Happiest Hour 

Winter BrewFest

What you'll find: This year's festival promises more than 40 local and regional brews, with a few nationals making an appearance. "It's more beers than we've had in the past—the number keeps creeping up," says Ellen Buchanan, who chairs the Winter BrewFest for the Downtown Association. Of course, all of Missoula's breweries will be there, and you can expect a solid representation of the state's brewers and distributors.

What's new: Among the freshman frothies are Bitter Root's Citra IPA, a Winter Spiced Double Haul from Kettlehouse, a Prickly Pear Pale Ale from Lewis and Clark in Helena and Big Sky's All Souls Imperial Saison.

Who you're drinking with: A cross-section of the entire town. Young and old, hip and square, bro and shmo—beer is our uniting element. You'll also spend some time with that guy who gets his beer, takes a step back and plants. That's okay. Most of us can relate.

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What else is new: Remember feeling a little crowded last year? So does Buchanan. She says the organizers will have the tarp walls of the Caras Park pavilion rolled up on the side facing the river to make room for the party. Beer tables will return to the middle, as opposed to the side tents that jammed up last year's event like bad rush hour traffic. It's winter, of course, so the heaters and fire barrels will return. "I would like to have the weather we had last year, but a little bit of cold weather won't keep Missoula from drinking beer," Buchanan says. As of Tuesday, the forecast called for a high of 34 and low of 18, with a 40-percent chance of snow. It also called for a 100-percent chance of buzzing.

The beery details: Winter BrewFest taps the kegs at Caras Park Fri., Feb. 21, at 5 PM and runs until 10. $12 gets you a 7-ounce glass and two drink tokens, and further imbibing costs $1 a token.

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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