Beer Fest: Bellies Full of Fun

Nothing brings together a community like good beer and a good cause. With 38 breweries serving 110 beers and $1,000 donated to charity, last Friday’s Montana Beer Fest had plenty of both ingredients.

The sixth annual event brought primarily Montana breweries to the Gallatin County Fairgrounds, but also included larger craft breweries from across the Pacific Northwest, like Oregon’s Deschutes Brewery and California’s Sierra Nevada.

Event organizer Todd Clemens explained that the $1,000 will be donated based on the winner of the People’s Choice Competition. Each entrant was given one wooden coin that was used to vote for his or her favorite beer. The first, second and third place brewers will now select three Montana charities to receive $500, $300 and $200, respectively.

Stevensville’s Blacksmith Brewing Co. brought the festival’s winning beer, a perfectly balanced Oatmeal Coconut Stout. The Bourbon Barrel-Aged Oatmeal Stout, from Big Sky’s Lone Peak Brewery, took second place. In a competition with two heavy beers, Maddy Light — Madison River Brewing Co.’s light beer — took third place.

Clemens said, “A beer festival without a purpose is just an overrated night at the bar,” explaining that he wants the festival to continue growing every year so that Montanans can sample more craft beers and give even more back to the local community.

Various musical acts performed at the event, and “Beer Country,” a documentary that MSU students and their faculty advisor produced about Montana’s brewing culture, premiered in the TV lounge. A special lounge for designated drivers also provided free soda and water to those who performed a breathalyzer test to get in.