In hopes of connecting drinkers with their beers, start-up breweries commonly invite locals to christen unnamed products. But when Stevensville’s fledgling Blacksmith Brewing Company hosted their “Branding Party” Nov. 7, patrons branded everything including benches, tables and walls.
With original branding irons from ranches across the Bitterroot Valley, beer lovers burnt their marks into the downtown Stevensville business in preparation for its Nov. 22 grand opening celebration.
“We call it ‘cowboy graffiti,’” says co-owner Pam Kaye. “We had close to 100 brands show up. There were kids bringing in grandpa’s old brands and old timers who could hardly walk. They couldn’t wait to put their mark on the wall. ”
And quite a wall it is. Kaye and her partner Eric Hayes have spent the past seven months renovating the 100-year-old building, once used as a smithy, and during the process they’ve uncovered dozens of old brands, perhaps every brand the old blacksmith made there, she says.
Combining the brands with a rugged, historic look of restored timbers and locally manufactured brick walls, the Blacksmith has been luring people off Highway 93, across the Bitterroot River and onto downtown Stevensville’s Main Street in crowd-the-house numbers.
“We’ve been packed every night we’ve been open,” says Kaye, who’s experience at Hamilton’s Bitter Root Brewing had her expecting busy nights even before they opened.
Joan Prayther, Director of the Stevensville Main Street Association, sees the brewery as a shining light in the town’s well-preserved business district. While Prayther declined to say how frequently she stopped in, she admitted that she “likes to socially sample” their brews.
“It’s just fantastic that they’ve preserved the integrity and historic character of the building,” she says, adding that downtown restaurants are seeing increased business in the evening as people stop in for food after a drink at the brewery.
“They’re bringing in people who are bleeding into other businesses and helping the economy of the town,” she says. “That benefits everyone.”