What you're drinking: White Bark Wheat from Stevensville's Wildwood Brewery, in a can. The brewery started stocking its Bavarian-style hefeweizen on local shelves around the holidays.
Why you're drinking it: Speaking as someone who's not the biggest fan of hefes, White Bark Wheat delivers a surprisingly deep, smooth flavor with hints of banana and clove. It has quickly become my favorite pour from Wildwood's impressive selection of organic brews.
So, what's the secret? Brewery founder Jim Lueders explains that the difference between his ale and typical American wheat beers is in the classic Bavarian brewing style and a special yeast from southern Germany. "People think there are additives or that I use spices to get that flavor, and I don't," he says. "The flavor comes naturally from that special yeast."
About those cans: In addition to brewing an outstanding hefe, Lueders also helps design Wildwood's eye-catching cans. For the White Bark Wheat, he came up with a grizzly standing next to a bird perched in a whitebark pine. Lueders sends his rough sketches to an artist who turns it into a woodcut-like image, which is then turned over to a designer for color and layout. Wildwood uses shrink-sleeve labels that adhere to the can, allowing for a more vibrant and detailed look than anything printed directly on aluminum.
What's next: Lueders says he expects to eventually have all of Wildwood's beers in cans, with the popular Loquacious Duck up next. This classic German doppelbock is a seasonal favorite in the taproom and packs quite a punch at 8.5 percent alcohol by volume. "I'm waiting on approval for the labels and hope to get it this week," he says. The Duck would join then join the White Bark Wheat, Ambitious Pale Lager, Bodacious Bock and Mystical Stout on local shelves.
Straight to the source: Don't want to sip from a can? Visit the brewery at 4018 Highway 93, just north of Stevensville. It's open every evening between 4 and 8.
Happiest Hour celebrates western Montana watering holes. To recommend a bar, bartender or beverage for Happiest Hour, email editor@ missoulanews.com.