Bozeman Brewing Company: Small-town vibe, big-town beer

Tucked away by the train tracks in the industrial northeast section of town, Bozeman Brewing Company’s (BBC) brewery and taproom is somewhat of a local secret. However, the high quality of their craft beers is no secret; Bozeman brews are sold at over 500 bars, restaurants and grocery stores in Southwest Montana.

The BBC taproom offers a surprisingly intimate setting — maximum occupancy is 59 — and on a Friday afternoon young professionals and MSU students alike gathered for pints, enthusiastic conversation and free popcorn. The bartenders are charming and conversational, laughing along with patrons and giving the place the feel of a friendly neighborhood pub. Drawing on local heritage, the footrests below the window seats are old Bridger Bowl chairlift cables, the light fixtures are recycled “pea funnels” from the pea cannery that formerly occupied the building, and some of the chairs are century-old theatre seats from Emerson Junior High.

As a place to showcase the brewery’s more experimental beers, the taproom offers a “creative outlet for our brewers,” said General Manager Tucker Kalberg, who graduated from MSU in 2005 with a degree in business management. Kalberg explained that the brewery is currently experimenting with barrel-aged beers like sour ales and lambics, as well as traditional English cask ales.

BBC has their flagship beers like the pleasantly bitter Hopzone IPA and the smooth, balanced Bozone Select Amber. But at the taproom, you can try their rotators — beers only available for a limited time. One of them, the Harvestfest Lager, is a complex and robust brew with a beautiful, deep amber hue. The beer uses seven different malts, which creates a harmonious flavor that is incredibly rich and inviting. We also noticed a subtle tartness and hint of autumn spices that give it a cider-like quality, making it an excellent beer for sipping while watching the leaves fall on Broadway Avenue.

Also a must-try is the Terroir Local Hop Ale, which was brewed with 375 pounds of locally grown, fresh hops. It has the classic hoppy bite of an IPA, but the bitterness is far from overbearing, and it finishes smooth like a pale ale. You can taste the high quality of the hops, and the experience is complemented with delicate floral and fruity notes, particularly those of pear and apple. This is a brew almost every beer fan can appreciate, regardless of preference. “It’s a true labor of love,” Kalberg said.

BBC is the oldest and most established brewery in Bozeman, but that has not left them complacent. “We’ll try anything under the sun,” Kalberg explained, “Whatever tickles our fancy.” With this attitude, along with an impressive line of flagship beers and an inviting taproom, it’s worth getting excited about the future of Bozeman Brewing.