What you're drinking: Organic, Montana-made beers. The region's newest brewery opened in March, brewing additive- and adjunct-free Bavarian-style lagers, pilsners, bocks and more. A newer offering caught my eye in the repurposed barn taproom: White Bark Wheat Ale. In an amazing nod to the powers of yeast, this ale tastes like banana candy and cloves. Next, I spy a sign by the cash register saying the brewery's Ambitious Pale Lager won Garden City Brewfest's best lager as well as best Montana beer. Tempted with these facts and my own slight snobbery, I venture in. A solid pour creates a heavy head that hangs like a cloud. The first taste is aromatic, the second is smooth and the rest falls back with that perfect carbonation you seldom find in American lagers and ales.
Who you're drinking with: Stevensvillians old and young and anyone else you choose, whether that be grandma or your dog Sparky, if you come in for a growler fill (or three) between 4 and 8 p.m. But the biggest crowd coming in to taste these new top-fermented treats are "brewers from their breweries, actually," says owner Jim Lueders. "They're beer connoisseurs. It makes sense they'd want to try it."
What the future holds: They've got a canning line and they've got the design, but the government has to approve the labels, which puts the estimated availability of their canned beer at about a month from now. As far as varieties go, Lueders will try ales on occasion, and some seasonals may stick longer than others, but the IPA trend is not on his radar. "In my mind, beer should be balanced," he says, meaning hops have a place and it's not the throne.
How to find it: From Missoula, go south on US 93 about 25 miles. It'll be on the left side of the road, a few blocks before the stoplight that brings you into Stevensville proper. They're open every day from 4 to 8 p.m.
Happiest Hour celebrates western Montana watering holes. To recommend a bar, bartender or beverage for Happiest Hour, email firstname.lastname@example.org.