The hoppy taste of Helena.
STORY AND PHOTOS BY GABRIELLE GASSER
On a mild spring evening, music fills the air in Helena, Montana, while locals and visitors crowd the pavement at the historic Helena Walking Mall. Friendly dogs meander with owners, delicious smells waft from restaurant kitchens and Big Dipper Ice Cream is ready, just a hop away, to satisfy your sweet tooth.
This bustling social scene is rapidly becoming a staple in Montana’s capital city as the beer brewing scene flourishes. With three new breweries opening in the past five years, there are plenty of new brews and local niches to check out as you explore Helena. The vibrant city boasts several local craft breweries offering a rotating selection of new brews, live music and even the occasional food truck. Read on for insider tips on how to best navigate a tour of this up-and-coming brewery scene, and do it like a pro.
COPPER FURROW BREWING
While it’s still light out, drive a few minutes north toward Copper Furrow Brewing and its inviting outdoor patio. After years of brewing beer, a group of three couples opened Copper Furrow Brewing in 2018 to craft their own unique libations.
Chemist and co-owner Nick Diehl collaborates with business partner David McKeever to dream up kooky concoctions like Barney’s Trouble, a sour beer brewed with, what else? Fruity Pebbles. But don’t knock it until you try it—it’s puckery and delicious. Stop by the social taproom and take a seat outside to sample one of the 12 brews on draught.
Waste no time and start your tour right when you roll into town. Hop off U.S. Highway 287 and start by grabbing a flight of beers on the sunny patio of Headwaters Crafthouse. The taproom, run by Joanie and Michael More, partners with local breweries as well as bigger national names to offer a selection of 40 different brews on tap.
Inside, a north-facing window provides a classic view of “Sleeping Giant” mountain snoozing in the distance. While kicking back and soaking in the views, be sure to check out the local food truck of the day for locally famous barbeque or a gourmet charcuterie box.
LEWIS & CLARK BREWING COMPANY
For a casual breather before hitting downtown, take a beat to check out this historic paint-factory-turned-brewery. The labyrinthine Lewis & Clark brew building features a maze of staircases, event rooms for rent and museum-like seating areas that you can explore while sampling their classic products.
Inspired by none other than the famous Meriwether and William, Lewis & Clark Brewing’s style is shaped by a pioneer spirit. The sprawling taproom is an ideal spot to unwind and catch weekly live music while sipping on one of their seven flagship brews. If you’re feeling fruity and adventurous, try the Huckleberry Hefe for a tart yet refreshing beer.
TEN MILE CREEK BREWERY
Live music, a bustling crowd and chance encounters with Helena Mayor Wilmot Collins characterize the experience at Ten Mile Creek Brewery, situated in the historic Helena Walking Mall. Order from the 11 beers on the wall, grab a camp chair from the communal bucket and park yourself in the courtyard.
The third brewery to open in Helena in 2015, Ten Mile Creek Brewery is a small and innovative brew house that focuses on using locally sourced ingredients. With new beers every two weeks, you can frequent Ten Mile and keep your taste buds entertained with options like a Blackberry Sour or a Lemongrass Ginger Wheat Ale.
BLACKFOOT RIVER BREWING COMPANY
After swearing off bad beer, two of Blackfoot River Brewing’s founders, Brian Smith and Brad Simshaw, spent years experimenting in Simshaw’s basement to create the best taste possible. A third founder, Greg Wermers, joined the team in 1995 and three years later the trio opened Blackfoot River Brewing Company, focused on making high-quality, handcrafted beers.
After grabbing your brew, head upstairs to the deck and enjoy the view of Anchor and Fire Tower parks. If you’re fresh off the river or a bike ride, you’ll fit right in here. Each week, Blackfoot serves two unique ales hand pumped by an old-style beer engine.
Gabrielle Gasser is Assistant Editor for Mountain Outlaw magazine and Staff Writer for its sister publication, Explore Big Sky newspaper.