Happiest Hour: Late nights at the Ole Beck VFW 

It's that time of week again, where we tell you about our favorite watering holes and drinks. This time, we introduce you to an old familiar bar that's had a recent change of tune, so to speak.

Claim to fame: The VFW has long been the place for veterans of war to pull up a stool and drink a cold one. And its collection of historical guns and medals give it character. Now that the bar has opened its doors to live music—especially on Thursday night—there’s a whole new post-10 p.m. vibe.


Who you’re listening to: The free shows of mostly local musicians have been a big hit. The bar’s residency program allows one band to take over the venue each month, playing every Thursday night. They get to hone their sound with the help of soundman Joey Connell (of Hi-Tech Audio) each week, and select fellow bands—an eclectic combo of honky-tonk, metal, punk and experimental—to fill out the line-up. Bands play in the back room to a small crowd, while those patrons who want to chat without being blasted by the music can sit in the front room.

What you’re drinking: For the Thursday and weekend night crowd it’s all about $1.50 16 oz. cans of Miller High Life and Olympia (on a recent Thursday night show-goers cleaned out 30 cases of Oly). Also high profile: the “Man Can”—a 32 oz. (that’s a quart!) of beer for $3, for those who really just want two beers in one. For the record, on a recent Thursday plenty of ladies were seen hoisting the “Man Can.”

Who you’re drinking with: The bar’s happy hour from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. is a hit for the day crowd, which consists of Vietnam veterans and a small group of regulars drinking 50-cent-off drafts and well drinks. Between 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. it’s quiet time—perfect for a game of pool—but after that you’re drinking with a sizable crowd of college kids, plus connoisseurs of rock ’n’ roll, some of whom have been enmeshed in the local music scene for a few decades.

Who’s pouring: On a recent Thursday night bartender Odessa Joseph pours for a two-deep crowd of thirsty show-goers. Joseph says she loves her day crowd, but she fits right in with the rock crowd, too, enthusiastically telling stories of seeing White Zombie and The Ramones back in the early 1990s. The bar used to close around 11 p.m. on dead Thursday nights. Now the madness goes until 2 a.m. “It’s working out awesomely,” she says. “I love it.”

How to find it: 245 W. Main next to Biga Pizza.

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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