Happiest Hour 

Tamarack Brewing Company—Missoula

News bulletin: On Monday, Tamarack Brewing Company opened its gorgeous new taproom on Front Street, adding about 10 more taps of Montana-made microbrews to Missoula's increasingly crowded brewery scene. Actually, "taproom" doesn't quite do the Lakeside-based brewery's new digs justice. It's created a classy, two-story beer drinkers' emporium.

Atmosphere: This place impresses. Upstairs, you've got a bar and seating for dining. Downstairs boasts a huge wrap-around bar, tons of seating and flat-screens everywhere; there are 19 TVs total. The vibe will only improve with the weather: both floors have outdoor seating overlooking Caras Park and the Clark Fork.

click to enlarge PHOTO BY MATTHEW FRANK

What you're drinking: No PBR here. Tamarack only serves its microbrews and a few other local beers. Try the Old 'Stache Whiskey Barrel Porter, which brewmaster Craig Koontz ages in Jim Beam barrels for four months. "It has scary drinkability at 8.8 percent," a bellied-up sampler said Monday night.

What you're eating: The head chef describes Tamarack's fare as "upscale bar food." The green chili pork burrito we ordered was massive—and tasty. The chef recommends the fish and chips. We're eyeing "The Boss Hawg BBQ"—local andouille sausage topped with beer-braised shredded pork—for our next go-round. For dessert, have a stout ice cream float (seriously, try it).

Yet another brewery? Yep. Tamarack follows the opening of Flathead Lake Brewing Company's Missoula taproom earlier this year, in addition to Missoula's three staple breweries. But Tamarack co-owner Andra Townsley doesn't call it competition: "You talk to any brewer down here and it's...far more a brotherhood."

Where to find it: 231 West Front Street in downtown Missoula, next to the entrance to Caras Park.

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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