown area, Big Sky plans to run biodiesel shuttles to the venue every 15 minutes for $3 roundtrip tickets.

Will being home to Montana’s largest outdoor amphitheater change the company’s micro status?

“Well,” says Leathers, “we plan to continue to grow at a nice steady pace, but we certainly don’t see ourselves as becoming a huge brewing conglomerate.”

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