Happiest Hour 

Steel Toe Distillery

Where you're going: The Steel Toe Distillery is tucked away on a piece of land just outside of Potomac, off Highway 200. You can walk or drive up the hill to a cozy, hobbit-like shack where you can pull up a chair around the 50-gallon still and taste the whiskey. This isn't some yuppie watering hole or hipster gathering spot; it's a place for taking an hour to kick back and bs straight-up Montana-style.

What you're drinking: Uncle Carl's Prohibition Style Whiskey is a sturdy 120-proof whiskey with a little bite and a lot of warmth, and it's smooth enough that it tastes 80 proof. It's aged two months in charred oak barrels using "selective moonshine techniques." All the ingredients are local, except for the sugar and the bottles.

Who you're drinking with: "Uncle Carl," aka Carl Bock, owns the distillery with his wife, Christina. Carl is a gregarious sort with an assortment of hilarious one-liners. "I'm just a cat in the woods makin' moonshine," he says. (Well, he did make moonshine, but his current operation is legal.) He's fond of his whiskey, but he has no pretenses about it. "It's a working man's whiskey," he says. "And I have a full, 100-percent money-back guarantee. If you don't like it, bring it back. I'll drink it!"

click to enlarge ERIKA FREDRICKSON
  • Erika Fredrickson

Who else you're drinking with: The Bocks used to run a sanctuary on site for injured animals. Currently, they care for three Arctic wolves who you can view from the backdoor of the distillery as you sip your spirits.

How to get it: At the distillery you can get a free 4-ounce taste, and bottles cost $30 each. The next batch doesn't come out until Jan. 25, but you can pre-order now.

How to find it: It's about 20 minutes from Missoula. Drive east on Highway 200 and turn right just past Johnsrud Park when you see the Steel Toe sign.

Happiest Hour celebrates western Montana watering holes. To recommend a bar, bartender or beverage for Happiest Hour, email editor@missoulanews.com

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