Why you're here: You're cruising down the east side of Flathead Lake on your way back from Glacier National Park. Then you see it sitting there on the side of the highway in Woods Bay: Flathead Lake Brewing. The temptation's just too great.
Atmosphere: Flathead has a distinct nautical theme, right down to the painting of waves above the bar and the sign officially declaring the restroom the "head." There's an open, airy vibe here, almost like one of those thatch-roofed bars you see at beachside resorts. The wind usually comes in off the lake—a refreshing touch when you're passing a summer afternoon on Flathead's deck.
What you're drinking: Warm weather has marked the return of some of Flathead's best seasonals. For those who like a lighter brew, the Wild Mile Wheat is a great choice for fighting off the effects of heatstroke. The Tripel and the Dirty Ginger are two more summer faves. Both are crisp, fruity and weigh in at about 8.4 percent alcohol. Pair a brew with a pub pretzel dunked in beer cheese or ale mustard and you'll feel like you're floating in brewery nirvana.
Who you're drinking with: The folks around you could easily be fellow Missoulians up for a day on the lake. Or they could be out-of-state visitors taking an afternoon hiatus from the wonders of Glacier. Flathead relies heavily on drop-in customers, says Sarah, one of the two gals slinging refreshments on a recent blue-sky day. Not all of them are microbrew connoisseurs when they walk in; patrons occasionally ask Sarah if she's got anything like Bud Light. "If we can turn someone into a beer fan, we're doing our job right," she says. We're guessing their convert ratio is somewhere around 100 percent.
Where to dock: Flathead Lake Brewing is right on Highway 35 at 26008 East Lake Shore Route. It's in Woods Bay, just south of Bigfork. You can't miss it.
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