Sometimes wanderlust overtakes me. Normally I am a planner. Down. To. The. Minute. But on a Sunday late last year, I decided to not plan down to the minute. It was a beautiful sunny day that was meant for exploring. I had also not been to Montana since January of that year. Blasphemy.
I threw together a quick day trip to Flathead Lake in Montana. I had visited Flathead Lake in 2012 and have always pledged to return. For some reason, I did not take any photos in 2012 which was slightly alarming because I am always the one who is stopping to take photos. I can only come to the conclusion that as I was driving I believed that the next pullout would be a better photo. And then the next… and the next. Get my drift. Soon the road ended and there was no more lake and I did not have a photo.
It was now 4 years later and I had finally returned for my photographs of the lake. The drive over to Montana was full of sunshine, high clouds, and a light breeze. You could not have asked for a better day. As we inched closer to Flathead Lake the sunshine disappeared behind dark stormy clouds and the wind began to pick up. By the time we reached Flathead Lake, waves were bursting into the air, dramatically spraying as though they thought they were ocean waves crashing against a sea wall. In my haste to throw together a trip, I had forgotten to check the weather. Apparently, I was not good at planning on the fly.
So I must pledge again to return for photos.
The trip was not all lost, however. I did plan on hitting up Flathead Lake Brewing Company in Big Fork Montana. The brewery is located on the eastern side of Flathead Lake, so I followed the windy two lane highway from Polson to Big Fork to the brewery.
Flathead Lake Brewing has two locations in Big Fork, the brewery, and the pub house. The two locations are both worth a stop. If you are looking for a more local vibe I recommend the brewery. If you want to stick to a more touristy vibe, I recommend the pub house. The pub house also (on a clear day) has a dynamite view of the lake from the outside patio.
I stopped first at the brewery location, mostly because in my lack of planning I did not know there were two locations. The brewery location was more intimate and the beertender was friendly. I opted for a table as opposed to my usual spot at the bar and gave their beer and food menu a look. I ordered a flight of beer along with the Kobe sliders for lunch. My order came with a seal of approval from the beertender with the OK hand sign and a wink. He was adorable.
My flight of 4 arrived, starting first with the East Shore IPA. This beer has a 6.5% Alcohol By Volume (ABV) and a 65 International Bittering Unit (IBU). Citrus flavors run through this beer as well as a bit of spice thanks to the Simcoe hop that is used.
My next taste was the Imperial IPA with an 8.6% ABV and a 73 IBU. Simcoe hops are used again pairing up with the beloved Cascade hop. My tasting notes list this beer as “Perfect. If the ABV wasn’t so high, I’d drink it all day long”. Or if I wanted to endure a headache the next day I would drink it all day long. Sometimes you have to suffer for good beer.
Up next was the Dirty Ginger. And no there wasn’t a gross red head at the bar. This beer chimes in with an 8.6% ABV and a 13 IBU. This is a Belgian style beer, which is not one of my favorite styles. However, I do love ginger. And unfortunately, just like my annoying attraction to red headed men, I enjoyed this beer as well. This beer is shockingly dark as you would assume it may resemble a red colored beer, but remember it’s a dirty ginger.
My last taste was the 369 Stout. Now I am not one to drink a lot of stouts but this one was on nitro and when there is a beer on nitro I must have it. The beer has a 7.3% ABV and a 45 IBU. Simcoe and Cascade hops are used again while complimenting the oat, caramel and roasted malts. The nitro adds a bit of extra smoothness to this beer and it is delightful.
The Woods Bay Brewery is located at 15300 Montana Highway 35 in Bigfork Montana.
I had left the brewery full of food and added a few more unique flavors to my collection of beers on Untappd. As I began to head to Kalispell to hit up Kalispell Brewery the Flathead Lake Brewing Pub House stood on the side of the highway practically mocking me for not knowing it was there. I decided to check it out and pulled into the large and overly packed parking lot.
After finding myself a spot at the bar I ordered another tasting flight. I started with the Wild Mile Wheat, a 5% ABV and a 13 IBU. This beer was a perfect example of a wheat beer done right with some citrus notes to balance it out.
My next taste was the Flip Flop Single Hop with a 5.5% ABV and a 13 IBU. Normally I am not a fan of single hop beers, as I like a mixture of flavors. This beer is pretty good, however, brewed with the Amarillo hop. Flavors of caramel and roasted notes round out this beer.
The Dock Start Amber was my next taste with a 5.6% ABV and a 24 IBU. Classified as a red ale or American amber, this beer was the least of my favorites. Although if you like red ales I believe you will like this one. I have found that while I use to drink a lot of red ales in my younger years I do not enjoy them as much… unless they are hopped up to an IPA. The 24 IBU is low on the scale for hoppiness hence why I think I did not enjoy this beer as much as the others. Golding and Fuggle hops are used for this beer.
One of my favorite styles of non-hoppy beers is the saison. This farmhouse style beer is usually full of spice, citrus, and sweetness. The Summer’s Itch Saison was my next taste with a 5.1% ABV and a 19 IBU. I love a nice saison and this one was done well. The flavors pair up nicely with the citrus, clove and coriander notes to give you a blast of unusual flavors leaving you happy with this mildly hopped beer.
My final taste of the day was the Centennial IPA, with a 7.3% ABV and a 53 IBU. This beer had a nice bitter bite to it along with some good citrus notes. Not surprising as the Centennial hop is used to brew this beer along with Zythos.
The Flathead Lake Brewing Company Pub House is located at 116 Holt Drive in Bigfork Montana.
So it looks like I will have to return to the Flathead Lake area again. However, I’ll be sure to check the weather before we go! Although Boomer probably wouldn’t have minded swimming in choppy water if I let him.
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