Happiest Hour 

BrewFest winners

On May 4, roughly 6,000 people descended on Caras Park to mingle with neighbors and sample 68 different beers at the 21st Annual Garden City BrewFest. If you attended the celebration, you might have noticed clutches of ale connoisseurs scribbling notes while scrutinizing the aroma, appearance and flavor of lagers, IPAs and stouts. They were the Zoo City Zymurgists, members of Missoula's homebrew club who every year take on the weighty responsibility of judging the festival's best beers. This time, 15 Zymurgists judges spent more than two hours selecting winners in 13 different categories.

  • photo by Cathrine L. Walters

The big winner: The Zymurgists were so struck by Lone Peak Brewery's Bourbon Barrel Stout that they granted it their top three accolades: Best of Show, Best of Montana and Top Specialty Beer.

"Everybody was really impressed with it," says Zymurgists President Asa Hohman. "Winning three awards at BrewFest is relatively uncommon."

It's easy to see why the Big Sky-based beer was a favorite. The brewery ages its Bourbon Stout for three months in 18-year-old Elijah Craig bourbon barrels. At the taproom, the beer is served in 8-ounce snifters to enhance the aromatic experience.

Best of the rest (from Montana): Of the 10 other beers receiving Zymurgist awards, three are from Montana. Blackfoot River Brewing Company's Cream Ale took top honors in the Blonde Ale category; Wildwood Brewery's organic Loquacious Duck won in the Bock/Maibock category and Bitter Root Brewing Co.'s Red Dread Imperial Red Ale won best Strong Ale.

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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