No small beer feat 

You’d be preaching to the converted if you tried to tell us at the Indy that Western Montanans make good beer. But in case you don’t believe it, the Flathead Lake Brewing Company just brought home the medals to prove it.

At the April 14 World Beer Cup, the Woods Bay-based brewery won a silver medal for its Mutiny Stout and a bronze for its Peg Leg Porter. The stout finished just behind the better-known Shakespeare Stout made by Oregon’s Rogue Ales.

Placing in the World Beer Cup is no small feat. Often referred to as the Olympics of beer, the biennial competition is the world’s largest international beer contest; 540 breweries from 56 countries entered more than 2,000 beers this year.

The Flathead Lake Brewing Company was the only Montana brewery to place this year, and only the second Montana brewery to place, after Billings’ Montana Brewing Company, since the beer cup started in 1996.

To add to their accomplishment, the Flathead Lake Brewing Company began pouring beer just seven months ago, making it the youngest brewery ever to place in the beer cup.

“I get up every morning and I still can’t believe it,” says Terry Leonard, owner of the brewery.

Leonard gives the credit to his brewer, Jason Courtney.

“It’s Jason, the care he takes,” says Leonard. “He’s just meticulous.”

While the brewery may be young, Courtney arrived with experience and more than a few accolades.

After winning six medals in the 2002 Great American Beer Festival while working for another brewery, Courtney was named Small Brew Pub Brew Master of the Year.

Speaking of the impact his brewery’s achievement could have on the state, Leonard says, “A lot of the craft brewing is a little further out west. Hopefully this will bring a little more attention to Montana as a place where great beers are made.”

As far as the effect on his brewery, “It doesn’t increase our cash flow yet,” Leonard says.

Although he notes that his brewery has recently had its beer picked up at a few new locations, he isn’t planning to become the new New Belgium just yet.

“For now, we just want to keep making good beer.”

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