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Newly tasted in Montana

When the nearest airport was closed - by fog - I found myself taking a five-hour bus ride to sample the local beers in Whitefish, Montana. When I finally got there, the best beer I tasted was called...Big Fog. This strong (5.4 by weight, 6.5 by volume) amber lager slips down all too easily, with its smooth, clean, malty character. A balancing, spicy, hoppiness, arouses the thirst for more. It is made in Whitefish by the Great Northern Brewing Company. This smart tower brewery overlooks the old Great Northern railroad. Amtrak passengers might hop off for the local flavor of a gently fruity Huckleberry Wheat Lager from the same brewery. A dry-hopped version of Big Fog is made for the big city sophisticates of Seattle, 500 miles down the line. Great Northern was established by Minott Wessinger, whose family once ran the Blitz-Weinhard brewery, in Portland, Oregon.

A smaller local rival in Montana, the Whitefish Brewing Company, is in what used to be Gary Hutchinson's house. He has had to move down the road. Hutchinson was once a real estate broker, but decided brewing was "a straighter way to make a living." He makes the golden Montana Cream Ale and a Nut Brown, both clean, sweetish and malt-accented. Unfortunately, he was out of his Oatmeal Stout when I called.

Probably the most remote brewery in America is 50 miles away, near Marion, Montana. After a further two or three miles down an unmade road, covered in snow, I saw a Cessna in a field, and realised I had tracked down flying buff John Campbell and his wife Sandy. John, who used to run a logging truck, now makes beer for a living. The Cessna's hangar has become the Lang Creek Brewery. I loved a beer called Trimotor Amber, with a creamy head, a nutty malt character, and fresh hop flavors; an ESB, I would say. My fellow travelers seemed keener on Windsock Pale Ale. This unfiltered brew is full of fruity hop dryness. I hope its yeastiness does not cause too much wind in the West.

Published Online: OCT 1, 1997
Published in Print: OCT 1, 1997
In: Beer Hunter Online

Brew Travel - Beer Review

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