Big Sky Brewing Company

Big Sky Brewing Company

My crazy-but-awesome summer continues with a week-long trip to Montana, primarily to hike Glacier National Park. It’s honestly the most beautiful and unspoiled place I’ve ever been, and I’d encourage everyone to check it out before global warming melts all the namesake glaciers (roughly 20 years from now).

I flew into Missoula, Montana early today and promptly banged out a five-mile hike up Sentinel Mountain, known for its 2,000-foot view above the city. Pretty sweet start to the trip, but I worked up a serious thirst and paid a visit to Big Sky Brewing Company’s nearby taproom. I loved tasting their brews on tap during my last trip to Missoula in 2011, so I couldn’t wait to try them right from the source.

Silvio in Missoula

There’s only one thing better than good beer, and that’s free beer – exactly what the awesome folks at Big Sky will give you! Guests are encouraged to try up to four flight-sized beers per day for free, so damn skippy I tried the heck out of their brews.

Big Sky Brewing Company beer list

First up was the seasonal Summer Honey Ale, brewed with Montana honey and Pacific Northwest hops. Summer Honey was pretty much what you’d expect – clear straw color, wheaty and sweet aroma, with a crisp honey sweetness through the middle and  touch of hops on the end.

I went a bit hoppier for my second beer with the Trout Slayer Wheat Ale, a pale ale brewed with a blend of Northwestern hops. Like the Summer Honey, this brew was what I expected, and still quite good. Trout Slayer has a big hops bite up front and a long bitter end note, and it can hang with any other pale ale out there.

Big Sky Trout Slayer

Big Sky’s iconic Moose Drool brown ale was up next, I’ve had this beer before, but not in years, so I’d forgotten just how good it is. Moose Drool pours out the color of root beer, with a syrupy-sweet aroma and creamy foam crown. This brew is dominated by molasses at the start and a bit of chocolate through the middle, but balances out nicely with a roasted malt end note.

Last, but certainly not least, Big Sky IPA. I’ve reviewed this beer and believe I’ve seen it in D.C.-area beer stores, so I knew I was in for a treat. Grassy hop notes dominate the pour, and stanky hops pretty much punch the back of your throat on the first sip. Big Sky mellows out with some grassy hops through the middle, and closes on a long crisp bitter end note.

Obviously, Missoula isn’t around the corner from most folks. But if you ever find yourself in this part of our great country, make sure to order some Big Sky on tap. And, if you’re lucky enough to see their brews on the shelf, pick some up!

5 Reasons to Drink Craft Beer at the Ballpark

Fenway Park. Image courtesy
Fenway Park. Image courtesy

Baseball and beer: two of America’s favorite past-times. Each year, millions of Americans head to the ballpark and line up to indulge in cotton candy, hot dogs, popcorn and of course, beer! The explosion of the craft beer industry has resulted in far more beverage options at the park than even a few years ago. Today I will give you five good reasons to “go craft” next time you’re at a ball game.

5. It’s worth it
Unless you’re an Angels or Diamondbacks fan (cheap beer, but full of tears), you are probably paying big bucks for your frosty beverage at the ballpark. On the other hand, if you’re unlucky enough to be a Red Sox or Cardinals fan, you probably take out an equity line on your mortgage before heading to the concession stand. Fenway Park boasts the most expensive beer in professional baseball and $7.50 will buy you 12 ounces of your favorite macro-produced yellow-fizzy beverage. For an extra $1.00, you can upgrade to a variety of craft beer options. That’s a 13% increase in price, for a product that’s roughly 1000% better. Spend the extra dollar, folks.

4. Drink Local
In 2013 the Belgian-Brazilian brewing company Anheuser-Busch InBev, raked in $43.2 billion in revenue. For comparison, all of the craft breweries in the United Stated, combined, grossed $14.3 billion. Most ballparks fill their craft tap lines with beer from relatively local breweries. By buying craft beer, you’re supporting the local economy and keeping your dollars in the ‘hood. Craft brewers often “pay it forward”, focusing on using local ingredients, which in turn supports local farms. If none of this inspires you, think about it this way: your support means the brewer can afford to make more delicious beer, and you love delicious beer, right? Plus, who would you rather support: Joe beer-brewer that lives down the street, or a multi-national faceless corporation?

3. Three words: Alcohol by Volume
If you’re spending more time in the bathroom line than watching the game, you’re probably having a great time. You’re probably also determined to get hammered. The average domestic macro beer is about 5% alcohol by volume, and if you’re drinking light beer, it’s more like 4%. That amounts to, at a minimum, two to three beers per hour to maintain that buzz. Certain types of craft beer have a higher ABV; ergo, fewer beers to buy, less time in lines, same end result. Oh, and please drink responsibly. Don’t be that screaming, sloppy drunk jack-wagon that everyone in the bleacher section cranes their necks to stare at.

2. You’ll look cool
Look around. Everyone’s cup is full of yellow stuff. Here’s your chance to be trendy and cool. When you sport a craft beer, you’ll get to tell people how fantastic your English bitter or your Belgian triple is. You can dazzle people with tales of how your beer tastes like coriander, spices and banana. Everyone will want to be you. Pro-tip: You’ll be rocking classy beer, but don’t get full of yourself. No one likes a show-off; leave the fancy-pants, cane and top-hat at home.

1. Taste
Even if you enjoy your light beer, I promise you, there is a craft beer out there that you will enjoy much more. For instance, try a kolsch or a wheat beer. Don’t get me wrong, mindlessly crushing domestics has its place and time; I’ll tear through Coors Light on the golf course like it’s going out of style. Savoring a beer on your palette for a moment before it goes down the hatch is a great feeling, especially when combined with the warm sun on your face, the smell of roasted peanuts and the crack of a bat. In short, there is nothing quite like craft beer at the ballpark.

Beer Prices in 2013, courtesy
Beer Prices in 2013, courtesy

Never take beer (or life) too seriously