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21st Annual Garden City Brew Fest, Missoula Montana

Missoula Montana 21st Annual Garden City Brew Fest
Missoula Montana 21st Annual Garden City Brew Fest

Finally winter had disappeared and it had become brew fest season!  My first brew fest of the 2013 year was the Garden City Brew Fest in Missoula Montana. Although it was the 21st year of this annual fest it was my first time attending, but surely will not be my last.

My friend Jen, Boomer and I headed over to Missoula in the morning before the festivities began. The brew fest was being held in Caras Park in downtown Missoula and ran from 12pm to 8pm. We were promised 60+ beers on tap, live music and food vendors.

The live music at the 21st Annual Garden City Brew Fest
The live music at the 21st Annual Garden City Brew Fest

Once we arrived to Missoula we found our way down to the park and located a parking spot (not the easiest thing in the world as there were so many people, but at least we found one!). I was unsure about bringing Boomer in with us without first checking if dogs were OK so we left him in the truck. Dogs are usually allowed in the park but as we were purchasing our tickets I saw a large sign that stated “NO DOGS ALLOWED”. We figured out a way to include him later so don’t feel too bad for him 🙂

Tamarack Brewing located in downtown Missoula Montana
Tamarack Brewing located in downtown Missoula Montana

After getting our tokens we grabbed a quick bite to eat at Tamarack Brewing. The place was packed but we were able to find a spot at the bar and ordered up two burgers and two pints of Yard Sale Ale. I’ve been singing the Yard Sale Ale praise for months ever since I first tried it.  Jen agreed it was a great beer after trying it! I also recommended it to the two older gentleman sitting next to us, who we had struck up conversation with after I helped them read their menus (it was dark where we were sitting and the font was too small). They also enjoyed the Yard Sale Ale!

After lunch, with our tasting glasses and beer tokens in hand, we walked into what I would describe as “the eye of the storm”. People were everywhere, walking, talking, drinking beer, standing in line for beer, if it could be done there – it was being done.

I had experienced this last summer when I went to the Whitefish brew fest and I was starting to see a common theme in Montana beer fests. Perhaps I was spoiled with my local brew fest. We grab our beers and move away from the tent as quickly as possible. For the other people here and at Whitefish, neither groups moved away from the tent. I probably said “sorry” for bumping into people more than I have ever said “sorry” in my entire life. To add to the chaos Jen and I got separated. I do not know if she stopped for a beer and I did not notice or if she had been swept up into the storm – either way I was now searching for her and trying to find a beer to taste.

the "eye of the storm" at the Missoula Brew Fest
the “eye of the storm” at the Missoula Brew Fest

My first beer was a repeat from my Whitefish fest, Tea Pale Ale from The Great Northern Brewery in Whitefish. I wanted to try it again because I found it to be an interesting idea as I love both tea and beer. Although it was still good I did not find it as tea flavored as before.

I was ready for my next beer when I finally found Jen. Phew! I ordered the Flathead Cherry Ale. This was from Glacier Brewing located in Polson Montana. The cherry was slightly overpowering – but if you like fruity beer this may be a good choice for you. Jen and I retired to the grassy knoll overlooking the brew fest. It was a pretty enjoyable spot as we could get out of the crowd and enjoy the music.

After watching some kayakers riding the rapids in the Clark Fork River from our spot atop the knoll I decided to try Kettlehouse’s Eddy Out Pale Ale, it’s logo is a kayaker. Kettlehouse is located in Missoula so you could not get more local than that. Their Eddy Out was a tasty pale ale.

Kayaking in the Clark Fork River, Missoula Montana
Kayaking in the Clark Fork River, Missoula Montana

My next taste came from Bitterroot Brewery, located just south of Missoula on highway 93 in Hamilton Montana. As I was waiting in line I was approached by a fellow beer drinker. He was apparently like me, and when he likes something – is going to tell you about it. He recommended that I try either the Red Dread Imperial Red or the Nut Brown Ale from Bitterroot. Since I’m hooked on red beer right now I tried the Red Dread. I was not disappointed. This beer was delightful and I would have had more but I only had one taste left and knew I needed something new.

My final taste went to The Front Brewing Company, located in Great Falls Montana. I ordered up The Mountain Man. It had some chocolate undertones and was a delightful beer.

I was one beer ahead of Jen so she went back into the eye of the storm for her final tasting and I went to get Boomer from the truck. There were several dogs on the hillside where we were sitting and I knew that Boomer would enjoy meeting a few new friends.

As I returned to the hillside two guys were being arrested for what I do not know but Boomer must have had his inner police dog radar kick on and decided he needed to help the police officers. He marched himself right into the mix and was rewarded with a “nice puppy dog” from one of the arrested guys. I am sure he would have petted Boomer if he was not handcuffed. Embarrassing.

If you would like to join in on the fun of the Garden City Brew Fest, keep an eye out on the Montana Brewers Association website. This is where I found out about the event. Since this was my first year of going I am not sure if it always falls on the first weekend of May or not, hence why I am recommending checking their site out. You can find on their events page a list of all upcoming festivals. If you can not wait for the 22nd annual Garden City Brew Fest it looks like there will be a 5th annual Montana Brewers Festival on September 28th 2013 at 12:00 pm in Missoula. Maybe I will see you there!

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